Tasting a few wines is almost always a good thing; tasting them with the person who made them is even better. I did just that this past week when I met Karoline Walch and Guy Stout at Tony’s.
Walch’s family has owned Elena Walch, a winery on Italy’s Alto Adige region, for five generations. Elena is Karoline’s mother, and the pair, along with Julia, Karoline’s sister, are producing a number of good wines at great prices, including a Gewürztraminer that was elegantly floral and full of the spicy notes for which the variety is loved. Elena Walch is an architect by training, but took over the establishment after marrying into the family that has owned the winery for all of those years. She’s brought a modern sensibility to the concern, and has been at the forefront of the Alto Adige’s quality revolution.
We poured six wines, beginning with a Pinot Bianco. Bright straw/hay yellow in the glass, and a minerality that surprises, along with beautiful apple at the finish. I’d serve this wine during a meet-and-greet session, or with a pasta and cheese course. The Pinot Grigio, on the other hand, was serving up some herbal notes, and pear. I am going to pair this one with a grilled snapper fillet. A Chardonnay followed, one I particularly liked. Stainless-steel fermentation, and stainless-tank maturing, produce a crisp and clean-tasting wine, one that would drink well with a basil gnocchi that I make. The finish on this Chardonnay will leave you wanting another sip.
Karoline is an energetic ambassador for her family’s wines, genial and warm, and her oenology studies in Australia have served her well. She told us about her family’s different vineyards with pride, and ably answered my question about harvest and sorting.
Conversation with her reminded me of how fortunate lovers of wine are that families take their farming and winemaking seriously. It’s a business, yes, but it’s so much more than that as well.
Our final two wines were a Lagrein and a Pinot Nero. The former’s color is beautiful and deep, and its bouquet is full of berry. A first taste shows cherries and raspberries, and a solid finish.
Like lamb? Try this wine with it. (If you’ve never had Lagrein, you might note that the palate does not seem to stand up to the dark, deep color in the glass. Fear not, however, because this wine has agility and goes well with your meat course.) Finally, the Pinot Nero. Yes, it’s Pinot Noir, and Stout and I thought it one of the best we had tasted in a while. Healthy spice notes, calm and assured, and a peppery bouquet. Try this with duck breast and apricots.
You can find Elena Walch wines at merchants in Dallas and Houston, and the price/value factor is a big bonus here. Look to pay about $18-$19 for the Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Lagrein, $24 or so for the Gewürztraminer, and $35 for the Pinot Nero. I recommend these highly.
I’ll leave you with this, a look at the Walch lands.