Sun 12 Dec 2010
A couple of nights ago, LL made two beautiful BLTT sandwiches on ciabatta rolls — bacon, lettuce, tomato and turkey — and I opened, with a deft twist of the wrist, a bottle of the Pali Wine Co. Summit Pinot Noir 2008, 55 percent from Monterey County, 45 percent from Santa Barbara County. This line of wines represents a sort of entry-level group for Pali — there’s also a chardonnay and a cabernet sauvignon — a producer of limited edition, single-vineyard pinot noirs that cost $44 and an $80 Reserve Chautauqua Thorn Ridge Ranch Pinot Noir of which fewer than 25 cases are made. The wines in the Appellation Cuvee series are named for neighborhoods in Pacific Palisades, where the founders of the winery are from. The winery is in Lompoc, in Santa Barbara County, “City of Arts and Flowers” and home to Vandenberg Air Force Base and a Federal Corrections Institution.
All finished with screw-caps. These wines were samples for review.
The Pali Wine Co. Summit Pinot Noir 2008, Monterey/Santa Barbara, is deep, dark, spicy and robust, as Pali’s pinot noirs tend to be. Beguiling aromas of spiced plums and macerated black cherries are woven with heady notes of rhubarb, sassafras, lavender and sandalwood. Yes, it’s pretty damned exotic, all right, and that individual personality continues in the wine’s ripe black and blue fruit flavors, its super-sensuous drapery-like texture and its bass-tones of foresty elements, honed shale and plush tannins. Despite this fairly extravagent exhibition, the wine is neither heavy nor obvious; one would not mistake it for, say, zinfandel or syrah, nor, on the other hand, for anything resembling the bearable lightness of elegance that marks great pinot noir wines. It was, oddly, terrific with the bacon, lettuce, tomato and turkey sandwiches. 14.6 percent alcohol. Production was 252 cases. Excellent. About $29.
My enthusiasm for the Pali Charm Acres Chardonnay 2009, Sonoma Coast, was thoroughly dampened by the fact that the wine is made in a style that I find undrinkable. From its bright straw-gold color, to its flamboyant aromas of baked apple, pineapple and grapefruit blended with mango, cloves and ginger, to its silky-viscous texture that wraps pineapple-grapefruit flavors tinged with custard, brown-sugar and toffee, it’s a chardonnay that has Wine Spectator targeting written all over. I also thought that the wine lacked the essential backbone and nerve of crisp acidity and minerality. At 14.7 percent alcohol, the wine feels unbalanced to my palate, though I know there are legions out there who inexplicably dote on this style of chardonnay, and for those people, bless their little pointy heads, I will wrest a rating of Very Good from my dire black heart. About $24. Production was 495 cases.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Let’s return to sanity with the Pali Highlands 2007, Napa Valley, a blend of 87 percent cabernet sauvignon, 6 percent malbec, 4 percent cabernet franc and 3 percent merlot. Like the Summit Pinot Noir 2008, this cabernet displays an exotic edge in its full-blown bouquet of brandied black cherries, cedar, cloves, fruit cake, iodine and mint and brambly red and black currants. The wine is no less individual in the mouth, where it makes a frank statement about ripe, spiced and macerated black currants, raspberries and cherries (with undertones of lavender and bitter chocolate) saved from ostentation by an assertive strain of dusty tannins, wheatmeal, gravel and slate; vibrant acidity also helps keep it honest. Drink now through 2013 or ’14. Alcohol content is 14.2 percent (on the label; 14.9 according to the technical material). Excellent. At $33 I don’t think this is the “fantastic value for Napa Valley Cabernet” touted by the press release — $23 would be more like it — but it’s certainly well-made and attractive in many ways. Try it with a medium rare rib-eye steak, hot and crusty from the grill.