Walking along The Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara into the Funk Zone, you soon come upon 10 blocks filled with an eclectic mix of galleries, shops, restaurants, wineries, and breweries. Converted warehouses are decked out as wine tasting rooms for local wineries in the Santa Barbara County and Central California. We stopped inside the Pali Wine Co., which is located just two blocks from the ocean and Santa Barbara train station.
Once inside, we selected two tasting flights of five wines each, the Pali Wine Taste and Tower 15. Tim Perr and Scott Knight co-founded Pali Wine Co. in 2005, sourcing most of the grapes from the top vineyards in Santa Barbara County and Sonoma. Later, they purchased 50 acres of land in the Gypsy Canyon Road in coastal Lompoc. Gypsy Canyon is an ideal spot to grow grapes used to make Pinot Noir. The grapes grow well into late August and September. The sun heats up the area during the day and cools down when the fog rolls in from the Pacific Ocean, creating high acidity and better balance with the big fruit flavors.
Growing up in the wealthy beachside community of Pacific Palisades, Perr and Knight named their wines after neighborhoods, such as the Huntington, named after the celebrity enclave offering the best ocean views, or the Riveria, named after the upscale Riviera Country Club.
They hired Aaron Walker, partner and winemaker at Pali Wine’s wine making facility in Lompoc, to blend and bottle their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. He’s a wine making expert and has developed a good relationship with other farmers in California and Oregon.
Ready for our Pali Wine tastings, we took a seat at a booth inside the tasting room and next to the outdoor patio. As the friendly and knowledgeable server brought a bottle of 2016 “Charm Acres” Chardonnay, we ordered a gourmet cheese plate from local C’est Cheese Santa Barbara. It arrived in a box with slices of artisanal cheese, nuts, dried fruit and crackers.
They also brought over a colorful wine fan deck. Similar to what painters use to select the right color for painting, this one had the dates of wine releases, names of the wines and tasting notes. It’s fun to have at your table and quiz each other. Each page offers a 7-step value range of alcohol percentage, vineyard, AVA, oak percentage, fermentation length, bottling date and how the wine pairs with different food.
Tasting “Charm Acres,” we learned it is made from multiple vineyard grapes up and down the California coast, from Sonoma to Santa Barbara. It’s crisp and bright and not a big, fat, buttery oak Chardonnay. I loved the essence of peach, crème brulee and a touch of sea salt.
Other tastes of wine included 2016 “Bluffs” Pinot Noir and 2017 “Huntington” Pinot Noir. This Huntington Pinot Noir is made from grapes grown in the Santa Barbara County and has achieved a Wine Spectator score of 90 consistently. Costco loves this wine and has been carrying it for years in their stores. The last two pours were from a 2017 “Summit” Pinot Noir and 2016 “Pali Estate” Pinot Noir.
Next we tasted the flight of Tower 15 wines. It’s named after a lifeguard tower at Will Rogers State Beach in the Palisades. In 2012, Pali launched Tower 15 Winery featuring bottles with twist off caps.
The 2016 Reserve Tower 15 Sauvignon Blanc was light and crisp to get our palate ready for the other wines. Next we sipped 2018 “White Cap: White Rhone Blend and looked at the color deck. This wine highlights premium white Rhone grapes from Central California and is made from 52% Grenache Blanc, 17% Marsanne, 17% Roussanne and 14% Voignier.
My favorite was a lovely summer 2018 “P.C.H.” Rose, named for the scenic Pacific Coast Highway that runs along much of the California coastline. This dry, crisp style of Central Coast Rosé is made from a combination of whole-cluster pressed Pinot Noir grapes and blended with ten barrels of saignée made from premium Pinot Noir vineyards. It’s barrel-aged entirely in neutral oak for four months and then bottled.
Since Pali Wine Co. is so proud of their wines, they have opened 5 public tasting rooms in different So Cal locations. Besides the Santa Barbara Funk Zone, they have one in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto (a large collection of wineries, tasting rooms, and wine cellars located on PCH and 12th Street), another in the Little Italy section of San Diego, and in downtown Anaheim, near Disneyland and the Packing House. The most recent tasting venue opened in vibrant DTLA Art’s District. Besides tasting rooms, each offer light food items, game night, harbor wine cruises and other fun events to engage their fans. They also sell wine bottle growlers to take home and enjoy.
Join the Pali Wine Club for special benefits including wine delivery to your home, invitations to special tasting room events, and special discounts. Once a member, you can visit all the Pali Wine Co. tasting rooms.