The Walls Winery

Encompassing more than a third of the state, the Columbia Valley is by far Washington’s largest growing region at nearly 11 million acres, 40,000 of which are planted in vineyards. The appellation spans central, south-central, and south-eastern Washington (parts even spill into Oregon); its immense size allows for a wide variety of meso- and micro-climates, with most vineyards planted on predominantly south-facing slopes, increasing solar radiation in summer and promoting air drainage in winter. The Columbia Valley also lies in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountain range, causing an arid-to-semi-arid continental climate that receives an average of only 6–8 inches (15–20 cm) of precipitation annually. Irrigation is therefore a must - and the need to employ it, along with consistently warm, dry temperatures during the growing season, provides vintners with a large degree of control over grape development compared to many other regions of the world, allowing the best of them to produce remarkably  high-quality bottlings pretty consistently. . Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted grape followed by Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Syrah, but all told there are 30 vinifera varieties currently planted in the region, across 12 AVAs. Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Wahluke Slope, Rattlesnake Hills, Horse Heaven Hills, Snipes Mountain, and Lake Chelan, are among the best known. The Walls Winery, which we are spotlighting for our end of year Red Rogues selection, sources from carefully selected sites in several of them, seeking to create world class wines, with minimal intervention in the cellar to allow for more vintage variation than is the norm, and in so doing showcases the unique characteristics of each. 

Upon purchasing the facility, owner Mike Martin set right to work upgrading it to be powered as responsibly as possible. Making wine takes a lot of energy — and not just people power! The first thing they did was to invest $200,000 in solar technology, and now the roof of their winery is lined with solar panels which absorb the energy of Walla Walla’s famous sunny days and transform them into power.  

Consulting winemaker Todd Alexander is a veteran winemaker who cut his teeth and rose in prominence throughout Napa Valley, working on production teams at Plumpjack and CADE wineries before becoming the winemaker for the famous “cult” label Bryant Family Vineyard. Todd moved to Washington in 2014 to become winemaker at Force Majeure and to start his own project called Holocene Wines. His wines have garnered high critical acclaim and he is widely acknowledged as one of the top winemaking talents in the United States.

The name itself is also a story: “The Walls” is what the locals call the Washington State Penitentiary, Walla Walla’s least talked about but perhaps most notorious landmark. Since 1886, the “Walls” or “Concrete Mama” has surreptitiously presided over the ebb and flow of this small town, lives frozen inside while outside, growth and progress eddy past. It is also just down the street from where The Walls first wines were made - a jarringly literal reminder of the various roles “walls” - real and metaphorical - play in all our lives. As they themselves put it: “We put up walls to protect our hearts, we toil within the walls of work constraints, we build walls to defend what’s important to us. Nevertheless, as we build walls we’re also always looking for ways we can tear them down. Wine is the river that can overflow, subvert and topple these walls. It is a powerful force in bringing people together and building true community, capturing and preserving memories of time, places and people.” 

It’s an ethos worth embracing at any moment, but especially this time of year, as we gather to celebrate, reflect and take stock. Thanks for your membership and patronage this year. 

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

The Walls 2018 The Ramparts Red Mountain 

Region / Country of Origin: Red Mountain, Washington

About Red Mountain: The unique soils and microclimates of Red Mountain, coupled with Eastern Washington’s infamous diurnal flux, bear fruits with a true certainty of place. This is typically the warmest growing region in Washington, with daytime averages of 90 degrees and lows dropping below 50. These fluctuations in temperatures promote sugar accumulation with the day’s heat while cool nights conjure balanced acidity. Red varietals dominate on this AVA’s sweltering slopes, and it is well-known for its Rhone varietals, but we also find a particular thrill in the uniquely-suited Spanish and Portuguese fruits it produces. We have a lot of fun in this bright spot and that joy truly shows in the wines we’ve created from it. 

About the grapes: 47% Mourvèdre, 22% Syrah, 18% Grenache, and 13% Counoise. The Mourvèdre comes from the sandy loamy soils at the bottom of the hill at Red Heaven Vineyard. The Counoise comes from the rockier hillside areas and Grenache from a west-facing slope.

Tasting Notes: The 2018 The Ramparts is based on 47% Mourvèdre, 22% Syrah, 18% Grenache, and 13% Counoise, all from Red Mountain. Its deep purple color is followed by a great nose of ripe blueberry and blackberry fruits supported by plenty of peppery herbs, leather, tree bark, and violets. Hitting the palate with full-bodied richness, it's textured and has fine yet significant tannins, good overall acidity and freshness, and a great finish. It needs 2-3 years of bottle age to develop more complexity but will cruise for 10-15 years in cold cellars. It's impressive. - 94 points

Winemaker: Todd Alexander

Price per bottle / Price per case:

$37.99/ $410.29

Suggested Food Pairing:

BBQ Portobello Mushroom

Short Ribs


Rabbit Stew

The Walls 2020 Tempranillo, Wonderful Nightmare, Stoney Vine Vineyard Walla Walla 

Region / Country of Origin: Rocks District, Walla Walla Valley, WA

About the Rocks District: Sprouting from heavy cobblestone and fractured basalt, the world-class vineyards of “The Rocks District” have no comparison. Wine Spectator calls this AVA “perhaps America’s most distinctive example of terroir.” 12,000 – 15,000 years ago, massive floods swept through the Pacific Northwest caused by ruptures in the ice dam that held Montana’s glacial Lake Missoula. These floods left behind cobblestone and pebbles made of basalt, forming a 12-square mile alluvial fan of 3,770 acres. The chemistry of this soil is different from that of its surroundings, and the coarse landscape allows for excessive drainage causing vines to cast roots far deeper than in silty soil. The stones heat up during the day, absorbing the sun’s energy and sending it deep into the land.

The heat also radiates upwards, warming grape clusters day and night. Our 18-acre Estate vineyard is a perfect example of the geology the area is known for — studded with beautiful basalt cobblestones and bedded in rich soils. It is currently in development, with planting overseen by Napa/Sonoma grape-growing legend, Phil Coturri.

Tasting Notes: Coming from Les Collins and Stoney Vine, the all varietal 2020 Tempranillo Wonderful Nightmare saw 70% whole clusters and is still resting in 35% new French oak. It's a great expression of the variety and is medium to full-bodied, structured, yet balanced, with some funky dark fruits as well as notes of iron, tapenade, lavender, and game. I love its balance, it has building tannins, and I suspect short-term cellaring will be the name of the game. - Jeb Dunnuck, 93-95 pts

Just out, this engaging single vineyard Tempranillo brings a whiff of the Rocks District funk, a mix of umami and wet underbrush and chamomile tea. It's got a wonderful intensity that carries on through the palate, with wild red berries, grilled meat and a dash of soy sauce. Great balance throughout; this seems like a real step up from the previous vintage.

Consulting winemaker:  Todd Alexander

Price per bottle / Price per case: 

$50.99/ $550.69

Suggested Food Pairing:



Roast Lamb


The Walls 2019 Portuguese Blend, Stanley Groovy, Red Mountain

Region / Country of Origin

Red Mountain, Washington

About the Winemaking: 28% Touriga Nacional, 18% Syrah, 15% Souzao, 11% Tinta Cao, 8% Merlot, 7% Mourvèdre, 6% Counoise, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Tempranillo Sustainable

Tasting Notes:  “The 2019 Stanley Groovy is an eclectic blend of 28% Touriga Nacional, 18% Syrah, 15% Souzao, and the rest a mix of Tinta Cao, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Counoise, Cabernet Franc, and a few others. It sports a deep ruby/plum color as well as a juicy, delicious, medium to full-bodied, fruit-loaded style to go with a great nose of red, blue, and black fruits as well as spicy oak, tobacco, and peppery herbs. It’s balanced, has silky tannins, and is just one heck of a delicious red to drink over the coming 4-5 years or more.” 94 points, Jeb Dunnuck

No fewer than 10 red grapes are in this blend, including three Portuguese varieties. The risk of such kitchen sink confabulations is that the flavors just blend into generic - kind of like mixing left over paint in the hope of getting something brilliant and ending up with... brown. This is not that. I can't say you can pick out each and every grape, but you can find focus, length and spice, along with compact fruit flavors of blueberry and black cherry. There's a thin vein of dark chocolate also. This is the sort of wine that could spark a most interesting discussion, especially if you pour it for friends and ask them to speculate on what it is. 

Consulting Winemaker: Todd Alexander

Price per bottle / Price per case:  

$37.99/ $410.29

Suggested Food Pairing: 

Lamb chops with garlic-mint sauce,

Lasagna with meat sauce,

BBQ wings,

Roasted cauliflower

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