One of the most sought after neighborhoods in Southern California is Pacific Palisades with it’s unique Alphabet neighborhood near the center of town, and the celebrity enclave of Huntington Palisades with its breathtaking Pacific Ocean views. The Riveria is another high-end neighborhood near the upscale Riveria Country Club.
Two arbitrage guys working in Santa Monica got into the wine business in 2005. Tim Perr and Scott Knight co-founded Pali Wine Co., 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 Lompoc.
They opened a wine making facility in Lompoc near the airport where they blend and bottle their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. I recently had the opportunity to taste several of their wines while talking to Aaron Walker, partner and winemaker at Pali Wine Co.
Growing up in Manhattan Beach, Walker went to San Diego State University (SDSU) and worked in high end restaurants while in college. His passion for food and wine helped him start as a “cellar rat” entry level job at a winery in 2007, before coming over Pali Wine Co.
Walker checks on the Gypsy Canyon grapes and has developed a relationship with other farmers in California and Oregon. Pali Wine has 44 acres of Pinot Noir and 6 acres of Chardonnay. They chose this area in Gypsy Canyon because it’s ideal to grow Pinots. “The Santa Rita Hills have a long growing season with buds appearing in March,” Walker said. “Our grapes grow brightly until late August and September.” Walker told us that the sun heats up the area during the day, and when the fog rolls in from the Pacific Ocean, it cools the vineyards down at night allowing a high acidity and better balance with the big fruit flavors.
Pali Wine Co. has another wine brand named Tower 15, after the lifeguard tower out at Will Rogers State Beach in the Palisades. With a twist off cap, Tower 15 showcases grapes grown in the Central Coast region. They make 5,000 to 7,000 cases of these wines.
We started our tasting with a Tower 15 Sauvignon Blanc that was light and crisp to get our palate ready for the other wines. It’s a good value wine at around $22 a bottle. Pali Wines are focused on an excellent product at fair value prices.
Next we sipped a Chardonnay named Charmed Acres made from multiple vineyard grapes up and down the coast from Sonoma to Santa Barbara. It’s crisp and bright and not a big, fat buttery oak Chardonnay. I liked the essence of stone fruit white peach, crème brulee, and with a touch of sea salt.
The wine that most people know about is The Huntington Pinot Noir made from grapes grown in the Santa Barbara County. They make 5,000 cases a year and have achieved a Wine Spectator score of 89-90 consisitantly for years. Costco loves this wine and has been carrying it for the past 5 years in their stores. Another popular Pali Wine is The Riveria made from grapes in the Sonoma Coast. Both are blended in new and neutral oak before bottled.
We finished our tasting with a pour of their high end 2014 Pinot Noir from Fiddlesticks Vineyard with its luscious big red fruit flavor offering spice and tea coming through with hints of citrus and orange peel. It’s an elegant wine with a lovely balance of flavors.
To get the public informed about their wines, they opened a tasting room in the Santa Barbara Funk Zone five years ago. They also opened one in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto (a large collection of wineries, tasting rooms, and wine cellars located on PCH and 12th Street). Late last year they opened another tasting room in the Little Italy section of San Diego.
Soon they are opening a tasting room in downtown Anaheim, near Disneyland, next to the Packing House. Not only will there be a tasting room at this location, but a restaurant will pair food with their wines. Also, they will have a tasting room in DTLA in the Art’s District before the end on 2017.
With the help of Walker, Pali Wine Co. has grown their production from 1500 cases to over 20,000 cases a year. Next time you drive up the Central Coast, be sure to stop at the Lompoc Wine Ghetto for a tasting flight of Pali Wine Co.
To learn more go to: http://www.paliwineco.com/.