February 2, 2024
Imagine crisp, savory, salty, citrus mineral white wines perfect for food. No, not Chenin Blanc, not Soave, not aged Riesling or old Burgundy. I’m talking about Palomino; a grape I suspect you would have heard more about if not for the infinitely random nature of the universe.
Okay, sure- I’m not knowledgeable and/or intelligent enough to understand or draw conclusions from anything relating to Quantum Theory, but here we are.
Why? Because every wine we drink is the result of some random happenstance from centuries before we were born. An inexplicable turn of events led to Eleanor of Aquitaine marrying Henry II in 1152 and now we all drink Cabernet. A messenger requesting reinforcements reached Caesar with moments to spare as he defeated Vercingetorix at Alesia so we know Burgundy for its Pinot Noir. Utter randomness, dumb luck; that’s all it is. That’s why we have a big “California Chardonnay” sign instead of Palomino!
Enter two wine legends – Raj Parr and Abe Schooner – who were on the lookout for old vineyard sites. Naturally, they found what they were looking for tucked between freeways and strip malls in Cucamonga Valley. Vineyards planted in 1918 but lost to time and the urban sprawl of Los Angeles. Thus, the Palomino grape was rediscovered.
They quickly knew they had something special – vines that had never been touched by herbicides, pesticides or anything other chemical capable of producing rich, savory, food-friendly wines. Not only that, but Palomino is a heat resistant varietal – perfect for the ever increasing California temperatures. When grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay begin to struggle in the heat, Palomino doesn’t even break a sweat. More and more growers have taken note and have begun turning toward these ‘heat-hardy’ varietals.
Take this excerpt from SevenFiftyDaily:
With its climate adaptability and the growing understanding of its ability to express its surrounding terroir, some industry insiders do expect to see continued growth of and respect for unfortified Palomino in the market. “The wines we’re seeing coming out of Spain and the wines we’re making here from Cucamonga fruit point in the direction of high-quality wines like what you have from Chardonnay and Chenin [Blanc],” says Schoener. “I’m not saying you’d mistake them, but they all have the ability to make wines of high character and a kind of nobility.”
The future is now. The future is Palomino.
BayTowne Wine & Spirits' Palomino Top Picks:
Wine Legend Raj Parr’s old vine project from grapes planted in 1912. Some skin contact with a blend of 5% unknown red and white varietals.
First things first, this is going to need some air to blow off the ‘funk’ – but once it does, you’re in for a treat. Lemon, ginger and candied orange with dried herbs and a mineral structure. Tangy and refreshing on the palate. Unique, complex and crushable despite all of the savory elements.
Winemaking couple Mike and Gina Giugni have officially reached “cult” status. Whether it is porch pounding Alicante or dream-inducing botanical wine, everything they touch leaves a memory.
Their 2022 Palomino is from vines planted in 1918. 6 days of skin contact produce a lovely orang-ish hue, with caramelized ginger, a whiff of crème-brulee, and salty citrus. This really invokes the image of 1900 California – still a touch of the Old West but with modernization moving in.
Arguably the most important Andalusian producer making unfortified Palomino – winemaker Ramiro Ibanez has been at the forefront of producing bright, rich, savory, salty, mineral and textured wines that have turned heads and challenged the status quo. From five different plots in Miraflores Alta and Miraflores Baja, one of the most celebrated pagos in Sanlúcar, with 80 to 90 years old Palomino vines planted at 50 to 60 meters above sea level, the Miraflores is the “entry-level” wine from Cota 45. Refreshing citrus with a rich full-flavor leading to a delectably salty finish. An absolute must with any seafood dish.