Walter Scott Wines
Oregon wine country revisited, part 13



Erica Landon and Ken Pahlow are the people behind Walter Scott Wines. 2009 was their first vintage. They were from a restaurant background, and they traded labour for space at Patricia Green cellars. In 2010 Ken went to work for Evening Land, where he got a chance to do vintage and work with Dominic Lafon. Walter Scott production doubled in 2011.


In 2012 there were changes at Evening Land, so Ken moved on. And it was a big year for Walter Scott: they rented their current space (a good-sized winery on the Justice Vineyard) from the Kasteels at Bethel Heights. They also took on partners, selling a 20% stake to Andy and Sue Steinman. Since then, growth has continued, and Walter Scott have gained access to more vineyards.

Most of the Pinot Noir ferments are with destemmed grapes. They do pigeage simultaneously with pump-overs, which gives them soft extractions. 'I like precise wines,' says Ken. 'I like elegant wines; that's what I want to drink.' In terms of harvest dates, he says it’s about capturing the grapes at the right moment. ‘I don’t have a problem with ripeness,’ he says. ‘We need to make sure we pick on the early side, with the fruit on the upswing.’

They told the story of the 2013 vintage, which we tried from barrel. It was a crazy Oregon vintage. It began by looking like a beautiful vintage. But when two-thirds of the fruit was in a typhoon from the pacific showed up, with insane rain. All of a sudden there was a bidding war for picking crews. They'd walk out if they could get paid more elsewhere. 'We had everything: botrytis, sour rot,' says Ken. The older vineyards did better in these trying conditions.


After the rains it was a question of waiting. They made extra passes, dropping crop, and because the picking crews got paid for the bucket they weren't interested in the smaller sites. So Ken and Erica got their friends in to help. With the wines that came in after the rain, they tried to capture the prettiness of the vintage with a little whole cluster to add in some structure.

As well as making Pinot Noir, they also focus on Chardonnay. ‘Growers are now willing to plant Chardonnay in prime locations because crazy people like us are willing to pay top prices,’ says Ken. ‘Chardonnay has tons of potential. It is just starting to happen. Clone 108 had to hang forever, but when the Dijon clones arrived the producers still let it hang and it was just too ripe.’ Yields are also an issue. ‘Originally it was being cropped at 5 tons/acre like Pinot Gris,’ Ken points out. ‘It’s now being cropped at 3 tons/acre to get more precision. We are picking on acid, and Brix secondarily, getting the pH in the 3.1 range.’  They do full malo, use native yeasts, and only do battonage during primary fermentation.


Walter Scott Dumb Ox Pinot Noir 2010 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
The Eola Springs vineyard was planted in 1996 on volcanic and sedimentary soils. In the middle, though, there’s a small block of ungrafted old Pommard vines, and these are used to make this wine. It has textured black cherry fruit with a seamless structure. So smooth, pure and fine grained with supple, sweet, elegant fruit. 94/100

Walter Scott Dumb Ox Pinot Noir 2011 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
Fresh, expressive black cherry fruit with nice focus and some peppery, gravelly hints. Pure and linear with good acidity, this Pinot has a bit of grip on the finish and needs some time to open out. So lovely. 94/100

Walter Scott Clos des Oiseaux Pinot Noir 2012 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
In 2011 they began renting a 2.8 hectare hobby vineyard with three clones of Pinot Noir across three types of volcanic soil. It’s now farmed organically, with some biodynamic preps and some compost. Lovely sweet cherry and plum fruit with some spiciness and good structure. Sweet black cherries with some grip, and hints of chocolate and tar. Fresh but with some richness. 93/100

We tasted some 2013s that were still in barrel. 

Temperance Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013: Planted in 1990 at an altitude of 800 feet and dry farmed. The roughest looking fruit to come in, but it has made a lovely wine. Juicy, bright and fresh with lovely precision.

Dumb Ox Pinot Noir 2013: Fresh, lively, intense and vivid with nice spiciness. A structured style with keen acidity.

Sojourner Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013: at 650 feet, with cobblestones running through clay. Supple red cherries and plums with freshness and brightness. Pure and focused with a linear personality and great acidity. Quite serious.

Bieze Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013: seventh leaf, so young vines. Lively raspberry and cherry fruit. Fresh, pure, floral and fruit-driven.

Walter Scott X Novo Chardonnay 2013 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon (cask sample)
This is from a 2 acre block planted with 11 clones of Chardonnay by Craig Williams. He wouldn’t disclose which clones because he wanted to focus to be on the place, and this 2013 was the first crop. Very lively and pure with lemons and keen acidity. There’s some richness, but the key is the bright lemon and lemongrass, as well as a hint of ginger. 93-94/100

Walter Scott Cuvée Anne Chardonnay 2013 Willamette Valley, Oregon (cask sample)
A blend from the best Chardonnay sites, including Freedom Hill, X Novo, Vojtilla and Bieze vineyards. Fresh white peach and lemon fruit with lively spiciness. Real personality. Some pithy notes. Concentrated with presence. 93-95/100

Johan Vineyards
J Christopher
Big Table Farm
Walter Scott
Antica Terra

See also:

Visiting Oregon, July 2008 (series)

Wines tasted 07/14  
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