Visiting Palmaz Vineyards

There are many pleasures to be had when visiting a wine region. Tasting wine is certainly one of the big ones. Interacting with and getting to know people at a winery who work in some aspect of the operation is another. For me, having travelled to Napa & Sonoma many times, the discovery of a new winery often stands at the top of the heap in terms of wine country excitement. So I listened intently when Palmaz Vineyards was recommended to me as a must visit. After looking them up, I made an appointment. When I arrived at Palmaz Vineyards I was greeted by Florencia Palmaz who founded the winery along with her parents and brother. Florencia gave me a tour of their facility which is situated mostly underground in the side of a mountain. It was built this way to maximize vineyard space which is somewhat scarce within the rough terrain of the Palmaz Vineyards property relative to the overall size. The site had been a winery many years ago but lay fallow after prohibition.

After the tour, which included information about all aspects of the winery and the history of the vineyard site, Florencia and I tasted through their wines. While Cabernet Sauvignon is their bread and butter, we also went through several small production offerings that don't reach distribution.

Riesling was the first wine we went through. It's color was lovely with a very pale, almost white hue. This is a dry wine that makes an appealing choice to serve at the beginning of a meal or with light appetizers. It's nose is effusive and really leaps from the glass.

Chardonnay was next up and it truly hit my sweet spot for this varietal. While also light in color, it's incredibly rich in flavor. Oak treatment is barely apparent and provides some added complexity, but never intrudes. The finish is lengthy enough to be impressive with mineral notes as the highlight.

Cabernet Sauvignon is their benchmark wine and I tasted four consecutive vintages of their trademark release. 2002, 2003, 2004 and the about to be released 2005 were the years I sampled. There was a connective tissue of style linking them all together. Elegance, grace, richness and restraint are all characteristics that come to mind. Each wine was well balanced and clearly has the ability to age. The not yet released 2005 showed a much richer and fuller palate than many of the other 2005 Cabernet's I've sampled so far on this trip. So many of the 2005's I've tasted are softer in style with less richness than their respective wineries previous vintages. The Palmaz is just as rich if not more so than their previous vintages and may well prove to be the best of the four I tasted.

All of the Cabernet's above are Bordeaux style blends. Florencia also poured the limited Gaston Cabernet Sauvignon for me. This is a 100% varietal wine limited to under 400 cases. While it's not quite as complex as the flagship wine, it's not meant to be. Instead it's an expression of their best Cabernet Lots from 2002. In that regard it's a fascinating look at a place and time for Cabernet Sauvingon.

Palmaz Vineyards also makes a Cedar Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon. This was the name of the original winery on the site. As an homage to their predecessors this wine bears the original Cedar Knoll logo and a photo of the founder. This was a solid Cabernet Sauvignon and may well be an entry point to the winery for some folks.

The last wine I tasted was a Muscat Canelli dessert wine. This offering features a huge nose and a much lighter touch across the palate than most dessert wines. It has sweetness but in a very restrained manner. It certainly stands apart from most other dessert wines with it's gentle touch.

Across the board, the wines of Palmaz Vineyards are impressive. In addition to that, the hospitality of the Palmaz family which I experienced by spending well over 3 hours with Florenica is beyond reproach. If you're visiting Napa Valley, I urge you to do yourself a favor and schedule a tour and tasting at Palmaz Vineyards. The wines are terrific and the experience is filled with a personal touch not every winery provides.

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