Rapidly growing in reputation as one of America's fastest-growing winemaking regions, the laid-back but sophisticated town of Walla Walla
, Washington lies just east of the Columbia River valley
, roughly a four-hour drive east of Portland, Oregon
, and a 4.5-hour drive southeast of Seattle
. This city of about 30,000 has an inviting, historic downtown rife with wine-tasting rooms, cute cafes, and fun shops. A number of gays and lesbians have settled in this area in recent years, lured by the region's sunny climate and beautiful setting (the hills surrounding the city recall southern France), outstanding wineries, and educated, relatively progressive population - the city is home to the excellent liberal arts school, Whitman College
, as well as Walla Walla University
Dozens of wineries and vineyards are producing highly acclaimed wines, including such notable vineyards as Abeja, Cayuse, Leonetti, L'Ecole No. 41, Pepper Bridge, and SYZYGY. Among restaurants, check out such gay-popular spots as the trendy and contemporary CreekTown Cafe, and the charming 26 Brix. Foodies should also check out the wonderful cheese and salumi shop, Salumiere Cesario, as well as the genial, gay-friendly bakery and cafe, Colville Street Patisserie, as well as lovely Walla Walla Roastery, which is by the several wineries located by the city's small airport. There's not much in the way of gay nightlife in these parts, but you'll find a mix of gays and straights at most of the popular wine bars in town.