If you’re sitting around this season attempting to make the most of your downtime, and perhaps running a little low on funds now that your seasonal work has ended, don’t fret. Pali Wine Company was founded in 2005 to access the goods scattered all along the west coast.
Entrepreneurs Scott Knight and Tim Perr took their passion for wine and founded a small winery operation in 2005, immediately dedicated to small lots of artisanal pinot noir, in a rather “garagista” style. They initially produced around 1,5000 cases, but after two years they were growing at a pace no longer sustainable for that setting.
Today, their 2017 current new releases celebrate 10 years of production in the facility they completed in Lompoc back in 2007. This was Lompoc’s first building dedicated to winemaking, and it is capable of producing up to 20,000 cases annually. They offer consumers a chance to taste a wide range of pinot noir sourced from the central coast and Santa Barbara County, Sonoma’s Russian River Valley and coastal areas as well as a release from Oregon.
Winemaker Aaron Walker, who has been with Pali Wine Company since 2007, sums it up as any former chef might. “I feel that there is no single ‘right way’ to make wine,” says Walker. “It’s a lot like cooking. I want my steak to taste like a steak – not just marinade or seasoning. I want my wines to taste true to their character and source – not just covered up with too much oak or improper blending. Everything needs to be in balance. We start with the best products and treat them with respect, letting their natural beauty shine through.”
Pali’s consulting winemaker Kenneth Juhasz — founder of his own label Auteur — adds to this story. His winemaking philosophy is to “develop my own idea of what is possible in each vineyard, and then to accentuate those characteristics in the wine, striving to create wines with finesse, acid, perfume, and elegance, balanced with a slightly masculine wine structure. I do this intuitively in every wine I make.”
While much of the focus at Pali Wine Company is on the heralded pinot noir, they also make excellent chardonnay relying on the above formula. The 2017 Pali “Charm Acres” Chardonnay is named after a street in Knight and Perr’s hometown of Pacific Palisades (same as Larry David’s), on the west edge of Los Angeles, between Malibu and Santa Monica. The wine is sourced from top vineyards in the Sonoma Coast appellation, one of the top chardonnay growing regions in north America. The wine is not allowed to progress fully through malo-lactic fermentation, therefore it remains tart and acidic; the primary flavors of chardonnay. It does spend 10 months in barrel, and 25 percent of that is new French, to balance up the wine. It rests nicely at 13.5 percent alcohol and rings in at under 20 dollars on retail. Other chardonnays include the Pali Wine Company “Highlands” Chardonnay, a Santa Rita Hills AVA appellation blend; the Pali Wine Company “Huber Vineyard” Chardonnay — also from Santa Rita Hills — and a Pali Wine Company “Pali Estate” Chardonnay from Gypsy Canyon.
The Pali Wine Company was founded on the soulful dreams of pinot noir, so it’s no surprise that their lineup is strong. Many of these are named after neighborhoods in Pacific Palisades.
The 2017 Pali Wine Company “Riviera” Pinot Noir, sourced from the Sonoma Coast, is fermented in small lots, well attended to during this time and aged in 30 percent new oak for nine months. It is ripe with concentrated fruit, espresso, Asian spice and chocolate notes.
The 2017 Pali Wine Company “Bluffs” Pinot Noir is sourced from several sites in the Russian River Valley AVA to carefully express the flavors of this landmark region. It is also made in small lots with 40 percent new French to boost the elevage. Look for dark berry and a plushy mouthfeel here.
The Pali Wine Company “Huntington” Pinot Noir sources grapes from Santa Maria and the Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara. This is a wine full of strawberry, raspberry, clove, cinnamon, black tea and mushroom flavors, after being aged for 15 months on 20 percent new oak.
The 2017 Pali Wine Company “Alphabets” Pinot Noir uniquely expresses the Oregon’s Willamette Valley terroir. Again, small lots and a small percentage of new French oak allow the earthy evergreen and spice to flow forth. All of these aforementioned pinot noirs are under $25 a bottle.
Finally, the 2016 Pali Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir: this is one of my favorites for sure. It boasts concentrated aromas of black cherry, stone, cola, Dr. Pepper and anise on the nose, boysenberry, blueberry in the mouth and sweet purple violet on the finish.
Beyond these, there are many more, all made in small lots in the same manner as above
The genius of Pali Wine Company is that there is a wine for every price point between $20 and $70, and a wine for every palate; all remaining true to the entire mission.
Cheers! Remember, wine reveals truth.
Drew Stofflet lives in Carbondale. Correspond with him at firstname.lastname@example.org