I know soon Terry will be heading out to Napa to take some lucky customers on private tours of select vineyards. Today she talks about Palmaz, a special winery with an incredible architectural story in the valley.
The first time I was invited to see the new renovations and construction that was still being finished at the Palmaz winery I was so impressed. To this day it has left a lasting impression on me. Anyone that gets a chance to visit this state of the art winery when in the Napa area – it is a beauty to behold.
In “the valley” as they say in the wine region of California you must now go through very strict zoning procedures to build a new winery. If seen from the main highway 29 that is the road that runs north through napa, it must be set back or landscaped so as not to be overwhelming to look like a big warehouse.
DelDotto winery for instance spent $40 million having their building recreated from stone and marble all brought in from Italy and the building is not seen from the road.
Palmaz is in an area where the winery and storage caves are built into the side of the mountain. The inside of this georgeous winery is like a space ship; like nothing you have ever seen before.
This is a picture of the inside look at the tanks. This winery is what is called gravity fed.
The trucks pull up on the top floor and bring the grapes inside where there is a sorting machine. The employees sort through the grapes before they are passed into the tank that gently presses the grapes. The juice is then sent through a tube into each stainless steel fermentation tank where the temperature is controlled by a computer. When the tank is full the whole rotunda electronically revolves to the next tank where the next batch of pressed grapes is sent to be filled.
The Palmaz story started when Julio and Amalia Palmaz first moved to San Francisco and fell in love with Napa. They eventually bought an abandoned vineyard and winery at the foot of Mount George and began to restore the property in 1997. Julio, originally from Argentina is actually a doctor by trade, having completed his residency at UC Davis, which, perhaps not coincidentally, has one of the most prestigious viticulture and enology departments in the country.
Also interested in mechanics and engineering, Dr. Palmaz is now in the Inventors Hall of Fame for his Palmaz Coronary Stent. At the winery, these interests resulted in a complicated gravity flow system which preserves the delicate structure and complexity of the grapes. This is achieved in a wine cave that is the equivalent of 18 stories high.
In fact the entire winemaking and aging process takes place within the rock of Mount George in a “flawlessly engineered maze of tunnels and lofty domes.” The dome where fermentation takes place is the largest reinforced underground structure in the world!
We were invited for lunch with Mrs. Palmaz and her daughter in their main home where we spent a wonderful afternoon. She also tells a story of how the house is haunted and from time to time the piano will play. Just one of the many exciting stories to be told of the beautiful Napa Valley.
Each label looks has a wine stain of some sort; some are rings as if you put your glass down on the label and it stained. The first time I saw the labels in the cases I thought it was a defect but each label is distinctive.
Palmaz conducts private tours and tastings by appointment only. All the tours are led by a member of the Palmaz family and are followed by a tasting of various wines paired with hors d’oeuvres. It is well worth a trip.
Thank you Terry – I think it is worth visiting for the amazing architecture and engineering alone!!