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Pali Wine Co. Spans the Entire Northwest Pinot Trail

A group of twenty-one wine aficionados and coworkers who live in the Pacific Palisades suburb of Los Angeles (hence the name “Pali”) founded Pali Wine Company in 2005 in Lompoc, California. The inspiration for the winery came primarily from Brian Loring at Loring Wine Company but also from people like Andrew Vingiello (A.P. Vin), Peter Cargasacchi (Cargasacchi), Ed Kurtzman (August West, Roar, Freeman, Sandler), Michael Browne (Kosta Browne) and Adam Lee (Siduri). This winery has been an ambitious effort, now sourcing Pinot Noir from sites extending from the Santa Rita Hills in the south of California to vineyards in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Ten different vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs and three appellation blend Pinot Noirs are produced in a new state of the art winery in Lompoc that was completed in time for the 2007 vintage. This winery is the first building constructed in Lompoc to be built specifically as a winery. Total production in 2007 was 3,000 cases including a Chardonnay from Shea Vineyard in Oregon, a Rosé from California and Oregon Pinot Noir and California Grenache and a Boer Family Vineyard Chalone Grenache.

The initial vintages including 2007 were crafted by Brian Loring, who vinifies his own Pinot Noirs under the Loring Wine Company label in the same winemaking facility. The current winemaker is Kenneth Juhasz who joined Pali Wine Co. in 2008 and brings extensive Pinot Noir experience from places as diverse as New Zealand, the Willamette Valley of Oregon, Carneros in the Napa Valley and Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. When asked about his personal style, Juhasz says, “Something I love about great wines, and that I look for in all wines is that masculine/feminine balance. Creating wines with finesse, acid, prefume and elegance, yet balanced with that masculine structure is something I find myself doing intuitively in everything that I make.” The assistant winemaker who oversees all aspects of winemaking at the winery’s Lompoc production facility is Aaron Walker. Pali sends consultants to check on the scattered vineyards throughout California and Oregon to work with the growers in monitoring the grapes.

In 2007, Pali introduced a “Cuvée Program” that includes three appellation blends: “Huntington” from Santa Barbara County, “Bluffs” from the Russian River Valley and “Alphabets” from the Willamette Valley. These wines are built using components of each vineyard source and offer the consumer a value-priced pleasing Pinot Noir that reflects the character of the appellation. The vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs represent a selection of the most superior barrels. All wines except the Sunset Rosé are bottled with screw caps.

I recently tasted through many of the 2007 Pali Wine Co. wines. I was impressed most by the Russian River Valley wines in which the fruit seemed to jump out. The smooth and lush textures of all the wines was impressive and the moderate alcohols laudable. All wines exhibited moderately deep garnet color. The wines are bottled under screw cap which is a sensible trend that is slowing making inroads in California and Oregon. I did not taste the Huntington (sold out) and Alphabets blends, also priced at $19.

2007 Pali Wine Co. Bluffs Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 500 cases, $19, released Nov., 2008. Aged for 10 months in 50% new French oak. · Restrained aromatic melange of cherries and berries with an oak overlay. Lighter weighted wine featuring flavors of black cherries, cola, spice and oak, with mild dry tannins and a healthy acid spine. A Wednesday night Pinot.

2007 Pali Wine Co. Boer Family Vineyard Chalone Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 220 cases, $50, released November 2008. This 4.5-acre vineyard is farmed by Carrie and Richard Boer. Richard is the current vineyard manager at Chalone. The Boer Family Vineyard was originally named the A-Frame Vineyard and was owned by Phil Woodward, one of the original founders of Chalone Vineyard, and was planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyard was grafted over to Pinot Noir in 2006 using bud wood from favored blocks at Chalone Vineyard. The clones are 114, 115, 667 and Pommard 4. All of the Pinot Noir fruit from this vineyard is consigned to Pali Wine Co.. · Complex aromatic profile of dark cherries, herbs, char and forest floor. The red and black fruit is super ripe showing flavors of raisins, brown spice and root beer, but stopping short of a port, stewed taste. Flamboyant tannins should resolve with more time in the bottle, but this will always be a ripely flavored wine.

2007 Pali Wine Co. Cargasacchi Jalama Vineyard Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 100 cases, $50, released November 2008. From a 16-acre vineyard planted in 1999 to clone 115 and farmed by owner Peter Cargasacchi. · Nuanced nose sporting scents of berry compote, oak spice, roasted nuts, vitamins and a hint of alcohol. Concentrated dark berry flavors with an underbelly of forest floor, minerals, oak, pepper and citrus. Smooth and silky with a good cut of acid on the finish. Quite tasty.

2007 Pali Wine Co. Durrell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 240 cases, $50, released November 2008. The vineyard was first planted in 1979 by Ed Durell and his vineyard manager Steve Hill. It is located in the southwestern foothills of Sonoma Valley. Today, the vineyard is owned by Bill and Ellie Price, but still managed by Steve Hill and his son Ned. Today the vineyard comprises 180 acres planted primarily to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Clones are 115, 667 and Pommard 5. · Scents of darker fruits with notes of oak char and cigar. Lush, chewy and potent fresh plum and blackberry fruit is front and center with an undertow of oak. The supple texture is appealing but this wine lacks nuance at present.

2007 Pali Wine Co. Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 110 cases, $50, released November 2008. Clones 667 and Pommard 4. · Alive with scents of mushu plum sauce, blueberries, cherries and olives. Multi faceted fruits have a rich, glass-filling presence. A hint of coffee and pepper adds interest. As is typical for this vineyard, plenty of tannin is noted, but the tannin is refined and velvety creating a sensual mouthfeel. The wine was even better the next day when re-tasted from a previously open and re-corked bottle. This Pinot is a real turn-on and one to spend the night with.

2007 Pali Wine Co. Inman Olivet Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 212 cases, $50, released spring 2009. Formerly the Olivet Grange Vineyard, this 7.2-acre vineyard was planted in 2000 and is farmed organically by owner Kathleen Inman. The clones are 114, 115, 667 and 777. · Bright aromas of black cherries, strawberries, cola and oak. Tasty and tangy black cherry fruit jumps out flanked by flavors of pomegranates, cherry cola, savory herbs, and oak char. The flamboyant tannins will integrate with more time in the bottle. A charming wine that holds your interest.

2007 Pali Wine Co. Keefer Ranch Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 289 cases, $50, released spring 2009. Clones 777 and Pommard 4. Aged 10 months in 50% new French oak. · The nose starts out earthy and oaky but evolves nicely in the glass revealing hi-tone Bing cherry and raspberry fruit with an oak underpinning. Crisp flavors of dark red cherries and berries with an earthy bent. Smoothly textured and finishing with tangy acidity and bright fruit. The pedigree of the vineyard shows through.

2007 Pali Wine Co. Momtazi Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., 180 cases, $50, released November 2008. A biodynamically-farmed 220-acre vineyard located in the McMinnville sub-AVA of the Willamette Valley. Owned and farmed by Moe and Flora Momtazi. Clones are 113, 114, 115. · This wine has deep color but is lightly flavored. The nose offers aromas of black cherries, strawberries, briar and oak. The sweet dark fruit flavors are juicy and earthy but a bit dilute. An elegant style with supple tannins and a smooth texture.

2007 Pali Wine Co. Turner Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 120 cases, $50, released spring 2009. Turner Vineyard is located between Melville and Babcock vineyards just east of Clos Pepe Vineyard. The vineyard is owned by Dennis Turner and was planted by and is farmed by Ryan Carr. There are 15 acres of Pinot Noir with some Syrah and Pinot Gris. Clones are 114, 667 and 777. · Restrained and brooding earthkissed black berry fruits with an underpinning of beef jerky and citrus. This is the Big Boy in the lineup, with an intense fruit core that saturates the palate. Despite its heft, the texture is satiny and the prodigious fruit is brought into focus by balancing t n’ a. Closed and unrewarding now, but with the structure and tannic edge to suggest age ability.

2007 Pali Wine Co. Thorn Ridge Ranch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 180 cases, $60, released November 2008. This 27-acre vineyard is farmed by Ted and Kathy Klopp and is located in the hills southwest of Sebastopol. The Goldridge soil has greater clay content than is typical leading to better water retention and allowing minimal or no irrigation of parts of the vineyard. The vineyard clones are 115, 667, 777, Pommard and Swan. · This wine contains clones 115 and 777. Terrific nose displaying bright aromas of dark cherries and berries, cola and a hint of summer herbs. Tasty mouthful of dark cherries, black raspberries, sassafras, and a hint of earthiness, oak and white pepper. Supple in the mouth with cleansing acidity on the persistent finish and impeccable balance. A gregarious Pinot that really delivers the goods.

Pali Wine Company wines are sold primarily through a mailing list at www.paliwineco.com. A tasting room at 1036 W. Aviation Drive in Lompoc is open Thursday-Saturday from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM and other days by appointment. 805-736-7200. The excellent rosé is reviewed later in this issue.

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