Pahlmeyer Wine produced their first vintage in 1986. Their first vintages were made at Merryvale Winery; they began producing wine at Napa Wine Co (where we first met up with them for a private tasting many years ago) 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. However, Pahlmeyer has not made their wine at Napa Wine Co for years and eventually built their own production facility.
Pahlmeyer was started by Jayson Pahlmeyer, a former trial attorney who once his wines started becoming popular, stopped his legal work and dedicated his time to building the Pahlmeyer wine brand. 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. Over the years he made several trips to France to located specific clones from Bordeaux red grapes.
Pahlmeyer’s initial roots were tied to John Caldwell’s vineyard in what is now Coombsville (east of the city of Napa). He and John were originally going to develop that property for housing but with restrictions set by the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve, they soon shelved those plans and opted to plant grapes instead (reference our review on Caldwell Vineyards for the smuggler story of how part of this vineyard was planted. Coombsville is known as a cooler weather part of the Napa Valley and during the 1970s and 1980s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were primarily planted (reference the historic Haynes Vineyard as an example). But Caldwell successfully planted Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux red varieties; the first few vintages of Pahlmeyer were from the Caldwell Vineyard.
In late 2019 E&J Gallo purchased the Pahlmeyer and Jayson by Pahlmeyer brands (but not the vineyard). While no longer running Pahlmeyer (in 2017 his daughter Cleo took over the operations for two years), 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 seven 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 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 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 their wine. Even today, the winery still receives phone calls about the wine when Disclosure shows on prime time television.
Along with their estate vineyards, they work with area growers and purchase grapes from a number of locations mostly in the Napa Valley. Their vineyards are typically heavily 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 “stars” of Napa’s vineyard managers and Pahlmeyer sources from several of his managed vineyards including one of our favorite vineyards, the Thorevilos Vineyard near Howell Mountain (although as of 2019, this vineyard is now called Ecotone Vineyard and is no longer managed by David Abreu).
Their own Atlas Peak estate (Waters Ranch) is planted to approximately 72 acres of vines – with an uppermost elevation of around 2200 feet. The Pahlmeyers retained ownership of this site after the sale to Gallo family. Approximately 80% of the vineyards on this site are within the Atlas Peak AVA while the remainder is in the Napa Valley appellation. Unlike most Atlas Peak vineyards whose access is via either Atlas Peak Road or Soda Canyon Road – the Pahlmeyer estate (while able to be seen from select parts of the Southern Napa Valley floor) is only accessible via long and winding roads leading up to the east side of Atlas Peak. David Abreu oversaw the development of this vineyard.
The Pahlmeyers founded the Wayfarer Estate Vineyard, a prime 30 acre site in the coveted Fort Ross Seaview appellation of western Sonoma County. This property is the source for the Wayfarer Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. And this brand and vineyard were also not included in the sale to Gallo family and continue to be operated by Cleo and Jayson.
The 2005 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay is a delicious wine sourced from the Ritchie Vineyard located in the Russian River Valley of neighboring Sonoma County; this wine was fermented with 100% wild yeast and went through 100% malolactic fermentation. It is a wine well-balanced between acidity and fruit. The nose is very floral with lots of honeysuckle. The 2005 Pahlmeyer Pinot Noir was their first ever Pinot Noir produced …not bad at all for a first effort. This is a darker and deeper Pinot Noir then some of the more delicate wines we have tried from this varietal; shows some mint characteristics on the nose and raspberry and blackberry on the palate.
The 2004 Pahlmeyer Red Table wine is the “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 Sauvignon, 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 distributed nationally as well as in select markets in Asia and in Europe. As of our latest update, they still taste their wines at the upscale RH Wine Vault 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 the Bottle Shop in downtown St. Helena.
Jayson by Pahlmeyer at The Village at Vista Collina
In summer of 2018 a large parcel of land directly to the south and across the street from the Meritage Resort (southern Napa city limits) opened as Vista Collina Resort and the next door The Village at Vista Collina – featuring a large green space (with environmentally friendly turf) surrounded by four stories containing 145 Tuscan-styled guest rooms, 9 stand alone tasting rooms on the ground floor, a luxurious Vintner’s Room (for special vintner member and other community and private events) and the Village Food & Wine Center where chefs teach a variety of culinary seminars and host other culinary related events. The Village at Vista Collina held its grand opening on August 4, 2018.
And the Fivetown Gourmet Grocery and Deli is an integral part of the The Village experience. Named after the five towns within the Napa Valley including Yountville, Rutherford, Oakville, St. Helena and Calistoga – this upscale market features a variety of farm-fresh local ingredients and home made products. Plenty of seating outside the grocery – one can also picnic on the lawn area.
The ‘lawn’ area is also ideal for hosting a variety of events including concerts. Umbrellas inserted into the ground can easily be moved and seating arrangements are highly flexible.
Jayson by Pahlmeyer is one of the 9 stand alone tasting rooms – like the others, their space is intimate – focusing on the wines and the personalized hospitality (although note only the Jayson wines are poured here, not the Pahlmeyer). The first vintage of Jayson by Pahlmeyer was in 1992.
The 2017 Jayson by Pahlmeyer Sauvignon Blanc is highly aromatic and appealing on the bouquet – very fruit forward initially with tropical aromas including pineapple and honeysuckle as well as ripe yellow peach. Balanced but big across the palate, this wine shows a noticeable intensity of flavor. Offers a sweetness of fruit, mineralities and flavors of lime along with decent acidity (no tartness often associated with cooler weather wines of this varietal). Very long finish.
The 2016 Jayson by Pahlmeyer Cabernet Sauvignon shows plenty of fruit on the bouquet in its youth – with both blackberry and blueberry – somewhat briary in its aromatic presentation. Soft on the entry but quickly gains in structure – showcasing its youthful, muscular and still tightly wound tannins. Packs a lot of flavor including red and dark cherry.
And we will leave you with a quote from Jayson Pahlmeyer, “Everything worth doing is worth doing to excess”. And to this we can add, is where there is a fine line between passion and obsession.
For more information or to join their wine club, visit: www.pahlmeyer.com