2009 Palmina, Nebbiolo “Sisquoc” Santa Maria Valley.
The wonderful Langhe inspired Palmina Sisquoc Nebbiolo is a thrill ride of true Barolo like character and is one of the finest Italian style red wines in California, this is spectacular and invigorating stuff with impressive depth and length. Steve Clifton has been on a mission to craft old school Italian wines in the Santa Barbara region since the late nineties and his passion for Nebbiolo started with early plantings of this grape at Stolpman and the Rancho Sisquoc Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley, a cool climate, coastal influenced area north of Santa Barbara, which was planted in 1998. Clifton has adopted the classic or riserva style with his Nebbiolo with extended large cask aging and bottle aging before release to allow the wine to more fully unwind and develop, with the 2009 being the current offering, and his patience has been rewarded, especially this gorgeous and complex 2009 Sisquoc, which shows beautiful detail, refined tannins and mature evolution that certainly reminds one of Piedmonte. Catching up with Steve Clifton, formerly of Brewer-Clifton, one of California’s highly acclaimed Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producer and pioneer of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA and owner/winemaker of Palmina, was as always an education and amazing tasting experience, he showed off two fantastic wines from his Palmina cellar that blew me away, a wonderfully solid and fresh 2000 Pinot Grigio, yes, Pinot Grigio! And a stunning 1998 Stolpman Vineyard Nebbiolo that rivals Barolo or Barbaresco of the same vintage! These wines have aged beyond any expectations and really give you an idea how just how serious they are, something that is good the remember and not take for granted, and the new releases look set to be wines that can sit side by side with their Italian cousins in your cellar, Palmina is for real, in particular you’ll be extremely pleased to have this Michet clone 2009 Rancho Sisquoc Nebbiolo. The latest Palmina Sisquoc, grown on sandy loam and clay rich soil, shows intense density that is lifted by natural acidity and those silken, but firm tannins with bright raspberry, tangy plum and cherry fruits along with dried roses, dusty/stony notes, cedar spice and savory/saline infused licorice as well as grilled red citrus, amaro and mission fig. Three and half years in big cask helped tamed this broad shouldered red, to be in perspective, I tried this wine against Cerreto Asili Barbaresco and Bruno Giacosa Falletto Barolo at the Pebble Beach Food & Food Grand Tasting and it fitted in nicely against these, in fact it showed awesomely well, there was almost no gap between in terms of quality, that was a huge performance! This impressive Nebbiolo will surprise a lot of people and should only get more interesting over time and should drink well for another decade plus, Palmina should be on your radar if not already, Clifton has gone through a re-birth of sorts and been freed up to show his own style path since leaving Brewer-Clifton, and his latest set of Palmina and his new La Voix label are authentic/natural, exciting and intriguing wines, look out for them.
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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