If you appreciate pinot noir, sampling WALT Wines’ portfolio is imperative.  Sourced from premier vineyards along the United States Pacific Coast, WALT focuses on producing single-vineyard pinot noirs and chardonnays, exploring the “honest expressions of the character of their vineyard sites.”  Why ‘1000 Miles’?…their vineyards span nearly a thousand miles, from Willamette Valley in Northwestern Oregon to Central Coast in Southern California. This affords a compilation of complex offerings that vary in their underlying subtleties – textures, richness and complexity, while maintaining WALT’s strict, non-interventionist winemaking modus operandi.

We recently attended WALT’s 1000 Miles of Pinot Party at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach, California, where we sampled their 2015 vintages.  We were NOT disappointed.  The night consisted of exhilarating atmosphere, an impressive array of wines and complementing hors d’oeuvres.  Our favorites? – Bob’s Ranch Pinot Noir, Rita’s Crown Pinot Noir and The Corners Pinot Noir; no surprise given all have consistently received 93+ points in recent years.

Image courtesy of Carly Street

Aside from sipping exceptional wine, the night revealed an unexpected announcement.  WALT’s current production facility is located at HALL Wines in Napa Valley, the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified winery in California (2009); hence, it was fitting that the biggest news of the night came in the form of an announcement from Katheryn Walt Hall, the proprietor of HALL Wines and WALT Wines, that WALT had acquired land in the Russian River Valley and would be opening a new vineyard and winery in 2019.   We caught up with Jeff Zappelli, General Manager of WALT Wines, following the announcement, to inquire about the future of WALT and gain his insight on the recent acquisition.  Zappelli is a Napa Valley veteran and pioneer on wine industry technology, including direct-to-consumer sales, customer relationship management (CRM) and direct marketing campaign strategies.

“We were looking for a home for WALT, and the Russian River Valley [one of the viticultural areas in Sonoma County] is an awesome part of California for pinot noir.  It’s an exceptional piece of land with over seven acres, and our vision is to create an elite LEED-certified winery and a small organically farmed vineyard.”

Kathryn Walt Hall with Jeff Zappelli (General Manager of WALT) Image courtesy of Carly Street

WALT has a history of social and environmental consciousness, both in its ranks and business practices, and consider them essential components of its products. They rely on eco-friendly practices throughout the winemaking process to consciously minimize their impact on the environment.  As Brian Freedman points out in his recent article regarding potential USDA cuts, the wine industry in California may be negatively impacted if policy changes materialize.  As such, we inquired as to whether changes in regulations, and thus the competitive environment of the industry, would influence WALT’s methodology.

“There are still passionate people looking to do the right things; still entrepreneurs who believe they’ll leave the world in a better place than they’ve received it. [At WALT,] we choose to be one of the first growers to certify all of our vineyards with the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program because it’s better for the environment.  Eco-friendly viticulture does not mean you will have a better wine, however in doing so, we think it makes the world better. You only get one shot at the deal; so, you better make sure it’s something good for not only your visitors, guests and vendors, but also your kids and the people you’re working with.”

Our conclusion:  a magnificent portfolio of wines that lead to an appreciation and understanding of the complex subtleties of pinot noir, brought to you by an upstanding, environmentally responsible vintner.  We highly anticipate the release of the inaugural vintage from their new home in Russian River Valley.

Image courtesy of Justine DiFede

Logistics

WALT’s tasting room is located at 380 First Street West in Sonoma, California, near the historic Sonoma Plaza.   Don’t live within driving distance? – fly into Santa Rosa Airport (STS) and drive 30 miles (48km) south.  Alternatively, fly into San Francisco Airport (SFO) and drive 60 miles (97km) north, if flights are more convenient.  As Keith King mentioned in his recent article Cheers to Booze Tourism in America, roughly 4 million people visit Napa Valley, just adjacent Sonoma, each year.  The tourism infrastructure is the area is well established, and you’ll find a range of accommodations and restaurant options.  Although Sonoma is almost double the size of Napa, it’s generally less expensive and often described as “less commercialized;” so, staying in Sonoma to explore the greater Napa and Sonoma regions is pragmatic and provides for a relaxing weekend getaway. Ensure you stop by WALT’s tasting room to say ‘Hi.’ Let them know we sent you!

WALT currently produces 12 pinot noirs, 3 chardonnays, and 1 rosé.  For more information, or to purchase WALT wines, visit their website at www.waltwines.com