Monday, February 20, 2012


Pali Riviera Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2010

Launched in 2005, Pali Wine Company specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Their Pinots are made from grapes grown in California’s Sonoma Coast and Sta. Rita Hills AVAs, as well as Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  The winery and tasting room are located in the winemaking haven of Lompoc, California.

Tim Perr and Scott Knight founded Pali in order to produce the kind of wines they like to drink.  The name of the company derives from the fact that Perr and Knight hail from the coastal SoCal community of Pacific Palisades.  Their wines are named after neighborhoods in their hometown.

Winemaker Aaron Walker oversees the Lompoc facility, under the guidance of Consulting Winemaker Kenneth Juhasz.

Pali plans to increase their production this year, and open a tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara, too.  They were kind enough to provide a sample for the purpose of this article.

The Pali Riviera 2010 Pinot spends ten months in 30% new French oak, sports a very California-like 14.7% alcohol content and sells for $20 under a Stelvin closure (screwcap).  Pali produced 10,500 cases of this wine.

Riviera's nose is loaded with jammy black cherry, blackberry and plums, and the fruit is quite ripe.  A whiff of alcohol is not much of a surprise.  A little anise, a little clove and a tin roof element also appear. A slight aroma of smoke adds a touch more complexity. 

It's rather darkly tinted, with a full mouthfeel that is fresh and loaded with acidity. Black fruit on the palate is ripe, too, and a raspberry finish seals the deal.  It drinks more like a Cab than a Pinot Noir.  Its a young wine - the tannins have some bite - but after some time decanted it smooths out and acquires an even darker quality.  I revisited this wine on two successive nights, and each night it was a more pleasurable drink than on the previous evening.

The Riviera is definitely not old world, and it's definitely not shy or delicate.   The critics of big California Pinot will find plenty with which to take issue here, but those who like this big, brawny style of high octane wine could well find a new favorite at a reasonable price.

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