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American Harvest

On the Caldwell family’s 55-acres near Coombsville area (southeastern Napa Valley), they planned a trans-Atlantic transplanting to produce Jayson's dream, "California Mouton." With the help of John's father, Jack they refurbished a mining rig from Montana and planted the vineyard around oaks and lava rocks—preserving the environment. Yet the French vines did not adapt to American soil, and did not grow as soon as expected, taking six years, rather than three to mature.

The intensity and complexity of the first harvest’s fruit impressed Napa Valley legendary winemaker, Randy Dunn that he offered to purchase the entire 1986 crop and became their winemaker. It also impressed Robert Parker who gave the 1986 (first vintage release) Pahlmeyer Red Table Wine 94 points. Dunn remained winemaker until 1993, when he fine-tuned the unfiltered winemaking process and made the first Pahlmeyer Bordeaux.

Since that time other great winemakers have left their mark on Pahlmeyer’s rich history. Among them are Bob Levy, currently the winemaker at Harlan Estate, and Helen Turley, who continually sought out better fruit sources for Pahlmeyer— as she rose to winemaker stardom—leading to the development of Pahlmeyer's Waters Ranch and Wayfarer Farm. In 1999 Jayson promoted Turley's protégé, Erin Green to Winemaker, and later to Director of Winegrowing and Winemaker.

I recently had the pleasure of lunching with the President of Pahlmeyer Wines, Jayson’s wife, Paige at Bottega Café. We tasted both Pahlmeyer and their second label, Jayson wines paired with a delightful platter from the Salumi Bar of cured meats sliced paper thin with olives and farm egg, entrees of grilled chicken paillard and nibbles of hot bread with olive oil—between the wines.

The tasting began with Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Chardonnay 2007 ($69.99), a full-bodied “Chard” with a wonderful acidity and layers of white peach, vanilla, honeysuckle, and lemon. Next is a Birmingham favorite—Pinot Noir. Pahlmeyer Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006 ($79.99) is dark garnet in color, full bodied and very complex, with notes of cherry, raspberry, damp earth and spice with ripe tannin. A taste of the Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Merlot 2005 ($89.99) shows a luscious, highly concentrated and beautifully integrated wine with notes of cocoa, black cherry, plum, spice, and cassis with supple tannins. And Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Proprietary Red 2005 ($120.00) offers layers of complexity, is well structured, and has a nice acidity with firm tannins. Through its deep purple color, aromas and flavors of toast, tobacco, blackberry, black cherry, black currant, and cocoa delight the palate. I have a couple of bottles of this vibrant, extraordinary wine stashed in my cellar and expect it to drink well for 10 years and beyond.

Pahlmeyer’s Jayson label is named for Jayson Pahlmeyer and made of the same grapes grown and vinified for Pahlmeyer wines.  After Green selects the blends for Pahlmeyer, she uses the remaining barrels for Jayson wines—offering quality at a value. Jayson Chardonnay 2007 ($49.99) is yellow-green in color, with notes of citrus, melon, pineapple, vanilla and honey with a lingering finish. Jayson Red 2005 ($49.99) is an integrated and balanced wine with dark fruit and notes of toasty oak, cherry, tobacco, tar and spice with a long and persistent finish. And Jayson Pinot Noir 2006 ($49.99) is a lovely and lush Pinot with layers of raspberry, red currant and spice.


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