Finding himself reading more wine journals than law journals, trial attorney Jayson Pahlmeyer decided to pursue his dream of producing a California "Bordeaux blend." After several trips to France, Jayson, with the aid of professors of viticulture and oenology at the University of Bordeaux, isolated the best clones of each of the "classic" Bordeaux and red varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Jayson, in turn, had the clones imported into California and used them to plant a Napa Valley vineyard in 1980. Under the winemaking direction of Randy Dunn, Jayson released his first vintage - the 1986 Pahlmeyer Red Table Wine. Dunn, who presided over winemaking until 1992, emphasized high extraction of fruit and flavor with no fining or filtering. Using the clonal varieties from France, Dunn created legendary Californian Bordeaux blends for Jayson and placed Pahlmeyer among the serious Cabernet producers.
Using only fruit from well-tended vines, Pahlmeyer approaches winemaking in a way that is at once both time-worn and cutting edge. The grapes are picked at a high Brix, and once destemmed and crushed, brought through primary and malolactic fermentation with indigenous yeasts. Interestingly, the red grape regime includes whole-berry fermentation in small lots, which softens tannins and magnifies fruit flavors. The Chardonnay meanwhile undergoes barrel fermentation in 100% new French oak barrels. It is then aged on the lees for almost one year and in most vintages bottled neither fined nor filtered. The red wines are aged in a combination of new (80%) and one-year-old barrels for approximately two years and then bottled unfined and unfiltered.
The grapes for Pahlmeyer Red Wine come from steep hillside plantings, most notably the Olive Hill acreage of Rancho Chimiles in Wooden Valley, and York Creek Vineyard on Spring Mountain. The fruit for our Merlot bottling originates from three separate and distinct sources: the Moon Vineyard in the Carneros, the Thorvilos Vineyard at the base of Howell Mountain, and David Abreu's Madrona Ranch above St. Helena. Finally, our Chardonnay grapes come primarily from the Berlenbach Vineyard, located in the Coombsville region, which possesses a soil composition most analogous to that of Burgundy.
Over time, Pahlmeyer has nurtured relations with growers willing to acknowledge revolutionary viticultural practices to aid our pursuit of creating powerful wines. Jayson works with growers to implement radical growing techniques including severe crop thinning and strict canopy management. By creating an environment for balanced growth, Pahlmeyer can harvest ultra-ripe fruit without disrupting the levels of acid and pH. The result is wine with intense concentration and finesse: "industrial strength" wine with polish and panache.
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