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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

2014 Sauvignon Blanc “Sur les Peaux” Alexander Valley, Sonoma County Proves Judge Palmer Wine Has No Sophomore Acts! Extended Barrel Aging of this Orange Wine Style Will Wow You Tremendously Says Whom You Know.

Is there anything nicer than sipping brilliant, crisp, white AMERICAN wine by Judge Palmer on a sunny summer afternoon in Manhattan? (Yes, it is even better when you are sipping it and wearing Paul Mayer Attitudes...) And specifically, we speak of 
2014 Sauvignon Blanc “Sur les Peaux” Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, which is another winner.
Judge Palmer was first featured on Whom You Know last week:
Sophomore acts, if you were not in Mover and Shaker Rennie McQuilkin's English class, we believe we had learned are second acts that do not measure up to the first.  This was an SAT word we had to learn (remember Melody and Ms CLP?), and we are so glad our words have elevated us to fine sipping as a profession. 
We like complex words, we like complex products, we like complex thinkers, and we like complex wine.
But like Judge Palmer, we do not like BS so let's keep this simple: you want to try this wine next.  
Judge Palmer, in our estimation, has depth and quality mostly unheard of in brands of its age: it is young.  
Chill this delightful Sauvignon Blanc to perfection and serve. Need we say more? From a cautious sampler of white wines, this carries sufficient weight.  Oh how you know how we like strong everything, mostly!  Planted in a protected spot on the Ellis Alden Vineyard, the Sauvignon Blanc enjoyed cool air and a longer growing season that most of its neighbors. Because of the altitude, the protected spot and the tempered weather, the grapes weren’t harvested until September 18th. This brings “exceptionally ripe flavors” to the wine and makes for one superlative harvest. From the pen of this convert, the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc will always be something to search out. Surprise yourself surprise your friends, and enjoy.
2014 Judge Palmer Sauvignon Blanc
“Sur les Peaux”
Alexander Valley, Sonoma County

Winemaking: "Sur les Peaux" is a departure from most California Sauvignon Blanc, beginning with the fermentation in contact with the skins and ending with extended barrel aging. The goal of this orange wine style is to coax uncommon texture and complexity from white grapes. The wild yeast fermentation began in contact with the skins for a period of ten days with daily punch downs. It was then pressed and racked into 25% new French oak barrels and 75% stainless steel, where it finished fermentation and aged sur-lie without racking for 14 months.

Vineyard: The 2014 Sur les Peaux is sourced from the Ellis Alden Vineyard, which sits at an elevation of 1400 feet along the sun-drenched western slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains in the Alexander Valley. Isolated within a sprawling 4,000 acre ranch, the 200 acres of vines enjoy a pristine growing environment, above the fog line and sheltered from wind, frost, and negative pathogens. The Sauvignon Blanc is planted in a low spot in the vineyard where cool air collects, allowing the grapes long hang time to develop ripe flavors while retaining acidity.

Vintage: The third straight year of drought triggered much stress for vineyard owners, but generally contributed to fantastic quality wines. A warm dry winter caused the vines to start their annual life cycle ahead of schedule, but aside from some wind, the spring was free of major weather. All the grape varieties seemed to ripen at once, and the pace in the winery at crush was hectic, but luckily the cooler than normal August brought us an average size crop of ripe grapes with beautifully balanced acids.

Judge Palmer Wine Co. was founded by friends and winemakers Palmer Emmitt and Michael Scorsone. About twelve years ago, Palmer and Michael were introduced through a mutual friend. At this time Michael had been making wine in Napa Valley for several years – after initially graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and working as a chef, he fell in love with wine and moved to Napa Valley to pursue winemaking. Palmer was a wine lover who was working in the film industry in Los Angeles, and meeting Michael and learning more about the winemaking process from him spurred his interest in wine from hobby to obsession and later profession. Palmer took classes at night to become certified as a sommelier and then a few years later moved to wine country to earn his MBA in Wine Business from Sonoma State University.

Upon moving to wine country, Palmer reconnected with Michael and the two began collaborating on the project that would become Judge Palmer. Through Michael’s industry contacts they were able to purchase Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the premier grape grower in Napa Valley – Andy Beckstoffer – and one of his most prestigious sites, the Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard, for their first vintage in 2011. In subsequent years, additional vineyard sites in Alexander Valley and Knights Valley, both in Sonoma County, were added so that they could produce Sauvignon Blanc and Malbec wines equaling the quality of the Napa Cabernet.

When it came time to bottle the first wines and name the brand, Michael and Palmer mulled over many possible names but settled on one that combined their deep connection with family and their philosophy on winemaking. Palmer’s grandfather James Palmer had for many years served as a judge in Placerville, California (aka Hangtown, a historic gold rush site), and when Palmer said the words “Judge Palmer” out loud, they looked at each other and knew they had found the name. In addition to the familial inspiration, the brand name and imagery evoke the parallel between the judge’s role in a courtroom and how Michael and Palmer approach winemaking – natural, authentic, transparent and with minimal intervention.

After the first few years of toiling away in the cellar and waiting for the first barrels to mature, the business officially launched in 2015 with the opening of their winery in Healdsburg, California and the release of their first wines. In the short period of time since then, they have grown their wine club substantially and secured distribution in Texas, Florida and Tennessee, with several more states to be added in the coming months. Their current annual production is about 1500 cases, up from just 200 in their first vintage 2011, and they hope to grow to 3000 or so in the coming years – staying small enough to remain true to their vision of small-lot artisan winemaking from uniquely distinct single vineyard sites and maintaining a personal connection to each bottle of wine and each customer.

Palmer and Michael now also produce wine under a second label called “Domenica Amato” named for Michael’s grandmother who was born in Sicily and emigrated to the US from Italy in 1966 along with Michael’s father and grandfather. The Domenica Amato wines are made in extremely small quantities and are sold only to members of the Emmitt-Scorsone Wine Club. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the cool climate Sonoma Coast are the main focus for these wines, but the label also allows Michael and Palmer room to experiment with varieties and styles that are apart from the norm. They are meant to be enjoyed with your loved ones around the Sunday dinner table.

Judge Palmer brand motto from back label:
The duty of a judge is to maintain order and ensure that justice is done while remaining fair and impartial. We feel that the role of the winemaker should be the same – an expert yet unbiased observer who allows the vineyard, varietal, and vintage to testify for themselves in the finished wine. Try a bottle with a jury of your peers.

Judge Palmer Mission Statement:
We believe there's a lot of bullshit in the world of wine these days. Our approach is to be honest and straightforward in the way we make our wines and deal with all of our customers and partners – just the way my grandfather the small town judge would've done it.

So you won't find us name-dropping, boasting, embellishing or obfuscating. You might find us pontificating, because we are deeply passionate about our work and feel there is something special about artisan winemaking that can't be accurately described in only a few words.

Our Bordeaux varietal wines come from both sides of the Napa-Sonoma border, featuring vineyards with unique character owned by people that share our values. We try to let each wine be what it wants to be, expressing the virtues of each site without letting our own stylistic bias interfere.

We encourage you to break from the herd mentality, eschew the latest trends, and taste our wines with an open mind – you be the judge. We think the honesty and passion with which we make them will shine through and resonate.

Try a bottle with a jury of your peers.
Palmer Emmitt & Michael Scorsone
Owners - Winemakers - Cellar Rats

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