In 2020, when MacRostie was offered the opportunity to work with grapes from Walala Vineyard, we were thrilled. Taking its name from the Kashaya Pomo Indian expression, “where the water flows down,” Walala Vineyard is located just 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean near the Gualala River and the town of Gualala. Perched high on a ridgetop at elevations ranging from 1,200 to 1,600 feet in the recently approved West Sonoma Coast AVA, Walala is essentially in the middle of nowhere and on the edge of the continent. It is also one of the best Sonoma Coast vineyards.
Having worked with nearby vineyards like Campbell Ranch and Goldrock Ridge, I’ve grown to love windswept, high-elevation sites like Walala. A true, terroir-driven site, when you taste the wines off Walala they have a beautifully distinct and graceful coastal character that is both elegant and intense. To give you a sense of the quality and complexity of Walala’s fruit, it was one of the three acclaimed Pinot sites blended to make Wine Spectator’s “2011 Wine of the Year.” The other two are Gap’s Crown and Terra de Promissio, both of which we also work with at MacRostie.
Walala was planted in 2001, and features 17 acres of vines, with four clones of Pinot Noir: 777, 828, 113, and 115. Because Walala is so close to the coast but above the fog line, it benefits from cool, sun-filled days and even cooler nights—perfect conditions for cultivating Pinot Noir. At the same time, Walala’s thin, Goldridge fine sandy loam soils provide ideal water drainage, resulting in small clusters of concentrated berries.
With its elevation, thin soils, and cool climate, it’s a challenging site to farm—but as we West Coast winemakers have learned over the years, Pinot loves a challenge, and sometimes the more extreme the conditions, the more fascinating wines a vineyard produces. Happily, Walala is farmed by our friends at Atlas Vineyard Management, who also helped us plant, and now farm, our own MacRostie Nightwing Vineyard. They know their business, and the quality of the Pinot Noir from Walala is always exceptional.
In terms of the character of the Pinot Noir from Walala, it’s both cerebral and soulful, with radiant layers of red berries and orange zest, earth and umami-driven notes of soy and foraged wild mushrooms and a fascinating hint of salinity that evokes thoughts of cool breezes off the Pacific.