Pahlmeyer Wine released their first vintage in 1986. They began producing wine at the Napa Wine Co (where we first met up with them for a tasting) in 1994 soon after Napa Wine Co underwent a huge renovation to accommodate production from wineries who do not actually have their own physical winery. This winery was started by Jayson Pahlmeyer a former attorney who once his wines started becoming popular, stopped his legal work and dedicated his full time to the wine. As with numerous other vintners we have met with over the years who worked in other industries before becoming vintners, Jayson started becoming hooked by the wine industry and slowly phased out his law practice. He made several trips to France to find some of the highest quality Bordeaux varietal clones and then took them back to California where he planted his own vineyard.
Today, besides running Pahlmeyer (in 2017 his daughter Cleo took over the operations), Jayson stays busy growing champion size pumpkins with several entries in the famed Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Weigh-Off. The well-known master of Howell Mountain wines, Randy Dunn ran Pahlmeyer’s initial wine making operations for several years and helped put this winery on the map so to speak. Other notables who have helped with the winemaking include Bob Levy, Helen Turley, and currently Kale Anderson.
Timing is everything in wine – the producers for Disclosure, a moving staring Demi Moore and Michael Douglas were eating at Spago of Beverly Hills and they were served a bottle of Pahlmeyer’s 1991 Chardonnay based on the sommelier’s recommendation (only 40 cases were made of that vintage). They fell in love with this very limited production wine and as a result, it was used in a pivotal scene in the movie which ended up being the perfect tool for initially marketing this wine. Even today, the winery still receives phone calls about the wine then the movie shows on prime time television. Pahlmeyer has 80 acres in the Napa area as well as some property on the Sonoma Coast for growing their Pinot Noir.
In addition, they work with area growers and purchase grapes from a number of locations mostly in Napa. Their vineyards are typically severely crop thinned, so lots of fruit is dropped on the ground ensuring very small productions, the canopies are carefully managed to create just the right amount of sunlight and ensure the fruit becomes ripe but still retaining the acidity and pH balance. David Abreu is one of the “starts” of Napa’s vineyard managers and Pahlmeyer sources from several of his managed vineyards including one of our favorite vineyards, the Thorvilos vineyard near Howell Mountain.
Their 2005 Chardonnay is a delicious wine from their Ritchie vineyard which is fermented with 100% wild yeast and undergoes 100% Malolactic Fermentation. It is a wine well-balanced between acidity and fruit. The nose is very floral with lots of honeysuckle. Their 2005 Pinot noir was their first ever Pinot produced …not bad at all for a first effort! This is a darker style Pinot with some mint on the nose and raspberry and blackberry on the palate.
Their 2004 Red Table wine is their “big” dark inky wine”; it is well extracted with lots of color from the time spent on the skins. Again this wine is fermented with 100% natural yeast. It does not disappoint; it has more than 75% Cabernet Sauvignon so technically they could call it a Cabernet, but it is the four other Bordeaux varietals that give this wine its real full-bodied strength. There are strong notes of black cherry in the mouth with a well structured rich tannin backbone that ends with a slightly smoky finish.
Pahlmeyer is well distributed nationally as well as in select markets in Asia and in Europe. They currently taste their wines at the upscale Ma(i)sonry tasting room in Yountville. They recommend calling ahead to make sure their wine is available as the tasting room does rotate their wines from time to time. They are also found in select local wine shops in the valley including V Wine Cellars in Yountville and St. Helena Wine Center in downtown St. Helena. Visit: www.pahlmeyer.com
NOTE: this review has been identified as needing a major update.