Walter Scott's Stunning Willamette Chardonnay
When we think of great Chardonnay, the mind wanders to Burgundy or the coasts of California, preference deciding. But often overlooked is California's neighbor just to the north. Oregon's Willamette Valley is now nipping at Burgundy’s feet when it comes to the profundity of their Chardonnay, and for good reason.
Willamette Valley is cool, and both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grow well there, but there is no limestone—the soil type is a mix of sedimentary and igneous volcanic rock. The best parcels are from ribbons of volcanic soil that thread through the sedimentary soil. These high drainage soils allow the roots of the vine to reach “mother rock”. These unique soils are Oregon’s secret sauce, and there may be no better example than Walter Scott wines.
The label was started in 2008 by partners Ken Pahlow and Erica Landon after years of successful careers in the Oregon Wine Industry. Walter Scott’s first wine, La Combe Verte Pinot Noir, was produced in 2009 at Patricia Green Cellars where Ken traded harvest labor for winemaking space. For the following two vintages, Ken changed locations to Evening Land where he began working alongside Dominique Lafon. In 2011, Walter Scott began making Chardonnay, which contributed significantly to both their growing production and group of loyal followers. In 2012, they moved into their current space, which is situated on Justice Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills.
In the vineyard, the focus is on not just the cultivation of the grapes but to also build an exceptional relationship to the land and those who tend to it. They focus on older vines, clonal diversity and cool microclimates. Working with like minded folks has allowed Ken and Erica to source grapes that are dry farmed without the use of herbicides, pesticides or fungicides.
Winemaking is done with an open mind and never follows a recipe. Native or ambient yeast fermentations are embraced; minimal punching down and extractive techniques are used; and subtle adjustments are made each year to allow a transparent view of each vintage to shine. Judicious use of french oak is used to enhance the structure and texture. Each bottle is a balanced signature of place with a structural integrity that allows them to mature gracefully.
It's no exaggeration when we say that these wines are show stoppers. They are amongst not just the best wines we’ve had from Oregon but some of the best from anywhere, especially their crystalline Chardonnays.
“The La Combe Verte is fermented with 100% ambient yeast and full malolactic conversion in large barrels with very little bâtonnage. The wine is lightly fined and filtered prior to bottling to brighten aromatics and give us a polished finish. The result is an illuminating style of chardonnay, showcasing density and precision. The palate spotlights evolving layers of textures which follow the aromatic notes of lemon blossoms, with the finish offering a subtle mineral and saline character.” - Ken Pahlow
Read our post to see why Willamette Chardonnays get special attention on our Top Five Wine Trends of 2020 post.