Back in April, in preparation for my feature writeup on The Walls Vineyards, Lynn and I met with Ali Mayfield at Artifex, the state of the art winemaking facility on Dell Avenue in Walla Walla. There, we learned that the winery was started in 2013 with Michael Martin, a software attorney, as partner. The wines were being made at Artifex, but the winemaking was going to be moved to the former Whitman Cellars facility on 13th and Pine Street. We also learned that Ali took an interest in food and wine at the age of 19, growing up in southern Indiana. She also credited the late Stan Clark at the Walla Walla Community College for mentoring her. We then barrel tasted over a dozen wines which indicate a highly promising future for The Walls Vineyards. Here are my notes on some of them.
2015 - Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, French Creek Vineyard - Fermented and aged in concrete, this showed nice bright fruit and crispness. Ali noted that the 2015 vintage was tricky for white wines due to the rapidly rising sugars and dropping acids during harvest. But this wine was spot on.
2015 "McAndrew" Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge, White Salmon Vineyard - From cuttings originally from the Celilo Vineyard, this wine showed bright, almost spritzy, acidity and lovely, vivacious fruit.
2015 Grenache Blanc, Yakima Valley, French Creek Vineyard - Ali called this "the lipstinger" for its bright fruit and and acidity. Blended wih Roussanne, Marsanne and Picpoul, it had wonderful aromatics and lively flavors.
2015 Syrah, Red Mountain, Red Heaven Vineyard - Ali called this the "Concrete Momma." It showed vivid Red Mountain Syrah flavors. She prefers to keep racking to a minimum, leaving the wine on the lees as long as possible.
2015 Touriga Nacional, Red Mountain - From a Portuguese variety, this showed an opaque color and smoldering aromas of roasted berries and nuts, and full-bodied, structured flavors.
2015 Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley, Stoney Vine Vineyard - Fermented in concrete and then put in barrels, this showed a deep color and firm, yet fleshy flavors and distinctive aromatics.
2015 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Stoney Vine Vineyard - Also fermented in concrete and aged in barrels, this had loads of flavor and distinct Rocks minerality. Powerful and deep, yet fleshy.
Afterwards, we went over to the future winemaking facility. We met Ali's brother, Jake, who is helping out in getting ready for thie winery's transitioning. There are plans for a tasting room in downtown Walla Walla on West Poplar, next door to the Jim German's Passatempo (formerly Pastime) restaurant. It is an ambitious and exciting project. Architect Alex deMambro is designing both the restaurant and tasting room.
Later, on May 7th, during Spring Release Weekend, we went to the inaugural event at the future winery. Mike Martin was on hand to help pour the wines , including a tasty new "Cruel Summer" Rosé of Pinot Noir. Reviews of the wines are in the June issue of the Review of Washington Wines. Jim German and his culinary crew served up pulled pork and pasta, a wonderful preview of the Passatempo Restaurant. There is a lot to look forward to.