Pulido-Walker was created by husband-wife Mark Pulido and Donna Walker. Mark’s family originally immigrated from Spain – and were pharmacists. Mark also graduated with a degree in Pharmacy from the University of Arizona and later became President and CEO of McKesson Corporation and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation USA.
Donna also comes from a Pharmaceuticals background – having like her father, earned her degree in pharmacy. She joined 3M Pharmaceuticals and eventually became their North American Sales and Marketing Directory (of their Telecom Division).
They both began to visit the Napa Valley in the early 1980’s tasting at wineries up and down the valley.
Mark and Donna interviewed a number of Napa’s most well regarded consulting winemakers and ultimately settled on Thomas Brown for a variety of reasons. Thomas was intrigued at the opportunity to provide his input on planting their vineyards as well as be their founding winemaker. And there is the Palmetto State connection which doesn’t hurt; both he and Donna are originally from South Carolina.
They purchased 115 acres in the southern part of the Mt. Veeder appellation in a section of this appellation that does not feature the steep rugged hillsides that Mt. Veeder is more known for further to the north. Rather, their property is located on rolling more open hillsides featuring exceptional views of the southern part of the Napa Valley including the city of Napa in the distance. Part of the reason they purchased this property was for the views but also due to its very close proximity to the city of Napa – while maintaining the feel of being in the country.
After they purchased the property they set out to determine its’ wine growing potential – digging 100 soil pits on site and monitoring the various micro-climates and temperatures. Comparing the results to a number of already known premium growing sites in the valley – they realized their property would be good for growing premium wine grapes. A nearby vintner sells grapes to Yao Ming for the Yao Ming wines – but most of this southern part of Mt Veeder is still grassland and oak trees.
At the time of our visit (mid 2015) several clones of Chardonnay as well as Cabernet Sauvignon were getting ready to be planted on these hillsides. Their first vintage of estate Cabernet Sauvignon should be available in 2021 or 2022. They have secured a permit for a cave winery on site but conveniently Mark and Donna are partners in Mending Wall – a winery located off of the Silverado Trail north of St. Helena. Thomas makes the wines there.
Mark and Donna had wine made in barrel from the 2008 and 2009 vintages but it wasn’t up to their exacting quality standards so it was never bottled under their own label. Their first commercial releases were from the 2010 vintage.
It is helpful when your winemaker is already familiar with and sources fruit from a specific vineyard. That vineyard is the Panek Vineyard located on the east side of Highway 29 just north of Deer Park Road. The vineyard itself is valley floor but has a slight slope to it – and is very well drained.
This wine is bottled with a red capsule – a reference to the types of aromas and flavors that this vineyard tends to consistently produce each year. Only 265 cases of this wine were bottled and it was already sold out at the time of our tasting. Mark and Donna continue to work with this vineyard – future vintages will be available – always in small amounts.
The 2012 Panek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon initially shows some intriguing floral notes – as it breathes both red and darker fruits show – there is a sweet red berry fruit that is at the core of this bouquet. Aromatically it is elegant but also powerful. On the the palate there is good acidity, notes of raspberry, blackberry and soft tannins that are very well integrated. This wine drinks very smoothly and easily while young.
Switching gears entirely for their other wine is a small production Cabernet Sauvignon from the Melanson Vineyard. Pulido-Walker was the first to make a vineyard designate from this particular vineyard. The Melanson Vineyard sits high on the slopes of Pritchard Hill – several other small premium producers also source from this property.
Multiple clones of Cabernet Sauivgnon were picked and fermented separate from each other – all using natural yeast. The 2012 vintage is dark in the glass and reveals a pleasing depth of aromas including plenty of darker fruit, black fig and hints of chocolate as the wine opens. The entry is plush and soft with darker fruit notes including blackberry. The delicate tannins start on the front of the palate – and end silky and smooth on the finish.
The label design ties into both Mark and Donna’s backgrounds. The small pharmacy scale is an ode to Mark’s heritage – the golden label contains four ancient Apothecary symbols.
Most of their wine is sold direct via their mailing list in 3-pack wooden boxes. A certain amount is also allocated to select restaurants across the country. For more information visit: www.pulidowalker.com