In the decade since their first bottling, this husband and wife team has created a reputation for producing some of Oregon’s most exciting wines. They are hard to come by, produced in tiny quantities, and beloved by critics. We would go so far as to say these are some of the most immediately impressive Chardonnays we’ve come across from the new world and so we were delighted when they offered us a direct allocation, putting these on British soils for the very first time.
With decades of experience in the Oregon wine scene, including a stint at Evening Land working alongside Dominque Lafon, the Pahlows started their own project in 2008 armed with their life savings and a with a bulging address book of local contacts. Hard working, down to earth and passionate advocates of site and place, it wasn’t long before they’d carved out an enviable roster of top vineyards from which to source fruit. Today, with the reputation they’ve built, they are one of the very few who can buy fruit from the iconic Seven Springs vineyard. Other local land owners are only too happy to have the likes Justice, Temperance Hill or X-Novo appear on a Walter Scott label.
In a region dominated by Pinot Noir, the focus here is split evenly between Pinot and Chardonnay and it is with the latter that Ken and Erica are most pushing the boundaries of what people thought Oregon could produce. Cote d’Or inspired, taut, mineral and focussed Chardonnays are the order of the day at Walter Scott. Harvest dates tend to err on the slightly earlier side and once in the winery intervention is minimal. Reds can include up to 30% whole bunch, depending on the vintage. In general new oak usage is low and relies on 300-500L barrels. The Chardonnays are put to barrel with the majority of their lees and spend a full year in wood, with very minimal battonage and careful topping up, before spending 4 months in steel to firm up before bottling. The wines that emerge are illuminating examples of Chardonnay, bright fruit overlaid with complex smoky mineral aromas. They are hugely impressive. The Pinot’s cut no less of a dash, Neal Martin describing them as “killer Pinot Noir with purity, intensity and personality” going on to say that they are “the kind of wines that I would take home to drink following a hard day's tasting.”
The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir La Combe Verte bottlings (651 and 1526 cases produced respectively) pay homage to Patricia Green, at whose cellars Ken was working when he set up Walter Scott. They are produced with exactly the same care and attention as their single vineyard bottlings, following the adage that a great domaine is marked out by quality of its entry level wines. Simply put they speak to all that is good about the Willamette Valley and the Walter Scott ethos. For those looking further up the scale, the Cuvee Ruth Pinot Noir (336 cases produced) is a special barrel selection from three top sites, Soujourner, Seven Springs and Temperance hill. This Eola-Amity Hills cuvee represents much of the mineral presence and intensity these sites are famed for, with the polish and overall elegance that one can achieve from blending sites.