The Walt Family got their start in the California wine industry on the vineyard end of things. Bob and Dolores Walt started planting vineyards, 63 acres in Mendocino County's Redwood Valley that included six different varieites. From Cabernet Sauvignon, to Zinfandel, Gamay to Sauvignon Blanc; the Walt's were early adopters of sustainable vineyard management practices and their fruit was sold to California producers like Beringer and Parducci.
Kathryn Walt Hall has taken the family tradition of attention to vineyard sites and importance of place into the WALT wines label that she directs today named in honor of her parents. The WALT wines direction has moved away from those six original varieties that Bob and Dolores planted and instead has focused on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from very specific well placed vineyards up and down the West Coast. And that is what landed this story on a Northwest wine blog. The WALT wines focus on single vineyard or AVA blends of Pinot and Chardonnay with an emphasis on site, soil and fruit that expresses those elements of place resulting in unique and expressive wines.
Among their many California bottlings the WALT wines also has one Oregon Pinot Noir from the prestigious Shea Vineyard. After receiving samples of the wines I wanted to get a sense of how WALT a very successful part of the WALT/HALL wines ended up pursuing an Oregon Pinot Noir. Winemaker Megan Gunderson: "Our focus is on sourcing cool climate Pinot Noir from specific vineyard sites along the Pacific Coast to create wines of depth and character; that speak of where they were grown. Soils, aspect, and micro-climate are key in determining our vineyard sources. We are minimalist in our winemaking approach, utilizing native yeast fermentations, and all wines are un-fined and unfiltered. The goal is to showcase the appellation or specific vineyard in the finished product. We are very fortunate to work with passionate and dedicated growers in all of our WALT vineyards; many of them pioneers in their respective appellations."
For the WALT portfolio, with consistently well known and sought after vineyards from California like Gap's Crown, Clos Pepe and Griffin's Lair they selected an Oregon vineyard designate wine that would bring that kind of name recognition and most importantly, site signature to their only non-California wine. They believe the found it in Shea Vineyard. "Dick Shea’s vineyard is a brand in and of itself; very well respected and consistently producing great Oregon Pinot Noir. Willamette Valley is a truly unique terroir and I really like the flavor and aroma profile of this region."
I was sent samples of two of the WALT Pinot Noirs, the Shea Vineyard Pinot from 2011 and a 2012 La Brisa, which is comprised of fruit from five different Sonoma County vineyards and the 2011 Shea Vineyard from here in the Northwest. Very distinctive wines showing the range of Pinot Noir itself as well as the stylistic and resulting wines. "The WALT brand is about the diversity in vineyards that we have, allowing us to highlight the effects of terroir. From the big fruity extracted Pinot’s of the Central cost, to the floral and blue fruit Pinot’s of Sonoma and Mendocino counties, the differences are astounding. The Shea Pinot is very structured and full of true Oregon character – forest floor, freshly turned earth, crushed rose petals, and cranberry. This is one Pinot in our line-up that gets better with age."
2012 WALT La Brisa Sonoma County Pinot Noir
An opulent and showy cool climate Pinot Noir. A blend of vineyards that includes the well regarded Sonoma Coast's Gap's Crown and four vineyards from the Russian River Valley. The resultant wine is a fleshy Pinot Noir with deep, rich aromatics of dried violet and blackberry. The wine is a palate coating richness of juicy layered blue fruits, clove, and dried figs. The wine's balance and finish are quite impressive. $40
2011 WALT Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Aromatically forward after some breathing time this cool vintage from Oregon speaks of the wine's potential more than it's current personality. Bright aromatic notes of red currant and cranberry and a structured palate of fresh fruit, early season raspberry and blackberries. Fresh mint and soaring acidity mark the finish of a wine that is far from finished like much of the 2011s these wines are really just starting to explain themselves to us.$50