The Walla Walla Valley has been named a finalist for Wine Enthusiast magazine’s 2019 Wine Region of the Year Award.

The region is one of five across the globe in the running for the publication’s 20th annual Wine Star Awards that honor individuals, companies and even geographic regions for their contributions to the industry.

The community shares the company of Mosel, Germany; Sicily, Italy; Sonoma County, Calif.; and Stellensbosch, South Africa.

The winners will be announced in the publication’s special “Best of the Year” issue and honored at a black-tie gala Jan. 27 at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

This is the third time Walla Walla — home to the Walla Walla Valley American Viticultural Area — has been a finalist for the award since 2012, according to a joint announcement Thursday from Visit Walla Walla and the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance via DVA Advertising & PR.

“The tree-lined farm and college community of Walla Walla may look quiet, but it’s the center of winemaking and wine tourism in Southeastern Washington,” Wine Enthusiast wrote in its description of the community.

“The Walla Walla appellation boasts more than 100 wineries, which include five thriving early arrivals: Leonetti Cellar, L’Ecole No 41, Seven Hills, Waterbrook and Woodward Canyon. There’s also dozens of well-respected vineyards. The AVA spills over into Oregon, where the new Rocks District AVA is a hotbed of grape growing. The town of Walla Walla is packed with walkable tasting rooms and restaurants. It boasts one of the oldest symphony orchestras in the West, along with frequent blues and jazz concerts, and numerous art galleries.”

Visit Walla Walla CEO Ron Williams said in the announcement the nomination is “as much a testament to the quality of wine being produced in the Walla Walla Valley as it is to the people who are producing it, the community that embraces it, and the visitor experience that has been carefully built around it.

“They say the third time’s a charm, and after coming up just shy in 2012 and 2015, we are confident that Walla Walla can compete and prevail on the global stage against the world’s elite wine regions.”

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, or on Twitter at

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.

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