Walter Scott Wines
As winemaker Ken Pahlow draws some 2014 Pinot Noir from barrel, his almost two-year-old Lucy bounds into the winery. Even if she didn’t make an appearance, her presence is felt everywhere: some toys rest near the barrel stacks and her chalk drawings liven up the puncheons. Ken’s face lights up with Lucy and his wife, Erica Landon, in the room. After some brief chat, we resume our tasting as he pours another wine into my Zalto glass. He switches gears back to talk of vine age, clones, and pH levels as my hand fiercely tries to keep up. This captured moment embodies why I love the wines of Walter Scott: Ken’s technical acumen results in wine that feels perfectly executed while still maintaining soul.
His love of white Burgundy is always part of the conversation when Ken talks about his Chardonnay. Inspired by some of his favorite Burgundian producers, he doesn’t mind some reduction in his wines. Although they didn’t make a Chardonnay for their first vintage in 2009, production has increased every year since. Five different were made in 2014, all of which make a strong argument for the potential of the grape in Oregon. Most of these are aged in puncheons with minimal batonnage. The result is lean, linear wines. The richest of the bunch is the X-Novo, from the Eola-Amity Hills. Eleven different clones are picked at the same time and fermented in a mix of new and old puncheons and barrels.
While their Chardonnays are promising, the Pinot Noirs are downright showstopping. Each of them vividly convey the vineyard from which they are sourced. The winery gets fruit from some heavy-hitting names in the valley – such as Freedom Hill, Temperance Hill, and Seven Springs – while also sourcing from some little known gems. One such gem is the Clos de Oiseaux vineyard, whose previous name was Swallow's Run, a name that didn't sit well with Ken. Although ownership changed hands recently, Ken and Erica's relationship continues. Another standout Pinot Noir is the Dumb Ox, from a block within the Eola Springs Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills. A mix of Pommard and 115 are planted on volcanic and sedimentary soils, resulting a smoky muscular wine, beautifully balanced by floral aromas.