Walter Scott Wines, Eola-Amity Hills

California Sales Only

Walter Scott Wines label

Country & RegionAmerica, Oregon
Appellation(s)Eola-Amity Hills
ProducerKen Pahlow and Erica Landon

Erica Landon and Ken Palow have built an enviable and well-deserved reputation for the consistent quality of their, for lack of a better term, Old World-inspired Pinot Noirs, which combine savory character with Oregon fruit exuberance.
        —Josh Raynolds, Vinous Media, June 2019

Ken Pahlow and Erica Landon are the couple behind Walter Scott Wines. The operation is named for a grandfather and a nephew on Ken’s side. It’s a small business, young and altogether passionate, with solid financial underpinning.

Ken got the bug in 1995 when he joined Mark Vlossak at the Saint Innocent Winery. For fourteen years, he was Mark’s right hand, working every harvest, visiting vineyards, helping with barrel samples and blends, and taking charge of Saint Innocent’s wholesaling within Oregon. In 1999 he augmented his income and wine education by taking a job as a rep for a local fine wine distributor.

Ken and Erica of Walter Scott Wines

In 2007 he fell in love with soon-to-be Advanced Sommelier Erica Landon. This didn’t exactly happen overnight—he had been presenting wine to her since 2002—but once the genie got out of the bottle, Erica proved to be the catalyst Ken needed to start up the winemaking venture he had long dreamed about. This required both of them to empty their nascent retirement funds in order to buy enough grapes and equipment to make a whopping 160 cases of wine in 2008.

In 2009, Ken traded labor for space at Patricia Green Cellars, and the young couple ratcheted up to 650 cases.

In 2010, Ken moved the operation over to Evening Land Vineyards, where he went to work in sales and in the cellar. For the next two years his viticulture and winemaking horizons expanded enormously under the tutelage of Dominique Lafon and his team at the Seven Springs Vineyard (Evening Land’s vineyard in Oregon). Erica, meanwhile, became one of Portland’s leading sommelières.

In 2012, the couple took on financial partners and leased a small winery facility from the Casteel family, owners of the Bethel Heights Winery. This is located on the Justice Vineyard in the Eola-Amity hills. Bit by bit, they slowly expanded their production as they managed to secure increasingly better sources of grapes.

Perhaps the most pivotal year, however, was 2014. Ken quit his day job with Galaxy Wines, a distributor job he had taken after his tenure at Evening Land; and Erica quit her wine director job with a Portland restaurant group—both to go full time with Walter Scott Wines. They also had a baby this year. And they made 3,600 cases, which is right about where they want to be for sustainability (and where they can do the job without help).

Next on the horizon, if and when the gods smile, they may buy a little vineyard.

For years both Erica and Ken have been intimately involved with the Eola-Amity Winegrower’s Association and with IPNC/Pinot Camp. From his sojourn with Mark Vlossak and his time with the French team at the Seven Springs Vineyard, Ken has become passionate about vineyard sites, and he now works with some of the best (all dry farmed too). Most are in the Eola-Amity AVA—his home turf and favorite zone—but the couple buy from several other sites close by. All of the wines, unfortunately, are in limited supply.

The Wines

Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc
Pinot BlancFrom 3 sites: Bieze Vineyard and Crannell Vineyard on the east slope of the Eola-Amity Hills (what Erica and Ken call the golden slope of the Willamette), plus from the Vojtilla Vineyard on Parrot Mountain at the southern end of the Chehalem Mountains. All 3 sites made of volcanic soils and clay with basalt rock. Wine is brought up in older barrels with ambient yeasts. Despite full malo, this retains great vibrancy and length, a testament to fine farming and high elevation. 200-250 cases annually.
Willamette Valley "La Combe Verte" Chardonnay ChardonnayKen and Erica are serious fans of Oregon Chardonnay and believe that the state has a bright future with the variety. "La Combe Verte" is their base Chardonnay, and they take follow the maxim of all serious domains in Burgundy that one should be judged by the quality of one's Bourgogne Blanc. This wine is made with native yeast—standard practice for the Walter Scott wines—and is aged mostly in older puncheons (500-liter demi-muids). Minimum lees stirring and full malolactic. Roughly 400 cases annually.

"La Combe Verte" translates as the green fault or the green valley and is a tribute to both the Willamette Valley and to Patricia Green Cellars, which helped Ken and Erica get started their first year of production. Their success is the fault of the fine folks at Patricia Green Cellars.
X Novo Vineyard Chardonnay, Eola-Amity
ChardonnayCraig Williams' vineyard, he of the Joseph Phelps fame (he was winemaker there for 32 years). Williams bought a prime east-facing site in the Eola-Amity Hills shortly after he departed the Phelps Winery and planted it to an extraordinary mix of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay clones. Source comes from a block with 11 different clones of Chardonnay, all of which are represented in this tiny production and which speaks to quite a density of clonal material. Made primarily in neutral barrels and 1 puncheon with ambient yeast. 100 cases annually.
Willamette Valley "La Combe Verte" Pinot NoirPinot NoirThis is the couple's base Pinot Noir, and as with the "Combe Verte" Chardonnay they follow the rule that a domain should properly be judged by its Bourgogne Rouge. This wine is born of the vineyards listed below. A small percentage of whole cluster, made with spontaneous ferments, aged in barrel of which some 30% is new.

Vineyards: Eola Springs Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills AVA; Vojtilla Vineyard, Chehalem Mountain AVA; Freedom Hill Vineyard, Willamette Valley AVA; Temperance Hill Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills AVA; Sojouner Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills AVA.

"La Combe Verte" translates as the green fault or the green valley, and is a tribute to both the Willamette Valley and to Patricia Green Cellars, which helped Ken and Erica get started their first year of production. Their success is the fault of the fine folks at Patricia Green Cellars.

Willamette Valley "Cuvée Ruth" Pinot Noir

Pinot NoirA cellar selection and as such occupies middle ground between the generic La Combe Verte wine and the single vineyards. From many of their best vineyards, ages in barrel for roughly 14 months, with about 30% new wood.
Dumb Ox Vineyard Pinot Noir,, Eola-Amity
Pinot NoirFrom a block in the middle of the Eola-Amity Vineyard named Dumb Ox, after the theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas, a large, awkward man who was considered both brilliant and enigmatic. The block is entirely Pommard on its own rootstock, and faces south on the west side of the Eola-Amity Hills on a rare vein (for this AVA) of marine sediment. The soil and site give the wine a dark, powerful character layered with blue and black fruit, rather than the red-fruited, savory herbal notes of more typical Eola-Amity Pinots. Fermentation with indigenous yeast and élevage in French oak, about 35% new. 150 cases annually.
Sojourner Vineyard Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity
Pinot NoirA west-facing vineyard on southern side of the AVA. Site is high—650 feet mean elevation—planted in volcanic clay to the Dijon 115, Pommard and Wadenswill clones of Pinot Noir. All 3 clones fermented together with native yeasts and the wine is aged 15 months in French barrels, roughly 40% of which are new. 100 cases annually.
Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Pinot NoirAn established, highly respected vineyard first planted in 1982 by the Dusschee family, who farms these vines to this day sustainably in the foothills of the coast range. The vineyard is known for powerful yet elegant wine with a distinctly black fruit profile. Ken and Erica ferment this juice spontaneously and age it for fifteen months in French barrels, roughly 40% of which is new.
Clos des Oiseaux Vineyard Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Pinot NoirThis comes from an organically farmed vineyard facing southeast in the Eola-Amity hills (with Ken himself doing much of the farming). The profile here is one of generous, open and spicy red fruit (in contrast to Freedom Hill’s darker fruit). Spontaneous ferments, fifteen months in French barrels, roughly 40% of which is new.
Seven Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Pinot NoirThe iconic Seven Springs Vineyard has been called Oregon's grand cru. Once leased out to many independent producers, it was bought by Evening Land in 2006 and the grape contracts to producers ended. Partner Rajat Parr has long been a fan of Ken and his wines, both of whom he got to know during Ken's time working at Seven Springs, and so has let Ken buy fruit from one acre of original 1983 un-grafted vines from the lower part of the vineyard. Native yeast fermentation, raised in French oak, just over one-third new. 125 cases.

Temperance Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, Eola-AmityPinot NoirFirst planted in 1981 along the top of the Eola-Amity hills, this 100-acre vineyard has had the same vineyard manager since 1991, and that guy got organic certification for Temperance Hill in 2013. The vines grow between 700-900 feet in elevation, are well exposed to afternoon winds coming through the Van Duzer Gap, and are normally among the last to be picked in this AVA. Ken's wine shows this site's inherent high-toned elegance in spades. 100 cases.