In the midst of Walla Walla’s wheat fields and vineyards, you’ll find an unexpected resort.
Driving up a deeply rutted gravel road, just over two hours from Yakima, I was beginning to wonder if I was in the right place. When I first glimpsed the main building — sort of a cross between a stylish aircraft hangar and an industrial edifice — I was even more curious.
It’s not until you enter Eritage Resort, walking under the large design element that reminded me of an abstract airplane propeller, that the resort opens up to view. Set beside a man-made pond fed by a basalt rock well, the resort stretches out along the shore. To one side is a two-story wooden building housing 10 guest rooms, each with a private balcony or patio. To the other side, you’ll find a saltwater swimming pool, plus 11 simply designed waterside bungalows with private decks that opened just this spring. Across the pond, some of Eritage’s cabernet franc vineyards are visible, offering the potential of a private label in the future.
I later learned that designers of the resort intended this surprise approach, in which you walk through the entrance and immediately come upon the hidden panorama of the pond, the vineyards and the guest accommodation layout, all at once. The look of the buildings, with their sloping rooflines and earth tones, is also said to mimic the feel of the rolling hills. Overall, it’s apparently what’s known as “an industrial and chic design,” said my young guide, Saige Luxton.
Looking for a main lobby for the resort, I discovered that there isn’t one. There’s a small office where guests check in, a moderate-sized “living room” with fireplace, and a combination dining room and bar, but, Eritage (pronounced air-i-taj) has more of the feel of a private retreat. Indeed, the resort is classified as a bed and breakfast, with 24-hour staffing, explained Terra Luthi, general manager.
People enjoy the solitude and the outdoor opportunities such as walking on trails through vineyards and on nearby country roads of this 360-acre site, staff members say. There’s also paddleboarding and inner tubing on the pond, plus the pool area to enjoy. For those who want to venture out a little further, the resort is only about six miles from downtown Walla Walla with its variety of wineries, shops and restaurants.
When I was at Eritage, a wedding party had rented out the entire place for the weekend. A private dining room, which seats about 50 people, is available for such special events. There is even a small bridge set next to the pond upon which couples can exchange vows, with guests seated on a lawn below. Since the resort opened in May 2018, it has hosted conferences for the Melinda Gates Foundation and Microsoft, among others.
The brainchild of Justin Wylie, owner of Va Piano Winery on the south side of Walla Walla, the resort seems to have caught the imagination of guests from Seattle to the Oregon Coast and Napa Valley, staff observed. “We’ve had guests from all over,” Luthi said. “To be able to touch the vineyard, to be in the country, it’s such a place of relaxation and retreat — a magical place to get away.”
Although staff members didn’t seem certain about what the word “Eritage” means, a Google search showed that it’s an old Anglo-Saxon term that referred to someone who inherited land from an ancestor. (There was no inheritance involved in establishing the resort, as far as Luthi knows.)
Since the wedding party had virtually filled the resort this day, I didn’t have the chance to see a guest room. However, I was able to visit one of the pond-side bungalows. Here, the simple exterior gives way to a streamlined interior, with amenities such as a vaulted ceiling, king-sized bed, a walk-in shower with skylight, gas fireplace, espresso machine and a mini-fridge. My favorite feature was the private deck with Adirondack-style chairs, set right at the water’s edge. I could picture myself sitting there, enjoying a good book and looking out at the quiet pond.
Eritage wasn’t really prepared for other guests to pop in at this time, due to the wedding party reservations. However, they did cheerfully accommodate me for lunch in the dining room with its large windows overlooking the water. (With all of the activity, my $14 French dip sandwich from the bar menu arrived without the dip.) The resort offers a continental breakfast for guests, which is included in the room rate. Afternoons offer a limited bar menu open to guests and the public. Dinner service also is open to guests and the public, with options ranging from a Sunday prime rib special, to weeknight offerings including seasonal specialties with a “farm-to-table” focus. Fresh touches come from a large, on-site herb garden.
The full bar features five taps. The beers include three choices from the local Crossbuck Brewing and another two from Walla Walla’s Burwood Brewing Co. In addition, there are regional and international wines, plus hard liquor.
Eritage also schedules special events which are open to the public. For example, on the third Thursday of each month, chefs from around the Northwest partner with a winery to offer a six-course gourmet experience, at $145 per person, Luthi said.
For those wishing to spend the night, room rates in peak summer season run from about $319 to $494 per night per resort room and $219 to $394 in off-season. Bungalows average between $369 and $469 per night through the year. All rooms are designed for maximum occupancy of two guests, although families with children sometimes rent an adjacent unit to accommodate extra people, staff say.
Before I left, I discovered that there’s a smoother way to enter (or exit) the resort. The Eritage website suggests taking Highway 125 North and turning right on Bergevin Springs Road (also known as Russell Springs Road) as an alternative to reach the resort. An online map quest had originally referred me to the “mile-long gravel road” accessed from Lower Waitsburg Road.
Eritage is truly a one-of-a-kind resort, from design to location and amenities. It’s an escape from the ordinary, for those who really want to get away from it all and experience a little peace and quiet.