A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg
“Wines of a Place” was the theme for a recent media event put on by Walt Wines, and this place was certainly a beauty!
We started the day boarding a shuttle at the Bacara Resort & Spa, which was all abuzz with World of Pinot Noir festivities coming up that weekend. Thanks to our recent rains, the hills were abundantly lush and green as we made our way north on the freeway to the renowned Clos Pepe Estate Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA in Lompoc.
Founder Steve Pepe (who retired in 2015, giving Walt Wines a long-term lease on the vineyard) led us on a walking tour of the vineyard, which is acclaimed for producing excellent wines under the Clos Pepe label, as well providing grapes, from 1998-2014, to pinot noir and chardonnay producers such as Walt (Hall Wines), Siduri/Novy Wines, AP Vin, Liquid Farm, Arcadian, Au Bon Climat, Hitching Post, Ojai Vineyard, Ken Brown Wines, Longoria Wines, Babcock Winery, Loring Wine Company, Flying Goat Cellars, Small + Tall, Conarium and Wan Fiore Project.
“Great wine is about place,” said Pepe, as a lead in to our vertical tasting of Walt “Clos Pepe” Pinot Noir vintages 2013, 2014 and 2015. All were delicious—and unique—and as we sipped Walt winemaker Megan Gunderson Paredes walked us through
the process that went into creating these three wines. They use optical sorter technology to hand-sort the fruit, with the ability to make adjustments throughout the process, as she explained. For example, in 2013 harvest took place in October and in 2015 they lost 30-40% of the crop to frost and started harvest much earlier, in late August.
The company—is part of the Hall Wines family in Napa Valley, owned by Vintners Kathryn Walt Hall and Craig Hall—has a unique approach to crafting Pinot Noir. Essentially, as Vice President of Winemaking Steve Leveque explained, Walt sources its fruit from premier vineyards along the Pacific Coast representing 1,000 miles of Pinot. Each wine is designed to express the character of the site where it is grown.
In addition to Clos Pepe, in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA Walt also sources grapes from Rita’s Crown, Radian, Bentrock and Fiddlestix. They also create estate and single vineyard wines from Santa Lucia Highlands, Anderson Valley, Los Carneros (Napa County), Sonoma Coast and Willamette Valley—hence, the 1,000 miles of Pinot.
After the tasting we made our way to S.Y. Kitchen in Santa Ynez for a delicious Italian feast, paired with Walt Wines from other appellations, including:
—Lobster tail, onion mousse, fried salsify and citrus with Walt 2015 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
—Yellow beet, pickled plum, hazelnuts, goat cheese and fresh lemon thyme with Walt 2014 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir
—Prosciutto and Burrata with Walt 2014 Rita’s Crown Hills Pinot Noir
—Ricotta gnocchi with taleggio and porcini with Walt 2015 Bob’s Ranch Pinot Noir.
Talk about a delicious day. For more information, visit www.waltwines.com.
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When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”