Walla Walla Valley is Washington State\u2019s \u201creddest\u201d appellation. A recent study shows the area is 95% planted to red wine varieties, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah leading the way.\r\n\r\nSo why aren\u2019t there more white wine grapes grown in Walla Walla?\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s an economic thing,\u201d says Marty Clubb, co-owner and managing winemaker at L\u2019Ecole No. 41, one of Washington\u2019s founding wineries.\r\n\r\nClubb says the disparity between the prices of red and white wine grapes make the latter challenging to plant.\r\n\r\n\u201cYou\u2019re seeing the better vineyard sites able to charge $3,000 to $4,000, [or] even more per ton [for red wine grapes],\u201d says Clubb. \u201cWhite wines, the most you\u2019re getting per ton\u2014and I mean the most\u2014is like $1,800. If you do the math on that, there\u2019s a thinner profit margin with the whites, unless it\u2019s an estate-driven deal.\u201d\r\n\r\nL\u2019Ecole, though, has been doing just that. It\u2019s made high-quality, estate-grown white wines from Walla Walla since 1999. However, the winery has had little company.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nCult producer Cayuse Vineyards has long made a top-quality Viognier, but the wine is sold by mailing list allocation and nearly unobtainable. The same goes for Reynvaan Family Vineyards, which makes extraordinary, but allocated, Grenache Blanc, Viognier and a white Rh\u00f4ne-style blend.\r\n\r\nRecently, however, things seem to be changing in Walla Walla Valley, as an increasing number of winemakers are trying their hand at white wines. Though the numbers remain small, there has been enough success to convince skeptics.\r\n\r\n\u201cI have always said Walla Walla is too hot for whites\u2014stick to reds,\u201d says Chris Figgins, president/wine director at Figgins Family Wine Estates, which includes the valley\u2019s first winery, Leonetti Cellar, founded in 1977. \u201cNow I\u2019m starting to taste some really fun wines.\u201d\r\n\r\nIn particular, Figgins says he\u2019s excited about the potential for white Rh\u00f4ne varieties like Grenache Blanc and Roussanne.\r\n\r\n\u201cThey\u2019re lively. They are interesting. They\u2019re well balanced and have some nerve.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWhat\u2019s changed? In part, it\u2019s been the steady drumbeat of Tim Donahue, instructor of enology at Walla Walla Community College\u2019s Institute for Enology and Viticulture.\r\n\r\nDonahue laughs when asked what\u2019s contributed to the recent changes. \u201cIt\u2019s been 10 years of me beating everyone over the head,\u201d he says.\r\n\r\nDonahue has encouraged students and area winemakers to consider white wine production, given the quicker turnaround time for their release and lower overall cost to make.\r\n\r\n\u201cFrom a portfolio perspective, Walla Walla wasn\u2019t particularly diversified when I got here,\u201d says Donahue. \u201cIt was all big reds, which is great if you have the capital and cash flow to make those happen. With white wines, it really helps wineries meet that immediate cash need to keep them afloat.\u201d\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s been 10 years of me beating everyone over the head.\u201d \u2013Tim Donahue, instructor of enology, Walla Walla Community College Institute for Enology and Viticulture\r\nHowever, it\u2019s not just cashflow that has Donahue championing Walla Walla Valley whites. Growers have also explored higher-elevation sites that can offer cooler temperatures and longer hang time compared to many areas of the larger Columbia Valley.\r\n\r\n\u201cA number of regions in Walla Walla are really some of the best places in Washington to grow white wine,\u201d says Donahue.\r\n\r\nPerhaps most intriguing, while irrigation is required to grow wine grapes in most of desert-dry eastern Washington, areas of the valley near the Blue Mountains that see greater rainfall might provide an exception.\r\n\r\n\u201cThere may be some places in the foothills of the Blues where they can dry-grow white wine [grapes],\u201d says Donahue. \u201cThat\u2019s a new frontier that\u2019s just being explored.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nRecent high-quality white wine offerings include Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and S\u00e9millon. Others are exploring the potential for Chardonnay and other white varieties.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe\u2019ll see where it goes,\u201d says Figgins, who now makes a dry Walla Walla Valley Estate Riesling under the family\u2019s Figgins label.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWhile the white wines that come out of Walla Walla Valley show potential, even when fully realized, economic realities mean the wines are certain to remain more limited in production and reach than their red counterparts.\r\n\r\n\u201cIf the economics were better, you\u2019d see more people doing it,\u201d says Clubb. \u201cThe bigger production whites we make that are at more competitive price points, you could not do that in Walla Walla. I wouldn\u2019t even think of doing it.\u201d\r\nTry seeking out these Walla Walla Valley white wines\r\nCayuse 2017 Cailloux Vineyard Viognier; $75, 93 points. Outrageous aromas of freshly cut white peach, nectarine, wet stone and honeysuckle lead to intensely flavorful peach and apricot notes that retain a sense of deftness. The finish persists an easy 30 seconds. It brings impressive energy, balance and intensity. To those who don't believe minerality exists, this wine serves as a counterpoint to the argument.\r\n\r\nGrosgrain 2018 Philips Vineyard Albari\u00f1o; $24, 90 points. Fermented and aged in concrete eggs and neutral barrels, this inaugural release from the winery brings appealing notes of freshly rubbed herbs, lemon pith and flower. The medium-plus palate walks a fine balance between flavor expression and elegance. Editors\u2019 Choice.\r\n\r\nKerloo 2018 Blue Mountain Vineyard Grenache Blanc; $20, 91 points. Brooding aromas of lemon peel, wet stone, mango and herbs lead to broad, flavorful citrus, tropical fruit and mineral notes. The acidity carries the finish off into the distance. It's lovely. Editors\u2019 Choice.\r\n\r\nL'Ecole No. 41 2018 Luminesce Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Grown Sauvignon Blanc-S\u00e9millon; $22, 91 points. Sauvignon Blanc takes the lead in this vintage, making up 55% of the blend. Aromas of fig, spice, corn husk and herb emerge on the nose. The palate is considerably more giving, with a creamy feel to the fig and spice flavors that lead to a warm finish. Editors\u2019 Choice.\r\n\r\nReynvaan Family Vineyards 2017 Estate White In the Rocks Vineyard Grenache Blanc; $60, 92 points. Astonishing aromas of wet stone are out front, along with notes of lees, almond skin and lemon. Textured, leesy, mineral-driven flavors follow. Drinking this wine is like licking a rock. It is singular and unique. Editors\u2019 Choice.\r\n\r\nR\u00f4tie Cellars 2018 Southern White; $32, 92 points. This wine is a blend of 68% Viognier, 20% Roussanne and 12% Marsanne. The aromas draw you into the glass, with notes of mineral, whole peach, melon and citrus. A full-bodied flavorful palate, chock-full of ripe peach and pear notes, follows, accented by a lovely sense of acidity. There's a bright future for Walla Walla whites, and this is one of the wineries leading the way. Best from 2021 until 2025. Cellar Selection.\r\n\r\nSaviah 2018 Saviah Estate Vineyard Viognier; $30, 91 points. Coming out of the winery's estate vineyard in the Rocks District and fermented in concrete egg, the wine boasts generous aromas of ripe peach, honeysuckle, melon rind and mineral, followed by full-bodied, nectarous, textured stone fruit flavors. It's like drinking a fresh peach in a glass of rocks. Editors\u2019 Choice.