Why would the Wallis family name one of their wines “Denali”? Isn’t that a National Park in Alaska?

The answer beins on a Fall day in 2020 when I got a call at the Grass Valley shop. The caller was a young woman telling me “my father has a Napa winery and I have heard you specialize in rare, high-quality wines from around the world. I have a bottle if you’d like to taste it. I’m at the Grass Valley airport”.

Confused, I ask “Wait, you flew here to give me a sample?”

“Not exactly, I’m with the Alaska Department of Forestry’s Aviation program and I’m on loan to Cal Fire until your fire season is over. You can meet me here at the airport, unless I have to scramble.”

Long story short – she DID have to scramble, but left the bottle with a colleague. I tasted it that same night and would say Denali would be proud, both of Ms. Wallis and of the wine her dad named for the Park she helps protect… when she’s not here helping us with our CA fire issues.

Wallis Winemaker image Wine Spec cropped

Your experience of this wine begins with its beautiful silk-screened image – it uses actual platinum and gold leaf to convey the level of care and attention to detail used in growth and production of this wine from the Wallis’s family estate.

Pop the cork and pour a glass – you’ll find a fully opaque wine crafted from 100% Cabernet grapes grown in the Dinali Vineyard in the St Helena AVA.

A lush, highly extracted wine expressing aromas and flavors of cassis, dark fruits and cedar, with vanilla and hints of coconut from the oak.

The wine’s oak regimen involved 40% new barrels, and I anticipate its inflence will integrate nicely over time, though I would drink this wine between 2023 and 2029. It does not feel hot but has a relatively high alcohol (14.7% ABV). Less than 200 cases produced.

Wallis Edward Marilyn in vyrd full imageThe Winery

Though Edward Wallis moved to Napa in 1975, for many decades he was content to merely live in the wine country while working in an unrelated field. For a long while, simply being a resident of this head-snappingly beautiful region was sufficient.

But in 1997 the wine bug bit and he and Marilyn planted Cabernet vines on their 85-acre property. At first, their Diamond Mountain location produced fruit that went into the prestige cuvees of Lakoya, Ramey and Duckhorn, and the Wallis’s were content to simply sell their fruit. For a while.

In 2006, they decided to begin an estate-driven label, hiring one of Napa’s top winemakers to craft wines from their fruit. Thomas Rivers Brown was selected from among the candidates for winemaker. Already a famous name in Napa, he was named Wine Spectator’s Winemaker of the Year in 2010, and enjoys several perfect 100-point scores from that publication.

While I’m not a fan of buying wine based on points, it is nice to know that a wine crafted by such a highly-awarded winemaker is available to everyday collectors for a relatively reasonable price, given the average Napa Cab now sells for $116, and that this pedigreed wine is far beyond average.