Artfully Crafting Top-Tier Chardonnay in Sonoma County
Plus, Pick a Pack of Perfect Pairings
The Ethos of WALT Wines
Kathryn Walt Hall, proprietor of HALL Wines, WALT Wines and BACA Wines, is no stranger to the adage that great wine starts in the vineyard. At WALT, Kathryn’s vision was inspired by and in honor of her parents’ love for their vineyards. In this collection and under Kathryn’s leadership, WALT has become a premier Pinot Noir and Chardonnay house, crafting beautiful expressions of these beloved Burgundian varietals from California’s top vineyard sites.
The WALT collection is made with non-interventionist winemaking, harkening to an Old World style of winemaking that rightly honors the purity of site and its expression in grapes. For their Chardonnay, the style was inspired by the delicate-yet-powerful White Burgundy crafted in the famous, French AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) of Meursault. Here, in its native roots, the Chardonnay grape is transformed into a highly aromatic wine with incredible texture, brightness, and acidity. Nutty and floral notes are often found in the bouquet of these wines, and candied citrus and minerality abound on the palate.
In Sonoma County, WALT has absolutely honed in on the style and crafts a stunning trio of Chardonnays that are perfectly balanced and poised for springtime wine and food pairing.
The Chardonnay Collection
Vice President of Winemaking Megan Gunderson strikes a balance between allowing the vineyard sites and grapes to express themselves, and artfully guiding the winemaking process to achieve a style of wines with complex flavor profiles, freshness, and bright acidity.
Overall, the Chardonnay program follows strict quality measures and very specific winemaking procedures. All the harvested grapes are hand-sorted and pressed as whole clusters, a truly stylistic choice. Native yeast fermentation and extended malolactic fermentation yield those butterscotch and honey notes for which the varietal is known for. Aging on the lees with weekly bâtonnage give the WALT Chardonnays a beautiful richness on the palate, with full body, silky texture, and mouth-filling characteristics. While the winemaking process is non-interventionist, monitoring and carefully guiding each step in the process is a true art that really allows Gunderson to show her talents.
The 2019 Bob’s Ranch Chardonnay ($70)—a new vintage release—is the flagship wine of the trio. It comes from the Bob’s Ranch Estate Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast appellation, where average temperatures are typically 15 degrees cooler than the neighboring and already cool-climate Russian River Valley appellation. At WALT, this estate vineyard site was chosen specifically for its terroir, knowing full well that the intensely cool-climate of the Sonoma Coast coupled with low rolling hills would yield incredible Chardonnay.
In this estate vineyard, coastal breezes, morning fog, and wind define the climate.
Well-draining soils stress the vines that ultimately produce grapes of full varietal intensity and appropriate ripeness. The best blocks of Bob’s Ranch Estate Vineyard craft this flagship wine each year. In 2019, the wine saw 15 months in 35% new French oak before being bottled, giving it just enough of those oak-spice, vanilla-laden characteristics to balance the bright acidity and citrus-packed fruit flavors.
The 2018 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($40) is comprised of grapes harvested from two vineyard sites: Bob’s Ranch Estate Vineyard and the famous Sangiacomo Vineyards. Both vineyards are in the Sonoma Coast appellation and expressed those high acidity, bright fruit characteristics. Of course, the winemaking process comes into play in the balance of flavors which unfold beautifully on the nose and palate. A bouquet of the tropics and ripe lemon give way to a mouthful of rich and layered citrus and mineral notes. These flavors are rounded out by the touch of oak spice coming from the 15 months of aging in 30% new François Frères French oak barrels. The unique mix of heritage and clonal selections that go into this Chardonnay also give depth and nuance to this artfully crafted wine.
The 2019 Sangiacomo Chardonnay ($55) is the final wine of the triumvirate and is also a new vintage release. This wine beautifully illustrated the Meursault inspiration with lovely aromas of hazelnut, white flowers, and flint. The “Old Wente” clone block, from the certified sustainable Sangiacomo Vineyards, yields pear, brioche, and lemon curd. It’s a highly concentrated Chardonnay featuring richness and complexity. This Chardonnay also saw 15 months in 30% new French oak to amplify the balanced notes of the wine.
Pairing with WALT Chardonnay
Each of these three WALT Chardonnays lend themselves to springtime wine and food pairing. Because they are nuanced and balanced, the wines hold their own next to the kind of fresh flavors for which spring often calls, and work to enhance cuisine when enjoyed together. One of the estate’s most beloved Chardonnay-pairing recipes is a citrus-cured salmon on top of brioche, with horseradish and nori. Bon appétit!
with Brioche, Horseradish and Nori
Paired with 2019 Bob’s Ranch Chardonnay,
Sonoma County Serves: 6-8
1 pound wild salmon
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
zest and juice of 2 oranges
zest of 2 lemons
zest of 2 limes
Brioche, sliced, toasted
2 tablespoons horseradish
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon nori powder
2 tablespoons chives
1. Combine salt, sugar, fresh thyme, citrus zest and orange juice. Spread evenly over the flesh of the salmon. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then foil and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 36 hours. Rinse salmon thoroughly to remove excess salt and sugar. Set aside.
2. To make nori powder, slightly toast 4 sheets
of nori over an open flame or in a 300° F
oven for 5 minutes and puree in a food processor or blender.
3. Combine, horseradish with yogurt and nori powder. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside for 4 hours at the least.
4. To serve: thinly slice salmon against the grain. Place a dallop of horseradish yogurt on toast, top with salmon. Garnish with sliced chives.
Visiting WALT Wines
WALT Wines has two locations in both Sonoma and Napa counties. The original location on the downtown Sonoma Square offers an upscale tasting room with an inviting patio in which to enjoy the WALT collection of wines. Tasting experiences include current releases, an in-depth look at the terroir of the Pinot Noir collection, and chocolate pairing. In the newly opened Napa Oxbow location, guests can enjoy the same wine tasting offerings in a beautiful new tasting room, ideally situated in downtown Napa.
380 1st St W, Sonoma • (707) 933-4440
605 1st St, Napa, CA 94558 • (707) 933-4440