On a recent trip down to Santa Barbara, Trey and I stopped to visit Palmina, a small producer of Italian varietal wines. Located in an unassuming Lompoc warehouse complex affectionately called the “wine ghetto” (at once the most critical and least glamorous wine-making settings in Santa Barbara), Palmina is making truly spectacular things happen. The husband-and-wife team of Steve and Chrystal Clifton (yes, from Brewer-Clifton fame) are absolutely fantastic winemakers, besides being incredibly friendly and down-to-earth people. Their contagious passion for Italy and its soul-stirring wine and food inspires anyone who sets foot in their facility. A great visit, made better by both wonderful people and extraordinary wines. A few of their best, perfect for holiday dinner season: 2004 Palmina “Sisquoc Vineyard” Santa Maria Sauvignon Blanc ($14.99) is aromatically electrifying and astonishing in its pedigree. A rare breed of domestic premium Sauvignon Blanc, and probably my favorite one this year. In fact, it was so good I couldn’t wait until KL carried it; I bought some bottles at the winery to take home! 2004 Palmina “Botasea” Rosato ($16.99) is a clear winner in the rosé category. A 50/50 blend of sangiovese and barbera, bone dry on the palate, with a fresh strength that shows best at the dinner table. Try it with roasted cornish hen with acorn squash. That rocks! 2004 Palmina “Zotovich Vineyards” Dolcetto ($19.99) A surprisingly structured wine with earthy, subtle charm, this one took off with the cheese and sausage in the Clifton’s tasting room. Definitely a welcome dinner companion at my home anytime! 2004 Palmina Barbera ($24.99) This one is perfect for Thanksgiving!! A superbly made Barbera, showing true hallmarks of the variety with an abundance of bright, plummy fruit and tremendous lively acidity. Unquestionably delicious and versatile by any standard, it will dance well with all the dishes of the coming holiday season. Enjoy! —Martin Reyes
Last month Martin and I took a trip down south for a quick tour of a few wineries. This was our first day on our two-day trip. Our first stop was at Garretson Wine Company in Paso Robles. Working in a very industrial looking building, winemaker Matt Garretson is focusing on Rhône-inspired blends from Paso Robles. Our favorite pick from this stop was the 2003 Garretson Red Central Coast Red Blend ($19.99). This would be considered their user-friendly red, which is a blend of 70% syrah, 12% grenache, 10% mourvèdre and 8% viognier. Continuing down south, our next stop was at Domaine Alfred. People were friendly, and the wines were well made. Our favorites included the 2003 Domaine Alfred Edna Valley Chardonnay ($18.99) and the 2002 Domaine Alfred “Califa” Edna Valley Pinot Noir ($39.99). The Chardonnay shows great acidity, freshness and pure fruit, and the Pinot Noir is rich, balanced and pure as well. Both are clean and fresh. No heavy-handed winemaking here. Our next visit was with John Alban at Alban Cellars in Arroyo Grande. Great guy and great visit! Unfortunately the wines are next to impossible to get. We then had a quick visit at Talley and then made our way to Laetitia. Our two picks from Laetitia were the 2004 Laetitia Arroyo Grande Chardonnay ($14.99) and the 2003 Laetitia Arroyo Grande Pinot Noir ($17.99). The Chardonnay is rich, ripe and full in the mouth with hints of sweet pear, honey and lime. The Pinot Noir shows a nice balance between fruit and earth with hints of spicy minerals and red strawberry fruit. After Laetitia our next appointment was with John Nivin of Baileyana. Our favorites included the Chardonnay and Pinot releases under their Grand Firepeak Cuvee label. Located just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, the Firepeak Vineyard is the first to benefit from the cool maritime breezes funneling in from the Morro Bay. The warm days and cool nights are perfect for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Currently we have the 2002 Baileyana Grand Firepeak Pinot Noir ($29.99) and the 2003 Baileyana Grand Firepeak Chardonnay ($19.99). Both are delicious! —Trey Beffa
This month K&L is proud to offer a Domaine de Monpertuis wine for Rhône lovers in every price range. This venerable Southern Rhône estate has been in the hands of the Jeune family for several generations. Each successor has added bits and pieces so that the current owner, Paul Jeune, is now the proprietor of the 10 acres of vines that are scattered amongst 32 separate parcels throughout the confines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Jeune has the remarkable good fortune of having a majority of his vineyards planted to vines between 60 and 110 years of age. The multiplicity of parcels spread across Châteauneuf imparts a classic character to the wines of Monpertuis, absorbing the nuances of each soil type of the appellation. The heart and soul of the domaine lies within three primary parcels: La Croze, Le Clos de la Cerise and Monpertuis. Although Châteauneuf-du-Pape may be composed of 13 individual varietals, the Domaine de Monpertuis relies most heavily on the grenache grape. The 2003 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine de Monpertuis “Classique” ($31.99) is a more approachable, albeit powerful Châteauneuf from this warm vintage. Decant and serve with heartier fare. The 2003 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine de Monpertuis “Cuvee Tradition” ($62.99), produced solely from old vines at least 60 years old, is supported by at least 85% grenache. This is hands down one of THE BEST Châteauneufs I have tasted from this vintage. This wine is laden with a core of black fruit and chiseled mineral drive. Do not, I repeat do not, even think about touching this wine for at least 5 years, preferably 10. I promise you, your patience will be generously rewarded. This is an outstanding wine with enormous potential. As of 1995, the Domaine de Monpertuis has vinified a Côtes du Rhône and Vin de Pays du Gard. Both of these wines come from a recently acquired parcel known as vignoble de la Ramiere. The 2003 Côtes du Rhône “Vignoble de la Ramiere,” Domaine de Monpertuis ($13.99) is made almost exclusively from grenache. Both wines are lovely with cranberry, roasted sage and lavender. And both wines are Monpertuis reds to drink up while you wait for the big boys to grow up. —Mulan Chan
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