Rare Riesling from Napa

Today’s Story: Palmaz Vineyards

Palmaz Vineyards, as it exists today, was founded in 1997 by Julio and Amalia Palmaz. Julio is a medical doctor by trade, credited with being a co-creator of the heart stent, though he and his wife Amalia always believed that close attention and care to their land can produce superior quality wines for generations to come.

Before I get too far, I’d like to take a step back to the origin of winemaking on their plot of land. In 1852, a man by the name of Henry Hagen moved to the West Coast in pursuit of Gold Rush treasures. Though he originally lived in San Francisco, in 1881 he purchased a plot of land at the southeastern edge of Napa Valley against Mount George and founded Cedar Knoll Vineyard and Winery. At that time a pioneer in Napa Valley, Hagen produced high-quality wines served throughout San Francisco high society and even won a silver medal for his brandy at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris.

Fortunes changed, however, with Hagen’s death in 1895 and, as many wineries of the time experienced, the onset of Prohibition in 1919. With 450 acres of land in the hands of Hagen’s kin who didn’t share his passion for wine, winemaking ceased and the estate fell into disrepair.

Circling back to the Palmaz family, Julio and Amalia purchased, restored, and modernized the long-lost winery while building an estate totaling 600 acres with 64 acres under vine. One of the coolest features of the winery is their caves, which total 100,000 square feet and are listed as the largest in Napa Valley. The winery is built into an 18-story cavern behind Mount George, allowing for gravity-flow production of wine while also providing a naturally cool environment. The crowning achievement, in my opinion, of the Palmaz renovations is in their “fermentation dome” where the ceiling showcases high-tech data points and charts for easy monitoring of the wine during fermentation. This thing looks like it could control the Starship Enterprise so I highly suggest you take a look at pictures online and on their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2009 Louise Riesling

100% Riesling; 13.2% ABV

Palmaz is known for their Cabernet Sauvignon, particularly the Gaston which is produced from the best lots and only in certain vintages, several of which I’ve been able to enjoy. If you find a bottle of their Cabernet on a shelf, I suggest you give it a shot (though it is not cheap at about $130-150 per bottle). All this being said, I was unaware Palmaz produced a Riesling and I am excited to review it today.

Almost perfectly clear, this Riesling is pale straw/yellow in color with rim variation of water white. The nose is classic Riesling with aromas of petrol, green apple, and lime zest as well as pineapple, white florals, and slight nutty notes. Once in the mouth, this light- to medium-bodied white showcases notes of tangerine, peach, green apple, lemon peel, beeswax, and slight white spice. This is a creamy textured Riesling and not as dry as I prefer, showing medium acidity and a rounded medium length finish. 150 cases produced.

Price: $95. This is high in my opinion, though I think the rarity of this bottling plays into the price. I’d say skip this one and look toward Alsace or Mosel if you’re spending that kind of money. Pair this (like most Rieslings) with Chinese food, spicy Thai food, or even Tex-Mex.