Women, Wine, and Kia: A Tour of Walla Walla, Washington

I sampled a flight of Kia's electric cars while touring Washington's Walla Walla wine country. Design, power and safety make touring these roads a flight on its own

Me And The Kia Sorento Phev, And The Ev9 Gt. Photo: Sara Lacey
Me and the Sorento PHEV, and the EV9 GT. Photo: Sara Lacey

My Incredible Tour with Kia Included Meeting the Women of Walla Walla’s Wineries…

I got to sample a few of Kia’s electric cars during a trip to Walla Walla, where Kia was in the spotlight. It was like a wine tasting, a flight of Kias, if you will. As part of the journey in Washington, Kia generously shared the spotlight with the women of Walla Walla’s winemaking industry. Maryam Ahmed was our wine country docent, introducing us to what makes Walla Walla wine so special.

The Kia Niro Phev Was Great At Taking Up The Hills To The Top Of The Valley. Photo: Sara Lacey

The Kia Niro PHEV was great at taking up the hills to the top of the valley. Photo: Sara Lacey

First Flight: A Blend of Gas and Electric

We started the day with our car assignments, I was given the Kia Niro PHEV to explore. The interior feels very electric car-ish, with minimalist design at the fore. To be clear, the Niro PHEV did not feel lacking. Just very straightforward in its presentation and focus. It felt moderately futuristic with a black “blade” accent trim piece on the rear pillar, and shiny black accents and LED lighting on the inside to set a nice mood. It was cold out, and the Niro PHEV had a heated steering wheel along with heated seats to keep us cozy. The seats were also ventilated, if that is what is called for, too. The front seats were very comfortable and had a perforated texture to them.

There’s plenty of storage for small items in the front, and it even has a wireless charging pad. The touchscreen was easy to use and had lots of features like music, navigation, and vehicle settings. It’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The sleek screen that housed the multimedia system extended to the area in front of the steering wheel. There, driver information was displayed. A fun selection is the screen showing how much energy was being saved.

The Niro Phev Dashboard Is Cool And Futuristic. Photo: Sara Lacey

The Niro PHEV dashboard is cool and futuristic. Photo: Sara Lacey

Treading Lightly and Respecting the Terroir

The Niro PHEV illustrated what is great about having a variety of options with electric cars. It’s a plug-in hybrid, which means it’s got a 4-cylinder engine (that happens to be turbocharged) that is paired with an electric motor to make the most of your fuel usage. What’s more, that the engine is helped by the motor when you need extra power. The system works effortlessly. You can go up to 33 miles in pure electric mode before the gas engine kicks in. The combined driving range is 510 miles. Can you believe that? It’s like a fabulous blended wine, giving you a balanced experience without a giant price tag.

We drove the Niro PHEV up to a coffee shop above Walla Walla in Bigfoot country. Misty fog and towering pines set the scene for us to learn about the soil in the area around Walla Walla that makes it so perfect for wine. Essentially, a glacier dam let loose during an event called the Missoula Floods. These floods carried lots of dirt, minerals, and debris through the valley we now know as Walla Walla, creating alluvial soils. This means that those soils make Walla Walla perfect for dry-land farming and growing grapes. I loved this agricultural lesson, and it reminded me why it’s good to start rethinking how we interact with our surroundings. Once those soils’ composition gets changed, it’s harder to grow the grapes. Once the temperatures change, even in the slightest, a winemaker can lose an entire harvest. 

Related: 5 Things I Love about the Kia Sorento

Kia Forte Gt, An Exception To The Ev Lineup. Photo: Sara Lacey

The Kia Forte GT is an exception to the EV lineup. Photo: Sara Lacey

A 90 Point Experience That Won’t Break the Bank

We learned this lesson most directly at our next stop. I drove the Kia Forte GT with a manual transmission, which is not an electric car. I suddenly remembered why it’s sometimes difficult to buy into an electric car. A car with a manual transmission on a twisty road is incredibly fun to drive. I kind of felt like Kia was sabotaging my efforts at a cleaner mode of transportation.

The gear shift was smooth and easy and felt good when it snapped into place. The Forte GT had some fun exhaust and throttle noise. I liked the simplicity of the interior and, most notably, the sport pedals and the steering wheel with the flat bottom. There were a few buttons and knobs to keep the interior a bit more traditional looking, but Kia still gave me a multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Forte GT had red stitching throughout the interior on the seats and steering wheel and had “GT” embroidered on the headrests. It was definitely wanting me to know it was the amped-up version of the Forte. I wasn’t ready to give it up yet when we arrived at our next stop.

Related: 7 Sexy Sportscars to Fulfill Your Need for Speed

Brook From Sjr Vineyards And Maryam Ahmed. Photo: Sara Lacey

Brook from SJR Vineyards and Maryam Ahmed. Photo: Sara Lacey

A Pivot Can Result in a Huge Win

At our next stop, we met Brook Delmas Robertson, who runs the SJR/Delmas Vineyard.

She talked to us about the basics of growing grapes, why vines are grown at certain heights, and how the distinctive rocks, stones, and gravel of the “Rocks District” helped create these special grapes. We learned that in 2022, temperatures dropped below their normal low for four hours and wiped out her harvest.

It’s mind-blowing to learn such a small shift in temperatures can be so damaging to not just Brook but everyone in the industry. It was here that I thought that maybe one could have an electric car full-time and a fun manual transmission car to drive only sometimes? I mean, if SJR vineyards can produce a fabulous red wine (Delmar Syrah) and one of my favorite white wines I’ve ever tried (Delmar Viognier), maybe I can have two great cars in my garage, too.

After the tour of SJR, we drove to lunch at Abeja in the Kia EV6 GT. It’s a sleek EV machine with power and grit. It makes total sense that the car was red because I kind of feel that all fast cars should come with that option. Also, like a cabernet sauvignon, this car was a Big Red. It was potent, strong, and yet had perfect balance with a few subtleties.

A Girls Guide To Cars | Women, Wine, And Kia: A Tour Of Walla Walla, Washington - The Kia Ev6 Gt Is Sleek And Sexy. Photo By Liv Leigh

The Kia EV6 GT is sleek and sexy, a very fun car to drive. Photo: Liv Leigh

Feeling the Road Even More in an Electric Car

The EV6 GT has a curved display that extends from the driver’s side to the center of the dash. It houses the driver information screens, as well as the multimedia touchscreen. The interior felt similar to the other Kias, and I love this consistency in design language. 

I didn’t get to spend a ton of time in the EV6 GT, but it was enough to know that this baby will pin you to the back of your seat when the throttle is pressed. It’s a wonderfully fun experience, and I’d love to do it again. 

Related: Here’s Why the Kia EV6 GT is the 2023 World Performance Car

Kia And Abeja Make A Good Pairing. Photo: Sara Lacey

Kia and Abeja make a good pairing. Photo: Sara Lacey

When The Guest of Honor is a… Car?

We stopped at the Abeja winery for lunch, where there was a white Niro PHEV on display. It looked perfectly at home in the gorgeous winery, a testament to its good looks and ability to fit in anywhere.

I arrived back at our home base at Eritage Resort by way of the Sportage PHEV. I respected the roominess of the Sportage, and yes, it’s sporty look and feel. I did like the opportunity to try the PHEV drivetrain in different Kias, and the Sportage was fun. It gets 34 miles on electric charge alone, but combined with its 1.6l 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, you can drive up to 430 miles on a tank. The Sportage PHEV looks like a regular Sportage, and for people wanting to go a little more incognito with their electric cars, the Sportage is a great option.

Kia Sorento Phev In The Rain. Photo: Sara Lacey

Kia Sorento PHEV in the rain. Photo: Sara Lacey

A Posh SUV for an Afternoon Spin

Once back at the hotel, though, I saw her. The Kia Sorento PHEV. I hadn’t had a chance to ride in or drive this car all day, so I seized the moment to take a drive. The Sorento PHEV blew me away just when I opened the door. The interior appointments did not make me think of an electric car. I thought of a luxury car with beautiful finishes and details. It had a two-tone interior with light bone-white upholstery on the doors and lower dash matched with steel blue upholstery on the seats and upper dash. There are piano black accents and brushed metal around the vents and door handles. The Sorento had interesting brushed metal panels with a diamond embossed pattern on them.

The Sorento PHEV has three rows, which is a great option for families. The second row in the Sorento PHEV had captains’ chairs. With the third row up, the cargo area is pretty small. But for carrying people, it’s a good option to consider for your family. A special detail I really liked is that there are charging ports on the side of the front seats.

The drive was quick and powerful, and I loved all the poshness. The weather was cold, so I turned on the heated seats (they’re ventilated also) and the heated steering wheel. I drove a quick lap on the roads around the hotel and even tried the adaptive cruise control. This is such a great feature for keeping a safe distance from cars in front of you.

Kia Ev9 At The Eritage Resort. Photo: Sara Lacey

Kia EV9 at the Eritage Resort. Photo: Sara Lacey

Getting a Peek at the Future

But the car that was the most exciting for everyone in attendance was the Kia EV9. It’s a fully electric vehicle with three rows, and like a bold, straightforward white wine from Walla Walla, the EV9 is super distinctive. It’s a blocky, video game-y-looking car. It’s got LED headlights, sure, but then it also has these cool faded-out LEDs that extend towards the center of the grille. I’ve not seen anything like this, and I love it. If I were just shopping by the label, I mean, exterior, I would have a hard time passing up the EV9.

Kia Ev9 Gt Exterior. Photo: Sara Lacey

Kia EV9 GT exterior. Photo: Sara Lacey

Even better, the Interior of the EV9 is Inspired by Activewear

The inside of the EV9 has cool mesh details on the seats, headrest, and dash. There is even a coat hanger on the backs of the front seats. I would test these to see if I could hang my purse there. But then I look in the front of the car and realize there is a ton of storage, including a giant bin that would be a great place for my purse.

The EV9 hits a home run with its brown and black interior. The seats are perforated, with heating and ventilation. It’s got an extended screen that goes from the front of the steering wheel to the middle of the dash. There are a few buttons and toggles to make sure some of the easiest commands are front and center and not buried in the touchscreen menus.

I was not able to drive the EV9 at this event and was so sad about it! It’s like knowing there is a perfect bottle of wine you’d like to try, but it’s not in stock. As soon as we get to drive the EV9, we’ll be back with a full report.

The Ev9 Has Cool Headlights And Pixelated Daytime Running Lights. Photo: Sara Lacey

The EV9 has cool headlights and pixelated daytime running lights. Photo: Sara Lacey

Finally, Time to Taste!

That night we wrapped up our tour of Walla Walla at Valdemar Estates, a gorgeous, modern winery. We toured their tasting room, their production facility, and even the room where they keep the oak barrels before they fill them with wine. I loved this room and only semi-jokingly said that I wished they made a candle that smelled the way the room smelled. 

Devanyi Gupta Of Valdemar Estates. Photo: Sara Lacey

Devanyi Gupta of Valdemar Estates. Photo: Sara Lacey

Meet the Winemaker, Devyani

Devyani Gupta is the winemaker and vineyard manager at Valdemar Estates. She talked about how the wines were made there and showed us the facility. It’s sparkling clean and modern. She answered our questions and talked about the enology and viticulture program at the Walla Walla Community College. It was so neat to see people who participated in the program flourishing and developing significant wines throughout the region. 

Valdemar Estates is interesting because the family that owns it has been making wine in Rioja, Spain for generations. In 2019 they started a winery in Walla Walla, the first internationally-owned one in the state. And how cool that Devyani is at the forefront of their wine production.

What You Should Know

  • Kia PHEVs are able to charge at Level 2 chargers and will take about 3 hours to get 35 miles of all-electric range, but they are not able to be charged on a DC fast charger
  • The EV9 will be available in nine exterior colors, including two matte options. In even bigger news, there will be two interior color options

What we Loved

  • The variety of interior styles, from minimal electric car approaches to posh, feature-heavy luxury approaches
  • All-electric options and PHEV options
In The Sjr Vineyard. Photo: Kia

In the SJR Vineyard. Photo: Kia

What a Flight!

I loved my “flight” of testing the Kia cars. They have such fun offerings that vary in style and purpose. The only shame is that I’d only get to settle on one. At least with wine, I can have them all. And learning about the women that are at the fore of Walla Walla’s wine industry certainly makes me want to do just that.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Kia for this test drive. Travel and accommodations were provided, but all opinions are my own. Additionally, A Girls Guide to Cars may earn a commission from affiliate links in this story.

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Sara has written about cars since 2005. She used to beat them up with her kids and write about... More about Sara Lacey