Incredibly Impressive Willamette Valley Chardonnay

Today’s Story: Walter Scott Wines

Walter Scott Wines was established in 2008 by husband and wife Ken Pahlow and Erica Landon in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Ken comes from a background in wine, which began in 1994 in production, sales, and harvests at St. Innocent Winery. He later moved to Patricia Green Cellars in 2009, coinciding with the first vintage of Walter Scott La Combe Verte Pinot Noir in exchange for harvest labor. Erica, on the other hand, has a background in the restaurant industry and wine education. Her impressive resume includes sommelier and GM for the Ponzi Family’s Dundee Bistro, wine director at one of Portland’s best restaurants Ten 01, and wine director for Bruce Carey Restaurants. Erica has also taught classes for Wine & Spirits Archive, WSET, and the International Sommelier Guild. Lastly I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the youngest member of the Walter Scott team, Lucille who is the daughter of Ken and Erica. She “joined the team” in 2014, the same year Ken and Erica quit their main jobs to focus 100% on Walter Scott.

Walter Scott sources their fruit from a number of growers in the Willamette Valley AVA, with many in the Eola-Amity Hills area around their “home base.” All of the growers are friends of Ken and Erica, who in their words are people they like to sit around a table with while enjoying a glass of wine. All of these vineyard partners practice dry farming without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides, while some are also organic or biodynamic. This meshes well with Walter Scott’s goal of producing single vineyard and blended bottlings from old vines that offer clonal diversity from expressive terroir.

In the cellar, Ken practices a more “dynamic” winemaking style in that he never follows a recipe and adapts vintage to vintage. The end goal is to purely let the wines speak for themselves and showcase each unique vineyard site with freshness and purity. Ken only ferments with native or ambient yeasts, minimizes punch-downs or extractive techniques, and remains committed in his attention to detail vintage to vintage in order to seek constant improvement. All of the wines age in French oak barrels, with each barrel a small part of the larger whole.

To learn more about Walter Scott Wines, view pictures of the team and vineyards, or purchase some bottles of your own, check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2018 X Novo Vineyard Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2018 X Novo Chardonnay is transparent medium gold in color with straw yellow hues. This is an absolutely gorgeous wine from first whiff, offering up a nose of lemon peel, golden apple, quince, dried gravel, reduction (gunpowder and smoke), petrol, limestone, and saline mineral. The palate is equally beautiful, though still pretty tight due to its youth with notes of green apple skins, golden pear, lemon curd, white florals, flint, and crushed rock minerality. This is medium- to full-bodied with gorgeous and mouthwatering high acidity while being very precise and crisp into a long finish. Definitely give this a few more years in the cellar, or drink it over multiple hours now.

Price: $75 (shared by a good friend who paid $65). I think this is a great value Chardonnay, and I know prices are already on the rise as this gets more recognition. Though young, this opened for us and was one of the wines of the night in an incredible lineup, also beating another 2018 Willamette Valley Chardonnay we put it up against.

Delightful Oregon Chardonnay With Burgundian Flair

Today’s Story: Lingua Franca

Lingua Franca was established in 2015 by Master Sommelier Larry Stone and his partners Dominique Lafon and winemaker Thomas Savre. Lafon is a legend of Burgundy in his own right, and his protégé Thomas Savre has many impressive names on his resume as well. Larry purchased Janzen Farm, which would become Lingua Franca, at the very end of 2012 and immediately set about planning for 23 vineyard blocks varying by rootstock and budwood. Though he and his team initially planned on selling fruit rather than making their own wine, Lafon suggested producing estate bottlings in 2014 and they officially began the endeavor in 2015 with Savre on board.

Lingua Franca puts vital importance on not only the vineyards themselves, but how they are cared for. Since its foundation, Lingua Franca farms using low-impact organic and biodynamic principles such as no-till farming and maintaining a permanent cover crop to improve soil biodiversity. Instead of using chemicals, the team encourages nesting of hawks, owls, foxes, and coyotes to fend off any unwanted visitors. When it comes to winemaking itself, Savre and team stick to Burgundian traditions and seek to produce wines truly representative of their place.

To learn more about Lingua Franca, the team, and the wines, I encourage you to visit their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Avni Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2016 Avni Chardonnay is transparent pale to medium gold in color with straw variation near the rim. Given some time to open up in the glass, the nose showcases aromas of golden pear, lemon zest, brioche, toasted almond, matchstick, limestone, and stony mineral. There are also some gorgeous herbal aromas. On the palate, the wine shows notes of lemon, stone fruit, crisp golden apple, apricot, mild smoke, flint rock, wet stone, and saline mineral. This is medium-bodied with mouthwatering high acidity and a plush, well-rounded mouthfeel into a long finish.

Price: $35. I think this is an outstanding value Chardonnay, standing up with some of the Chardonnays I’ve enjoyed for twice its price. This is also rather Burgundian in style, which helps the case with me!

Burgundian Pinot Noir From Willamette Valley

Today’s Story: Cristom Vineyards

Cristom Vineyards was founded in 1992 by Paul and Eileen Gerrie in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley. I previously wrote about them when I reviewed their 2016 Estate Viognier in Textbook New World Viognier and I am excited to explore one of their single vineyard Pinot Noirs today. Cristom consists of eight estate vineyards totaling just over 100 acres, four of which are planted to Pinot Noir (Eileen, Jessie, Louise, and Marjorie) and four that are planted to Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Syrah. Using sustainably farmed estate fruit, winemaker Steve Doerner practices minimal intervention in the cellar to produce wines that transparently showcase the terroir of each site.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2013 Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir is slightly translucent pale ruby in color with hints of garnet. Given 45 minutes or so to open up, the wine blossoms with a nose of cherry, black raspberry, stemmy strawberry, cola, bacon fat, dried tobacco, forest floor, dried green herbs, and cinnamon. On the palate, I get notes of sweet plum, black cherry, licorice, worn leather, tobacco, sous bois, nutmeg, rocky mineral, and light oaky spice. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) and slightly chewy tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $40. I got this for an incredible deal, which makes it a fantastic value proposition for my tasting. With an average price closer to $60 or more in the marketplace, however, this falls into the category of “worth it” but not classified as a great value. Pair with herb roasted chicken, rack of lamb, or charcuterie and cheese.

Textbook New World Viognier

Today’s Story: Cristom Vineyards

Cristom Vineyards was founded in 1992 by Paul and Eileen Gerrie in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley. Established out of an appreciation of winemaking, the land, and Burgundy’s concept of terroir, Cristom is known for their estate Pinor Noirs. Cristom consists of eight estate vineyards totaling just over 100 acres, four of which are planted to Pinot Noir (Eileen, Jessie, Louise, and Marjorie) and four that are planted to Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Syrah. Cristom’s vineyards are all certified sustainable and carefully tended such that come harvest all fruit is as healthy and expressive of the terroir as possible. Cristom winemaker Steve Doerner practices minimal intervention in the cellar and wines are fermented whole cluster with native yeasts, all in an effort to produce high quality and elegant wines with a sense of place.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Estate Viognier

100% Viognier; 14% ABV

The 2016 Estate Viognier is pale straw/yellow in color with medium gold and water white hues. On the nose, I get aromas of tangerine, white peach, honeysuckle, toffee, vanilla bean, and saline mineral. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of apricot, mango, peach, white florals, wax, and herbs with an almost medicinal character. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (-) acidity and an oily mouthfeel into a rounded, long finish. 978 cases produced.

Price: $30 average (I paid $22). I would surely pay $30 for this, because it is a great example of New World Viognier, but I can call it a value much closer to the $22 I paid. There wasn’t as much depth in this that I hoped for. Pair with quail, lobster, or sea bass.