WW Steak Co. Interior

New employees were recently trained in the still-in-construction dining room concerning some of the wines to be served at the WW Steak Co. on Second Street in Walla Walla. Oct 2018 Lehman Photo

Just eight months after its opening, Walla Walla Steak Co. has been lauded among the country’s best wine restaurants by Wine Enthusiast magazine.

The Second Avenue operation was one of only three Washington restaurants to make the publication’s annual list of “America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants.” It is the only one east of the Cascades to be included.

Announced online this morning, the list will be available in the August edition that hits newsstands July 2.

“Our team is incredibly proud of this recognition and grateful to our Walla Walla community for their support during our first year,” said Walla Walla Steak Co. Managing Partner Dan Thiessen in an announcement this morning.

“This honor is not just about the wine list, but about the entire guest experience in the restaurant. We designed our wine program and menu to appeal to both wine country visitors and the people in our hometown and provide all of our guests with exceptional hospitality.”

The restaurant’s inclusion is reportedly due in part to its glass pour program, which features more than 20 wines by the glass. Its wine locker program for personalized wine storage was also a factor.

Restaurant and beverage manager Jim Kiefer created a wine list that includes regional wines, plus rare and international selections that are sought by the local winemaking community, Walla Walla Steak Co. said. It started by simply asking local diners and industry professionals what they’d like to drink, Thiessen said.

“We are fans of getting library wines and pouring them by the glass,” Keifer is quoted in the Wine Enthusiast piece. “Anybody can get a current vintage by the glass. By offering library wines, our guests remember a special wine rather than that glass which they may not remember. It’s more of an experience. Also, we can open any bottle on our list for a glass pour. We use Le Verre de Vin System to preserve wine. When someone asks about Krug by the glass, I can say ‘My pleasure, it’s your world!’”

This is not the first time Walla Walla has been represented on the list. The Marc Restaurant, the in-house restaurant at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center, was the lone Eastern Washington representative on the list for several years.

Walla Walla Steak Co.’s inclusion within its first year of operation is a proud accomplishment, Thiessen said.

“Receiving this honor so quickly after our October opening was definitely a surprise to us, but Walla Walla has been on Wine Enthusiast’s radar for quite some time already based on the level and quality of wines being offered from the area’s great producers, and we are honored to be able to join the wave,” he said.

Wine sales, he said, account for about 11 percent of overall sales.

The Wine Enthusiast list includes French restaurant RN74 in Seattle and The Willows Inn on Lummi Island.

“Each year, the editors of Wine Enthusiast sip and sup their way around the country, seeking eateries that incorporate wine in thoughtful and exciting ways,” the magazine opens in its piece. “This list isn’t a ranking, nor is there a matrix of number of bottles, prices or types of food. Instead, it is a selection of restaurants where wine is shared and celebrated, and where, in our experiences, the selection, food, service and atmosphere are all exceptional.”

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, vickihillhouse@wwub.com or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/VickiHillhouse.

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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