Palmina‘s nebbiolo will enchant you into almost believing it is Italian. Steve and Chrystal Clifton manage this finicky Piedmontese grape in Santa Barbara with a deft touch.
If you’ve drunk Barbaresco or Barolo, you know nebbiolo. The two communes in northwestern Italy have sought fame from this often tannic, intense, age-worthy black grape. In the hands and large casks of producers like Aldo Vacca of Produttori del Barbaresco, nebbiolo can tug at your nose with violet, rose, and berry, while challenging your palate with truffle, cherry and amaretto.
Palmina’s wine is firmly Californian. Its ripeness, deep color and alcohol reflect the climatic extremes of Santa Barbara. Sure they get morning fog like the Piedmont, which slows ripening. But it burns off far faster from the inland desert, which Italy lacks.
The coast and methods, however, ensure that this wine remains balanced. The Cliftons’ age their wine three years in large upright casks (grandi botti) of 3,500-7000 liters. This Italianate restraint lets the fruit do the talking and balks at Californian reliance on small barrels that infuse and concentrate many wines beyond recognition.
The walls of acidity and tannin will guide you through most meat and mushroom dishes (or a mild gorgonzola). While the viscous sweetness of the alcohol (molasses?) and ripe fruit (tart red cherry) fill its walls with pleasure. Characteristic fall leaf and cedar spice provide decoration for this Italian villa on California’s coast.
Produttori del Barbaresco:
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