We’re with WALT! WALT wines, that is, with winemaker Winemaker Megan Gunderson Paredes and owner Kathryn Walt Hall for this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend Tribute to Women Owned Wineries and Women Who Make Wine in advance of Women’s History Month and World of Pinot Noir events in March AND in recognition of Amy Bess Cook’s new venture that lists wineries owned by women using Sonoma County fruit (including Merry Edwards who we featured last March following a media tasting of her wines at World Of Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara).
WALT wines showcases Pinot Noir (and Chardonnay) vineyards from 1000 miles of Pacific Coast from Oregon to Santa Barbara, and includes, of course vineyards in Sonoma County like Savoy Vineyard and The CORNERS Estate Vineyard in Anderson Valley and three in the Sonoma Coast including Bob’s Ranch which is also an Estate Vineyard. When the brand was formed the stress was on finding vineyard brands that were iconic and historic as well as high in quality. They rely on the passion of growers to help make great wine. The diverse AVAs showcases the delicate nuances of the wine. Choosing recognizable vineyards also helps: the brand of the vineyard and the region introduces the wine to consumers.
WALT owner Kathryn Walt Hall also owns Hall winery that makes Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa, and famously achieved a 100 point score. But now she has chosen to focus on making fine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the most prestigious vineyards in California and Oregon to reflect a distinct sense of place and they strive to find the most interesting places where Pinot is grown.
Named in honor of Kathryn Walt Hall’s grape growing grandparents, WALT wines reflect their grape growing philosophy — that great wines begin with great viticulture. At WALT, the grapes are brought to Sonoma where the winemaking approach includes:
- optical sorting,
- gravity feed,
- native yeasts,
- malolactic fermentation with weekly batonnage,
- barrel aging on the lees for texture, richness, complexity
- no fining or filtration
We met WALT last year for the World of Pinot Noir event in Santa Barbara California at the Baccarra Hotel and resort where they were hosting a seminar and participating in the Grand Tasting. On Friday of World of Pinot Noir, Sue and I were invited for a private tasting and vineyard tour at the Clos Pepe Estate in Sta. Rita Hills hosted by WALT wines and their newly formed partnership with Clos Pepe which is home to one of thei Estate Vineyards.
It was on this tour that we met the WALT wine team including winemaker Megan Gunderson Paredes. We were fortunate enough to sit near her on the bus as we traveled from Santa Barbara north to the Sta. Rita Hills enjoying casual conversation and the greenery and wildflowers sprouting up following the significant rains.
It’s a stunningly scenic drive up highway 101 and then out on country roads to get to Clos Pepe’s vineyards which are some of the closest to the ocean in Santa Barbara county. The coastal breezes bring in the fog which the sun burns off around midday then the wind kicks up and it can get downright cold! It’s these conditions as well as the soils that make the area perfect for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; the Sta Rita Hills is clearly my favorite AVA in the region because of these characteristics. (Read more about an April 2017 exploration of the AVA with a focus on Pinot Noir from Sanford, Kessler-Haak, Melville, and Alma Rosa.)
Megan shared with us that she came to her passion for wine via food and the she comes from generations of great cooks. She grew up cooking and she still loves to cook; this led to her interest in biochemistry and wine.
These days, Megan juggles the hats of winemaker of wines made from vineyards along 1000 miles, plus wife, and mother, and she is passionate about it all. She’s also enthusiastic about how food and wine smells, and her sense of smell was developed from her many years in the kitchen. One of the reasons she’s passionate about wine is how smelling and tasting wine brings back happy memories.
As vineyard managers, sustainability is important. For examples, when cover crops breaks down and puts nutrients back into the soil. It’s important for them to remember that everything starts in the vineyard.
“These are wines of bold approachable character,” says Megan, “because life’s too short for restraint!”
Currently, WALT produces 11 wines from vineyards in that 1000 mile span. In 2010 Hall started sourcing fruit from Clos Pepe; the location of the east/west mountains brings in the cooling coastal influence. They also source from Rita’s Crown which has some altitude but is also close to the Pacific; both are in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA.
After the visit to the Clos Pepe Estate where we sat in the lovely courtyard with Steve and Cathy Pepe, we were treated to a fabulous yet simple family style lunch at the Santa Ynez Kitchen where we again got to taste the WALT wines but in concert with food which really showed what these wines are made for. And I must say, the Clos Pepe olive oil is one of the best!
At the end of the day we were each presented with a bottle of WALT 2014 Pinot Noir from The Corners Estate Vineyard in Anderson Valley to take home providing us with a sample to write about for this month’s #WinePW.
“The Corners” comes from the eastern edge of the Anderson Valley near Boonville which used to be called “The Corners” hence the name of the vineyard. The steep slopes are at 800′ above sea level and have gravelly, cobbly clay soils with outcroppings on a southern exposure for rich ripe fruit but the Pacific is only 12 miles away and supplies cooling breezes as well as morning fog for intense diurnal swings. The organically grown eight year old vines are a range of clones.
- Cheese plate with triple cream wild mushroom brie and pate on a fresh organic baguette
- Grilled salmon with spinach, mushroom, lemon rice pilaf.
- Ginger seasoned beet salad a bed of greens with a turmeric vinegarette from Trader Joe’s.
- rice pilaf with mushrooms, spinach and spices
- Adaptations: we used rice from Trader Joe’s which we cooked in the instant pot at manual high pressure for 20 minutes. We will make this again!
2014 – Pinot Noir – The Corners – Anderson Valley – 15.1% alcohol
Clones 667, 777, 115; 11 months in new French oak
The wine regular gets scores in the low to mid-90s.
Color: ruby, sapphire, has darker rich color, very pretty
Nose: very spices, baking spices, reminds you of rich exotic spices, then hints of fruit, strawberry, or watermelon, like watermelon lip smackers of our youth.
Palate: has a fair amount of body for a pinot noir, has a long finish, is fruit forward but not a simple wine. Went so well with our pate and mushroom brie. We talked about how this was a contemplative wine. Easy to sip and enjoy. We imagined loving this wine with dishes that have interesting spices– Indian or Moroccan cuisine.
Great with the meal tonight. The fatty richness of the salmon was tamed nicely by the mineralogy and acidity in the wine. providing great balance. The complexity of the spices (cinnamon, clove, and cardamon, in our rice pilaf was a perfect balance with the complexity of this Pinot. The earthy spice of the turmeric was very nice with the earthy spice in the wine. The beet salad would have been a difficult pairing under most circumstances, the lemon ginger beets were very hot and spicy, lending to a bold spicy pairing with this wine which it handled beautifully.
This is a sipping wine and a wine well worth savoring. Marshall really enjoyed the WALT Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley this evening — and he is usually unimpressed.
If you want to explore Pinot Noir over 1000 miles of Pacific coast, this is the way to do it!
And for the super duper Pinot Noir fans, get your tickets NOW for World of Pinot Noir, once again eh first weekend in March at the Bacarra just north of Santa Barbara right on the ocean and a quick drive to Santa Ynez wine country. You can taste Pinor Noir from WALT as well as literally HUNDREDS more Pinots!
Read on to learn about more Women Who Wine! We’ll post our blogs by 8am Sat. Feb. 10 and we’ll take to twitter to discuss our discoveries from 8-9am PST Sat. Feb 10 using the #hashtag #WinePW. You can look forward to blog posts, recipes, and tweets from:
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla brings the bubbles with > The Effervescent Nicole Walsh Dishes On Ser And Being a Woman (in Wine) & Sparkling Rosé of Nebbiolo + Fusion Street Tacos.
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares > Women Winemakers~~Introducing Burgdorf Winery.
Nicole from Somm’s Table has us > Malbec, Meat, and Conversation with Hanna Winery’s Christine Hanna
Jane of Always Ravenous is > Celebrating Merry Edward’s Winemaking Journey with a Winter Feast
David from Cooking Chat brings us > Tuscan Kale Pasta with Elisabetta’s Vernaccia.
Susannah at Avvinare shares > Crociani Rosso di Montepulciano and Turkey Chili For A Cold Winter’s Day
Gwendolyn from Wine Predator explains > We’re with WALT: owner Kathryn Hall, Winemaker Megan Gunderson Paredes.
Lauren at The Swirling Dervish is running with the wolves for > Donnachiara Montefalcione – Five Generations of Wine, Wolves, and Women in Campania.