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Pali Wine Co.: Manages an Ambitiously Diverse Portfolio

Pali Wine Co. was founded in 2005 by a group of wine lovers headed by Tim Perr and Scott Knight in homage to Pacific Palisades in Southern California, the community where they live and work. The pair had developed relationships with many premium Pinot Noir growers on the West Coast and decided to develop their passion for Pinot Noir into a business. A modern winery was completed in Lompoc, California in time for the 2007 vintage and is the first building in Lompoc constructed specifically as a winery (photo below).

The winery specializes in single-vineyard bottlings of Pinot Noir, sourcing fruit from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Central Coast and Sta. Rita Hills. This is the only California winery with a sizable Oregon footprint. With the 2007 vintage, several regional cuvées of Pinot Noir were released at a value price. Aaron Walker is the onsite winemaker with veteran Kenneth Juhasz (Auteur, Donum Estate, Robert Stemmler Wines) consulting.

The 2008 vintage in California was challenging and the wines from this vintage have had their ups and downs. Admirably, Pali Wine Co. was able to manage the diverse source of grapes and turn out a stellar lineup of wines. These are generous fruit-driven wines with moderate to moderately high alcohols and generally easy accessibility upon release. All the vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs are scheduled for October 2010 release. A 2008 Shea Vineyard Chardonnay ($34) is also available.

2008 Pali Wine Co. Alphabets Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $18, screw cap. Aged 10 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · This is a ripe fruit styled Pinot Noir more typical of California than Oregon. Copious dark red cherries and berries kissed with oak in a simple fruity wine that is smooth in the mouth and finishes with a zing of acidity. Decent.

2008 Pali Wine Co. Riviera Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., $18, screw cap. · Aromas of alluring spiced dark berries with a hint of toasted oak. Moderately rich flavors of dark berries and plums with a touch of toasty oak and smoke. Decent.

2008 Pali Wine Co. Summit Central Coast Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 252 cases, $29, screw cap. Released in April 2010. 55% Monterey County fruit (Boer Vineyard in the Chalone AVA) and 45% Santa Barbara County fruit (Turner Vineyard). Aged 16 months in 50% French oak barrels. · This is an upfront wine with plenty of charisma. Very charming aromatics featuring black cherries and berries, spice, toasty oak, and cut flowers. The fruit is hi-tone and travels like a laser beam to the nose although the aromatic intensity fades a bit over time in the glass. On the palate there is a rich and satisfying core of black raspberry, blackberry, plum sauce, cola and grilled mushroom flavors with oak harmonizing in the background. A fruit lovers wine that will pair beautifully with hearty meats. This is a handy wine to buy by the case for everyday drinking. Very good.

2008 Pali Wine Co. Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

15.4% alc., 175 cases, $44, screw cap. This vineyard was planted in 1979 by Ed Durell and his vineyard manager Steve Hill in the foothills of Sonoma Valley. The vineyard is now owned by Bill and Ellie Price but continues to be managed by Steve Hill and his son Ned. The 180 acres are planted primarily to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Clones 115, 667 and Pommard 5. Aged 16 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromatic black fruits with hints of toast and smoke. Generous core of sweet dark fruits with a hint of tar and ash on the finish. Rich and ripe, held in tune with svelte tannins, and finishing with an intensely fruity snap. Decent.

2008 Pali Wine Co. Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

15.1% alc., 125 cases, $44, screw cap. Clones 667 and Pommard 4. Aged 16 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Darkly colored in the glass. Wellscented nose featuring red and black fruits, spice and subtle oak. The flavors echo the aromas with an added touch of vanilla and citrus peel. The luscious fruit makes a statement on the palate, yet remains light on its feet. The chalky tannins are quite normal for this vineyard. The alcohol is well integrated and the fruit-laden finish lingers for some time. Very good (+).

2008 Pali Wine Co. Keefer Ranch Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 225 cases, $44, screw cap. Clones 777 and Pommard 4. Aged 10 months in 33% new French oak barrels. · Enticing aromas of redder fruits including cherries and strawberries with accents of sandalwood and baking spices. Soft and smooth in the mouth, displaying a medium-weighted core of tasty red berries slipping off the back of the palate with a bright finish of admirable persistence. An exemplary wine that is typical of Pinot Noir from this venerated vineyard. Very good.

2008 Pali Wine Co. Momtazi Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 150 cases, $44, screw cap. Clones 113, 114, 115 from this biodynamically farmed 200-acre vineyard. Aged 16 months in 40% new French oak barrels. · This is a charming wine with pleasing aromas of dark stone fruits and raspberries with an undertone of sweet oak. Ornate and well-delineated flavors of juicy cherries and berries with a subtle loamy undertow that is typical of the McMinnville appellation. Very slick with a soft texture much like a baby’s bottom. Everything sings in harmony with perfectly balanced t n‘ a. Still drank beautifully the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle indicating age ability.

2008 Pali Wine Co. Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 250 cases, $44, screw cap. Clones 114, 777 and Pommard. Aged 16 months in 40% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish color. Interesting aromas of black cherries, truffles, lavender and brewed tea. Tight and restrained in the mouth yet some lovely spiced fruit lingers in the background enhanced with an appealing earthiness and meatiness. The fruit is enrobed in prodigious tannins. Hard to get close to at first but noticeably better the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. A cellar candidate. Very good.

2008 Pali Wine Co. Zenith Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 100 cases, $44, screw cap. Zenith Vineyard is owned and farmed by Tim and Kari Ramey and their partner, St. Innocent Ltd. The vineyard is planted to 60 acres of Pinot Noir, 12 acres of Chardonnay and 9 acres of Pinot Gris. Aged 10 months in 40% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light and reddish in color. Striking nose that is very floral highlighting red roses with a hint of oak and peppery spice. Did they put roses in the ferment? An easy drinking wine that is soft and smooth in the mouth featuring flavors of dark red strawberries, raspberries, and edible flowers. A little spice and earthiness adds interest. Fine-grain tannins and bright acidity in the background add to the allure. Good.

Tastings of Pali Wine Co. wines are available at the winery (1036 W. Aviation Drive, Lompoc) on Friday and Saturday from 11:00 to 4:00) and by appointment. The wines are sold primarily through a mailing list with some national retail distribution. Visit the website at for more information.

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