red Thread™ Exclusive: A Conversation with Ali Mayfield – The Walls Vineyards | Walla Walla, WA.

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne Master Level

Today’s Exclusive Interview:

Ali Mayfield – The Walls Vineyards | Walla Walla, WA.

Blame it on a darn hole-in-one.

Attorney Mike Martin wasn’t looking for a bend in the road of life when he and a pal stopped off in Walla Walla a few years ago to play some golf and drink some wine en route to business in Boise.

But bend it does. At Walla Walla’s Wine Country golf course, Mike Martin hits his first-ever hole-in-one. Bam! Much back-slapping, wine drinking, bad karaoke, and general hilarity ensue. Next morning, Mike and his friend sober up, suit up, and drive on to business in Boise – but Mike never shakes the thrill of that hole-in-one, nor the camaraderie with those folks in Walla Walla.

 Back and back Mike bends towards the warmth of Walla Walla for more golf, more wine, and – rumor has it –  more bad karaoke, always the glow from the community beckoning, growing, gathering heat – until its white-hot embers burn a hole in his expensive attorney attire.

As with every touchstone moment in life, trajectories alter. Paths cross.

About that time Mike meets local-girl wine maker Ali Mayfield, formerly of Longshadows. More wine drinking ensues in the discussion of its making.

A partnership forms,  a nascent winery forged: The Walls, the name a nod to the penitentiary north of town.

Trajectories alter further.

Mike buys a vineyard in the the Rocks District, then Whitman Cellars, then Charles Smith’s former tasting room/eatery on Main Street in downtown Walla Walla.

More paths cross.

Mike lures Waitsburg mixologist Jim German to shake things up at the bar.

 Seattle pasta star Mike Easton steps up to consult on eats.

In short order, the partnership, the vineyard, the winery, and the tasting room/eatery emerge as separate, but equally important, entities of a whole.

A vineyard that does more than grow grapes.  A winery that does more than make wine. A tasting room/eatery that offers visitors and locals not just food and drink, but an experience – a gathering place similar to the one Mike and his friend tumbled into years early fresh off that freak hole-in-one.

The Walls offers community – one bottle, one meal, one memory at a time.

 Special memories. Kinda like a hole-in-one.

Recently, wine maker Ali Mayfield took time, despite the rush of Spring Release, to chat with me about her decision to pursue life as an artisan wine maker, some of her star-powered mentors, and what her partnership in The Walls means to her.

r/T:  Talk about your experience as a wine maker. You’ve worked at some of the region’s best wineries, including Long Shadows. Along the way, you’ve enjoyed mentorship by some industry greats, including Kendall Mix, formerly of Corliss Estate, and Claude Gros of Bookwalter. How has Kendall influenced your winemaking? How has Claude’s ’old world’ approach informed your own style? Which voice is loudest in your head in the vineyard? During crush? In the cellar?

Ali Mayfield:  Experience is a big part of winemaking and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work along some of the industry’s greats. Every vintage brings us something new and having a network of mentors that have seen and experienced more than I have gives me the ability to make the best decisions for the vintage.

Kendall is the foundation of my winemaking – I was a blank slate other then a few homemade wines when we started working together. His gentle approach to extraction is still very present in my wines.

Claude has taught me to push the boundaries of winemaking, to respect the fruit and allow the wine to become what it wants to be.

The loudest voice in my head in the vineyard is Phil Coturri and what a great voice! Phil is helping in the development of our Rocks vineyard. Phil is teaching me how to grow a wine in the vineyard.

During crush and in the cellar it’s Claude voice – I know he’s coming at some point to taste the wine and I work very hard to please his palate. We are working with the same sites year after year – his comments from the previous year come to my mind and I will tell the guys in cellar – Claude’s not going to say this wine has no structure – which forces us to find the structure.

r/T:   In 2015, The Walls purchased a vineyard in The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA. What excites you most about your own vineyard?

Ali Mayfield:  What excites me most about owning a vineyard is the chance to embrace the farming aspect of winemaking – adopting the old world mentality.  All great wine is grounded in the vineyard and we look forward to getting the opportunity to see the process from beginning to end. 

The Rocks are a big challenge from an operating perspective with the freeze risks and the costs to farm down there.  But it offers the opportunity to make truly exceptional and distinctive wine.  As a winemaker, I welcome the opportunity to express my own style with that terroir and to hopefully build upon the legacy of some of the great wines that are already made from those vineyards.

r/T:   You also source from some of Washington’s top sites. How do you choose which sites to source from, and what about these sites makes them so unique with regard to microclimates and resulting flavor profiles? 

Ali Mayfield:  Our desire is to source the best grapes from the best vineyards in the best terroir/climate for the types of wines we are looking to make.  We want each wine to have a distinct profile and characteristic, even when we make more than one of the varietal such as Syrah or Chardonnay.

A key foundation of our brand is our love of curiosity – including when it comes to wine – and how we love to be able to make and share wines that cut across the spectrum in profile.  The great variety in our lineup constantly challenges the winemaking team to learn and think on a daily basis – nothing is routine about the way we make wine.  It can be a very difficult and laborious task – but it also incredibly fun at the same time.  And it is great when we have groups visit us at the winery and they gravitate toward different wines depending on their own preferences.

r/T:  Do you adhere to any farming techniques (sustainable, biodynamic, organic) and if so, why are they important to you as a wine maker? 

Ali Mayfield:  “Do we adhere to any farming techniques?” is a tough question. I feel Washington State is doing a great job with sustainable farming to protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare.

I recently toured several vineyards that Phil Coturri farms, and they were all certified organic – not easy to do. This certification holds them to a higher standard of farming.

“If an organic tomato is going to taste better than a hot-house tomato, an organic grape is going to taste better than a conventionally grown grape.”[5] – Phil Coturri

This is something I’m looking forward to learning more about – each vineyard has it’s own soul and respecting that place is important to me.

r/T:  How do aging/oaking protocols vary from wine to wine?

Ali Mayfield:  Oak is a fascinating subject. For me, it varies a lot from wine to wine even vineyard to vineyard. There are so many options for winemakers, but truly understanding forests and grain is an art. At The Walls we work with both specific forests, stave thickness and grain. We work with traditional 225L (59 gallons) all the way to 650L (171 gallons).

Aging is also an interesting subject. On Claude’s resent visit he said to me, “you created this wine now you have to age it.” [S]ome wine is meant for small barrels and some wines need bigger space for aging. The key is to find the balance and let the aging begin. The wines will tell us how they want to be aged.

r/T:   In addition to the vineyard, about the same time The Walls purchased Whitman Cellars from Charles Smith, and has improved the 9,186 sq. ft. space with antimicrobial anti-slip floors, cutting-edge sorting and crushing equipment, solar panels, and guest accommodations. As a winemaker, what do you consider some of the coolest bells and whistles in the new winery, and how will they improve production?

Ali Mayfield:  Here’s the funny part, we purchased an old 20-foot sub-zero cargo container that we refer to as “The Game Changer”, and it’s the coolest! It allows us the ability to chill our white grapes to the perfect temperature for pressing.  Or, the ability to harvest Viognier for co-fermentation and chill the fruit until the Syrah is just right.

The solar system is great which was all Mike. Given the power that wineries consume – particularly during harvest – it does make us proud that we have invested to reduce the carbon footprint of our wines.

r/T:   Proprietor/partner Mike Martin also purchased Charles Smith’s 2015-219 Main St. complex, including and the old Pastime Cafe, and overhauled it to create Passatempo Taverna, featuring popular mixologist Jim German and a menu created by Seattle pasta rock star Mike Easton, as well as the Passatempo Wine Studio, featuring The Walls wines. Talk about this synergy at The Walls between food and wine, and how that fits into your philosophy/mission?

Ali Mayfield:  Yes, the Passatempo project has certainly been an exciting new development for Walla Walla.  It has been a treat for me to get to know Jim and Mike Easton better over the last few months. 

Passatempo reflects Mike Martin’s passion for creating a beautiful community enhancing space to have an amazing food, wine and spirits experience.  As he frequently says – a “place where he would want to bring his friends to.”   It has been a great vehicle for people in the community and visitors to get exposed to the wines we are making at The Walls – and other wines from around the Valley and of course Italy. 

Passatempo and The Walls are obviously two distinct businesses that over time will develop their own followings.  What they share is the passion to offer a truly exceptional experience to their followers and I am certainly proud to be able to be a part of that.               

r/T:  What’s it like to be part of such a strong team of industry professionals at The Walls? What do each bring to the table that enhance the whole?

Ali Mayfield:  It’s fun and inspiring to be part of such a strong team. Mike has such a brain for business, he will ask me how I feel about something and my general response is – that ‘s a really smart idea. He is the heart of what we do at The Walls.

My brother, Jake Mayfield, is the Director of Winery Operations, while we certainly have our sibling differences of opinion- we work in congruence. He has done an amazing job with the development of Pine Street. He is part of our Vineyard development and building the team at The Walls. 

Our Cellar Master, Roman Ferrer and I have worked together the longest and I can’t imagine anyone else looking after the wines. Claude reminds me that Roman has the most important job – topping the wines.

Peter Urian leads our lab at The Walls. He is extremely intelligent and has a great passion for winemaking. He is the go to at harvest when I need to convert centiliters to liters.  They all bring so much to enhance The Walls.

r/T:   Anything else you’d care to share with readers about The Walls that we haven’t touched on?

Ali Mayfield:  Follow us on Instagram  and Facebook to stay up to date on what we have going on and some new releases we have planned.  As a new winery some of our most exciting wines are still in the barrel and have not even been released yet – so stay tuned for more details on those!

r/T:   Finally, if your experience as a winemaker has taught you anything, it’s taught you…?

Ali Mayfield:  Great question. My experience as a winemaker has taught me to never stop learning.

To sample wines from The Walls Vineyards, please visit:

As of Thursday, April 13, The Walls Production Facility, will be open Thursday – Sunday, 12 – 5pm and by appointment.

The Walls wines are also available for tasting at the Passatempo Wine Studio.
Passatempo Wine Studio, 219 W. Main Street, Walla Walla
Saturdays & Sundays, 12 – 4pm

For more information or to make an appointment, please feel free to contact us via phone or email:
509-876-0200 /

Learn more about The Walls here.

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.

Thank you:

KGPR | Ali Mayfield

Wine Writer Confidential | № 2

Dear Readers:

L.M.Archer ©2017 Alisha+Brook Photographers.

Welcome to my latest installment of Wine Writer Confidential, where I spill, thrill and chill you with all the news unfit to print about my world of wine writing.

It’s no secret that a virus laid me low last week, rendering me useless, and unable to taste. However, the down time allowed me to ponder a few things…

On Wine, Words, Burgundy, and Battling Shyness in an Extroverted Industry

Recently, a wine blogger whom I respect sent me this:

“…I just finished an ARC of Cork Dork and the writer is talking about Burgundy and there is a line in there are a few sentences that made me think of you. 

“I’ve never watched someone open what was supposed to be an outstanding bottle of Burgundy without a look of mild terror on her face. The wines oxidize, they get reductive, they are fickle in mediocre vintages, and they go through awkward phases in their youth. The people who adore these wines tend to have a masochistic streak, and when you meet a Burgundy fanatic, it’s hard not to puzzle over what trauma – were they hugged enough as kids? – might have compelled them to attempt to master this region.”

Not to say this is you, but it made me think of you, a Burgundy expert…”

Was this a backhanded compliment? An underhanded backstab? A bit of both? I replied ‘guilty’ to the charge of Burgundy fanatic, ‘definitely’ to lack of hugs as a child, but balked at ‘mild terror’ when opening a bottle of the noble juice.

Which got me thinking about my life as a wine writer with a particular passion for Burgundy. It’s no accident that I fell down the rabbit hole of Burgundy. It appeals to those of us reserved in nature. Burgundy requires determination, diligence, and discretion, not only as a vigneron, but as a disciple of the region.

Also no accident that writing chose me as a profession. Suffice it to say that reading “Alice in Wonderland” at age seven opened my eyes to the wonder and power of words. By age eight writing had chosen me, though it took a lifetime of maze-milling before leaping full-time into freelance word-smithing.

But wine writing? For a shy person, wine writing presents an unholy challenge, because the wine industry as a rule attracts extroverts – people who thrive on the company of others. For introverts, incessant socializing exhausts, rather than excites. A fact I tried to ignore at first, with disastrous results.

As a neophyte wine writer, I forced my self to work in a series of tasting rooms – family, corporate, niche, boutique – to learn the nuances of the industry, as well as the artistry of winemaking. But these experiences took their toll, both on me and others. Reserved people as a lot do not understand the social dynamics necessary to lubricate a tasting room; most miss important social cues that others take for granted. The same frustrations held true during my initial wine maker interviews.

Sadly, while the social torture continued, morale did not improve – until a wise mentor told me to ‘flip the script,’ positing that the story problem offered a different narrative. He was right.

I write about what Joseph Campbell coined the ‘Hero’s Journey,’ sharing wine makers’ leaps of faith, overcoming obstacles, and a final battle – usually in a cave – followed by  a victorious return with the boon, or treasure – in this case wine, the redThread™ that binds us all.

As an introvert in an extrovert’s industry, I identify with these people I write about, because I’ve followed their same journey.  I understand the courage needed to follow one’s passion, to overcome obstacles, to do battle in order to create something out of nothing, something that hopefully inspires others.

I’ve also learned that the social liability of shyness – right up there along other no-no’s like bad breath and acne – actually proves an asset as a writer. Talking less means listening more. Seeing more. Feeling more. Sussing out the subtext while others talk all over the obvious.

Do I ever wish someone could wave a magic wand and make me an extrovert? Sometimes. But introversion helped me find my voice. Brought me to Burgundy. Led me to wine makers with stories worth telling. And taught me to stop trying to be something I’m not. In this time of renewal, may you embrace whatever you are. Cheers.

Pssst…hope you like the new website look! Feel free to share your thought below…

 Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | red Thread™. All Rights Reserved.
More Wine Writer Confidential:

Wine Industry InsightNews Fetch | Wine People – Don Hagge

Wine Industry InsightNews Fetch |  Wine People – Don Hagge

Dear Readers:


I’m so honored to be included in Wine Industry Insight’s January 12th 2017 News Fetch ‘Wine People,’ featuring my Conversation with Don Hagge of Vidon Vineyards of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Cheers!

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.

BKWine Magazine: Domaine Drouhin Oregon Tasting Notes


Dear Readers:

BK WIne Magazine logo

I’m excited to announce publication of my tasting notes for wines of Domaine Drouhin Oregon featured in my interview with vigneron Veronique Drouhin Boss in Paris-based BKWine Magazine.

Link here for English version.

Link here for Swedish version.

(Tack  to my Swedish-born editor, Per Karlsson for his skillful translation)

And thanks to you for your ongoing appreciation of these artisan wines crafted in ‘Oregon Soil with French Soul.’

Roserock Drouhin Oregon vineyards, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, copyright Andrea Johnson
Roserock Drouhin Oregon vineyards, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, copyright Andrea Johnson


Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | Red Thread™.  All Rights Reserved.

New Year News | 2017

New Year News | 2017


Hope your holiday season with family and friends continues to shine brightly…in anticipation of the coming New Year, I thought I’d share some important news about my own 2017 :

Firstly, I’ve been selected to attend the 2017 Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley from February 21 -February 24, featuring keynote speaker Kevin Zraly.

This prestigious event draws the wine industry’s most respected wine book authors and editors, wine magazine writers and critics, newspaper wine columnists, and other editorial wine content creators to Meadowood Napa Valley and The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone for four days of lectures, panel discussions, group and individual writing sessions, wine tasting and fine dining. Quite an honor for my writing to merit entrance – I look forward to sharing the event with you.

In addition, some of you may not be aware that I spend a good part of each year in Northern California, where my husband specializes in migrant care – caring for the people who tend the grapes that make the wine that I write about. All that changes in January 2017, when we move to the Santa Cruz, CA. community full-time, where he’ll attend the underserved there, including the homeless.

Also, expect some rebranding in 2017 that reflect my ongoing commitment to educating, entertaining, and inspiring wine lovers worldwide.

Wishing you peace, prosperity, and treasured memories in 2017 – hopefully shared with those you cherish over a glass of wine  – the redThread™ that binds us all. Cheers!

Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | Red Thread™.  All Rights Reserved.


Holiday Exclusive I | Guest Wine Writer Series

Holiday Exclusive I |  Guest Wine Writer Series

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about wine and taste makers.

By L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

During this holiday season, I wanted to take time extend a heartfelt thanks to my Guest Wine Writers Series 2016 participants for the joy you’ve brought to readers here.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, I invited some of my fellow wine writers to join me here on the first Friday of every month in 2016 to shine a light on any rare, obscure, or under-appreciated wine region for which they felt a special passion.

Each writer brought their own inimitable voice, style and skill to the page, capturing readers’ imaginations worldwide.

Didn’t catch the series? Here’s a recap:

№ 1: Village Voice columnist Lauren Mowery  goes wild for South African Wines.

№ 2: Travel and wine authority  Sarah May Grunwald dishes on the Women of Georgian Wine.

№ 3 Wine scientist Erika Szymanski delves into New Zealand Chardonnay.

№ 4Triple threat Jeff Burrows traverses the Wines of Liguria.

№ 5Master of Wine Elizabeth Gabay schools us on the Wines of Hungary.

№ 6 Terroir Champagne author Caroline Henry reveals the secret life of Champagne’s Bioenergetic Wines.

№ 7Petite wine industry influencer Cindy Lowe-Rynning tipples on Maremma: Together, But Different, in Tuscany.

№ 8:  Jura Wine author Wink Lorch offers her Exclusive on Jura Wine.

№ 9: Millennial lifestyle blogger Demetra Molina urges you to move Beyond Retsina:  7 Reasons You Should be Drinking Greek Wine.

№ 10: Award-winning writer Jill Barth wings us through The Wines of Baux de Provence.

In light of its success, I’ve agreed to reprise the Guest Wine Writer Series in 2017, with a few modifications. Look for the 2017 series to run bi-monthly on the last Friday of the month, rather than the first Friday monthly.

In the meantime, thanks for your ongoing appreciation of inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.


Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | red thread™. All Rights Reserved.

redThread™ Exclusive: Diversity in Wine | A Conversation with Glynis Hill

redThread™ Exclusive: Diversity in Wine | A Conversation with Glynis Hill

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML

Today’s Exclusive Interview: Diversity in Wine | Part 3 of 3

Glynis Hill 


“You might be surprised to learn that I did not grow up in a household where fine wine was regularly consumed; nor am I a culinary expert,” shares Glynis Hill, today’s Diversity in Wine guest. “Instead, I am a scientist for whom wine is a marriage made in heaven between my technical background and the artistry of wine and culinary delights.”

A full-time Regulatory Impact Analyst/Environmental Scientist in Washington, DC., Glynis Hill also authors Vino Noire, a site dedicated to “Style and Quality for the Urbane.”  I know her through a media tasting we both attended in Sonoma this past summer, where she stole the show with her engaging wit, passion, and eloquence.

Here, Glynis Hill shares her experiences navigating the world of wine in Part 3 of Diversity in Wine. I hope this series resonates with you. Please feel free to share your thoughts below in the ‘Comments’ section, and thank you again for taking time to engage in this important conversation.


­ r/T™:  Glynis, you are a scientist with an appreciation for the technical, and a passion for the ‘artistry’ of wine. Who or what inspired you to enter the world of wine?

GH:  I love the ideal of a vine stressing and digging deep into soil, and producing a fruit that becomes a commodity which is sold all over the world! My inspiration comes from the love of traveling, and what better vacation than traveling to viticultural locales around the world?

And as luck would have it, during a visit and wine tasting at Vision Cellars in Windsor California, vintner Mac McDonald (winemaker and vineyard owner) inspired me to get into the wine business.

­r/T™: Walk readers through your journey thus far in the world of wine. What was it like taking that ‘leap of faith’? Did you have an ‘aha’ moment when you knew this was your path?

GH: A thirst to gain more than “novice” wine knowledge began while dining and being presented a wine list that resembled an encyclopedia. It was my mission to garner the meaning of a bin number, vintage, varietal, and how the wine­-producing regions affected the wine in the bottle.

My “aha” moment was as an African­-American female ordering a familiar red wine in a small rural town in North Carolina, and the bartender tried to make me feel like I didn’t know what varietal or which brand I ordered. I then explained to him I could “blind taste” that particular Cabernet Sauvignon anywhere, and that it was not the wine in my glass.

As he tried to debate me, an older Caucasian gentleman sitting at the end of bar asked to taste the wine in my glass. I handed him my glass, he tasted the wine and said, “that’s not the Cabernet Sauvignon she ordered,” apologized to me, and told the bartender to send a bottle to my table “on the house.” He was the owner of the restaurant:­). That’s when I truly said I would immerse myself in the culture of wine.

­r/T™:   Any mentors who have helped or inspired you along the way?

GH: No, I don’t have any mentors in the business.  However, I would love for Master of Wine Debra Meiburg to be my mentor. But as stated above, Mac McDonald was the one who suggested I get into the business.

­r/T™:   Any obstacles or challenges you’ve encountered?

GH: Challenge: ­ At this time it’s balancing my full time job workload with my passion to do more wine related travel and events.

Obstacle and Challenge: ­ Overcoming the perception that people of color aren’t wine savvy or educated about wine in general.

r/T™:   As an African-­American woman, do you find the world of wine embraces diversity? Or do you feel like you have to work twice as hard to earn credibility/acceptance?

GH: Yes and No and it depends…I have been the unfortunate recipient of wait[ing] and getting irritated and/or defensive when I ask questions about wines; questions they may not know the answers to, and assumed I shouldn’t either.

Overall, as an African-American woman, YES we have to work harder to earn credibility period end of story:­). Hence, the reason I refused to start blogging without credentials first; I want to be taken seriously in this business. I felt acquiring WSET Level II at a minimum was essential!

r/T™:   Do you have any favorite wine region(s)? Any favorite varietal(s)? Any favorite wine maker(s)?

GH: My favorite wine regions depends upon the wine varietal and style…Rosé from Provence, Pinotage from South Africa, and Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandels from California. Brown Estates [and] Turley Wines are my favorite winemakers.

r/T™:  What’s the most memorable wine place/person/event you’ve encountered thus far?

GH:  Domestically, Brown Estates, where Deneen, David, and Coral’s father personally gave me a tour of the wine cellar, which is augured [into] the mountain on their property; after the tour he shared his award-winning wines, and told us the story of his mother, a horticulturist who taught him the art of cultivating grapes.

Internationally, ­South Africa at the Mulderbosch Vineyard, where I got the chance to meet the actual “Faithful Hound”  pictured on the bottle of their Bordeaux style red blend. The owner also gave me an unlabeled bottle of the wine to take back to the hotel to enjoy.

I can go on an on, but will give honorable mentions to wine tasting in Provence at Chateau de Saint­ Martin, and wine tasting in a quaint town in Tuscany.

r/T™: ­ What is/are your goal(s) that you hope to achieve in the world of wine?

GH: My ultimate goal is be able to work in the wine industry full-time and travel the world!

r/T™:   Anything else you’d care to share with readers?

GH: Don’t let wine intimidate you! The world of wine is not static – it is always evolving! Last but not least, be willing to step out of your comfort zone and taste new varietals and styles of wines!

r/T™:  ­ Finally, if your experience in the world of wine has taught you anything, it’s taught you…?

GH: No questions you have about wine is a stupid question – the only way you will learn and grow in the world of wine is to:




3) REPEAT steps 1 & 2 and you will LEARN about wine!

For more on Diversity on Wine:

Part 1 | Diversity in Wine | A Conversation with Julia Coney

Part 2: Diversity in Wine | A Conversation with Martin D. Redmond

Thank you:

Glynis Hill

Julia Coney

Martin D. Redmond

Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved