Friday, February 19, 2010

Tasting Palmina Wines at East Beach Wine

A lot of California wineries say their wines are made to be food friendly, are balanced, and have sufficient acidity. But few actually pull it off. Palmina, Steve and Chrystal Clifton's Italian-inspired winery, is one of those few that makes genuine food wine. I don't mean that in the sense that the wines are unbalanced and need food. Rather, they have higher acidity and less new oak, and thus have an affinity for food.

Local shop East Beach Wine hosted a Palmina tasting last Friday, and both Steve and Chrystal Clifton were pouring their wines and chatting with customers. Not that it matters with respect to the wine, but Steve and Chrystal were very affable and took the time to discuss their wines in detail. I suspect that at this point Palmina is reaching quasi-cult status (as much as balanced table wines can do this), but it's still nice that the proprietors take time to hand sell their wines. As mentioned previously, the wines tend to be higher in acid with less new oak than most in California. Additionally, the alcohols are lower and there's a certain Old World influence. The wines nonetheless are Californian given the fullness of the fruit. They aren't going to blow people away with power; instead they are expertly made in a fashion that can't be ignored.

Here are my notes and comments:

2008 Arneis
- Good citrusy acidity, mouth watering, mineral/iron, apricot and vanilla aromas. $19.

Additional commentary
: This wine definitely has more phenolic bite than a typical white, suggesting it gets a bit more extraction than most. There's a hint of tannin and excellent depth.

2008 Botasea Rosato - 50% Dolcetto, 30% Nebbiolo, 20% Barbera. Creamy mouthfeel, watermelon strawberry, good earth, medium acid. $18.

Additional commentary: Not much else to add other than this is a fine dry rosé.

2008 Dolcetto - Santa Barbara County bottling. Pinot-like spice on the nose, earth, some heat. Red fruit, mild tannin, somewhat astringent. $18.

Additional commentary
: This is my least favorite in the lineup as it's a bit awkward and alcoholic without the stuffing to handle the heat. I felt the same way about the '07 SBC bottling as well.

2007 Alisos - 80% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot w/ ~1% mat-dried Sangiovese. Macerated cherries, tobacco, mild mouthfeel and tannins. Slight dried fruit quality. $25.

Additional commentary: A small amount of Sangiovese dried on mats for use in a dessert wine is blended into this. Named Alisos based on vineyard sourcing.

2007 Barbera - Santa Barbara County bottling. Savory, dark fruit, herbs, smoke. Cab Franc-like, with some animality. Edgy and lean. High acidity. $22.

Additional commentary: One of my favorites of the tasting. Seemed the most Old World with brooding complexity and no extra fat. It definitely reminded me of less rustic, well-fruited Chinon.

2004 Stolpman Vineyard Nebbiolo - Dried red fruit, petrol/tar, red currant jelly, good acid, drying tannin, well structured. Long finish, a sipping wine. $40.

Additional commentary: My favorite of the tasting. Definitely on the riper side based on the nose, but much of the fruit character derives from the age. The structure is superb as it's not overwhelming, but gives the wine a real spine. One of four (?) Nebbiolos Palmina produces.

2006 Savoia - 50% Nebbiolo, 25% Barbera, 25% Syrah. Good tannic structure and acidity. Dark fruit. Seems young. $50.

Additional commentary: This one had a tough act to follow after the previous wine. Clearly has the structure and raw material, but seemed very primary.

2006 Osare - Port-like quality, but not fortified. Made from mat-dried Sangiovese. Raisins and milk chocolate, long finish. $39.

Additional commentary: This is the dessert wine where the mat-dried Sangiovese ends up. I didn't write it down, but I believe I was told this is aged for 3 years in neutral oak.


Jeff said...

Sounds like an interesting tasting. I had no idea that anyone was growing Arneis in California...interesting that it is missing the telltale almond aromas; perhaps that is one of the differences when grown in California.

CabFrancoPhile said...

Well, lets be honest and not pretend I can get everything out of 1-2 oz. of a wine! The 'phenolic bite' might be related to the almond quality, though. Also, it might have to do with winemaking as I often associate nut aromas with oxidation. Lots of factors, though now that I know I should find almond, perhaps I will do better in the future ;-)