Ahhh, I have arrived, FINALLY! My feet are on the land of Cabernet Sauvignon. The grape that put California on the international map as one of the world’s top wine regions. All the excitement and the angst during the long flight over, completely worth it! The air is a mixture of a crisp breeze and dirt, the sun is playing hide and seek. Before I get too carried away I must thank Chef/Owner Chris Jaskulski (BrisketBus) in Orlando for recommending Palmaz Vineyards, my first stop.
As I approach the vineyard up a hill, I reach upon a sight to behold. Forever stamped in my memory bank despite the drought and wintery conditions. This photograph cannot do the panoramic view of the rolling hills from atop the vineyard much justice. As I took it all in, turned around and was greeted by none other than Ms. Florencia Palmaz, I thought to myself that the gods of wine were certainly looking tenderly down upon us. She had an air about her that made one feel like you were home. I felt both elated and comfortable to know that she was going to give us a private tour and host our wine tasting experience there.
We started the tour outside at the top level of the winery overlooking the entire estate where our backs faced simply a wall of rock with two towering wooden doors. Ms. Palmaz elaborated with passion on the guest of honor – the GRAPES…how apt!
Hold the phone…I have to introduce you, the reader to Ms. Palmaz. Florencia’s passion for food and wine began while studying biology at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. “I was taking a full load of pre-med classes and was not sleeping well as a result of the stress. I found that reading cookbooks at night was the only way I could get to sleep. As a result, I started cooking all of the time to relax and even started a cooking group with my Biology study partners. The wine followed the food as a natural accompaniment.” Wine has always been a part of Florencia’s life. “My father would frequently conduct blind tastings with the family, bringing several different bottles to the table and asking us to identify the country of origin.” That struck a chord since I practice similar philosophy in regards to food with my children.
It was all coming together for me; her father is in the wine industry?! Florencia modestly clarifies that her father is a physician by profession. My husband’s attention perked up hearing that. He exclaimed, “Oh I didn’t know that! What a coincidence, I am one too. What’s his specialty?” Florencia responded, “Interventional Radiology.” Not many things amaze my husband but the expression on his face was priceless. “Wait a minute – Your father is Dr. Palmaz? THE Dr. Palmaz”, he inquires. Needless to say, from that moment on till today, every time I mention Palmaz, his eyes light up from the knowledge that he was in the presence of THE Dr. Palmez’s progeny.
Back to the tour….
Dr. Palmaz and his wife Mrs. Amalia Palmaz established Palmaz Vineyards in 1997 at the site of Cedar Knoll Vineyard and Winery, founded in 1881 by Henry Hagen, one of Napa Valley’s pioneer winemakers. Essentially it was an abandoned 600-acre estate at the foot of Mount George and a fine old house badly in need of renovation stood there. Finished in 2007, Palmaz Vineyards is an exquisite and exacting feat of engineering that gives home to Dr. Julio Palmaz’s theory of “true gravity flow wine-making.” Today the family lives on what is now the Palmaz Estate. “My father is forever the researcher. He decided that when using gravity flow techniques, the wine is never subjected to the violent agitation of pumping, which can change the wine’s intra-molecular structure. This gentle treatment allows the finest nuances of flavor to develop naturally—the result is a complex, elegant wine.” ” Florencia added.
In order to accomplish his purpose, Palmaz was instrumental in what has become the largest unsupported (un-reinforced, meaning no pillars were used) soft rock excavation in the wine world. The entire system is maintained by a series of 16-foot rock bolts (every five feet) that are epoxied into the mountain. A pragmatic man at heart, Dr. Palmaz did not want to use plantable land for the winery so he proceeded to hire a structural engineer instead of an architect to design a four-level, underground winery built deep inside Mount George. It’s truly an eye popping and imposing structure to be seen to experience its grandeur.
Palmaz Land: 55 acres of vineyards grow more than fourteen unique terroirs at three elevations — 400, 1200, and 1400 feet above sea level and are nurtured under the respectful tenets of sustainable agriculture. Variations of soil type, sun exposure, and elevation produce a robust range of flavors and concentration to create a wine with balance and complexity.
The winery’s 24 fermentation tanks accommodate the yields of individual blocks within the estate, vinifying each parcel’s grapes separately to preserve the unique characteristics intrinsic to the parcels. This provides a complete and pure palette for the winemaker’s art — tasting, appreciating, and blending individual lots to bring balance to the wine.
Palmaz Vines: The vineyard is planted primarily with Cabernet Sauvignon, plus some small lots of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, which are used as blend components for Palmaz wines. The vineyard is also planted with small lots of Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat, and Malbec for limited production. The vines are hand pruned and trellised, with production carefully moderated to grow only the finest quality grapes.
Personable, delightful, elegant, and complex just like her wines. Ms. Florencia Palmaz demystified wine-making while inspiring us to enjoy wine by making cherished memories, revolving around love, family, and food.
Winter 2014 Tasting Line-up:
- 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay “Amalia” paired with Smoked Salmon Canape with Wasabi Infused Caviar
- 2010 Cedar Knoll Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Smoked Magret Duck Breast with Creme Cheese, Fig Preseves, and Chives
- 2009 Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Assortment of Cheese
- 2010 Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Dark Chocolate Truffle
The White Wines are named after the women of the family while the bold reds earn the names of the men in the Palmaz Family. The delicate “Amalia” reminiscent of the sensational Chablis while the Estate Cabernet’s were classy and complex.
It takes a village to raise a child. In this case the entire Palmaz family is intimately involved and dedicated to producing world-class elegant wines. Nowadays Dr. and Mrs. Palmaz are the counseling force. But the day-to-day operations are run by Florencia (Director, Marketing), her brother Christian (President), and Jessica (Director of Hospitality). Tina Mitchell is the winemaker, assisted by consulting winemaker, Mia Klein.
A scientist’s mind is constantly evolving as does the mind of Florencia and Christian under the counsel of their parents who strive to create wine, crossing uncharted territory, and ultimately creating new ones along the way. Here’s best of both the worlds of technology and land resources, combined with an unquenchable thirst for enhancement while simultaneously learning. You can taste it in the Wine..it is Awe-inspiring!!
Few of us share the courage of our convictions to risk all for their beliefs and ideology. The Palmaz family continues to pave the way for us humble folks…..