After tasting an unbelievable Brewer-Clifton Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir, I began digging to learn more about the operation and winemakers behind the label. Steve Clifton was one of the two. What caught my eye is his passion for Italian wines, having planted, farmed and vinified Northern Italian grape varieties. I headed to his Palmina Wines website to learn more.
This was a while back yet set the stage for becoming a Palmina wine club member and having many memorable bottles of Italian wines made in California.
My first order was Clifton’s Savoia 2007, Undici 2007 and Pinot Grigio 2008 (unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the PG).
While I didn’t jot down tasting notes for these wines, I remember the three fondly.
From Garage to Winery
Steve Clifton started making wine in his basement in the early 1990’s which is how he met Greg Brewer. They went on to form Brewer-Clifton and make stunning Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara County and the Santa Rita Hills.
He launched Palmina in 1995 and has since grown the winery to include many wines. Today Clifton works with Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Sangiovese, Lagrein, Tocai Friulano, Traminer, Pinot Grigio, Vermentino, Cortese, Arneis, and a handful of international grapes. These Italian grapes are mostly found in Piemonte and Fruili Venezia Guilia in Northern Italy.
What Clifton found is some of the terroir in areas of Santa Barbara County are very similar to those of Northern Italy: unique micro-climates with cool night temperatures to maintain acidity.
And he believes food and wine bring people together to form lasting relationships. It’s certainly true that Italian meals revolve around these three. I note the website includes recipes for specific wines developed by his Italian wife.
“Palmina is not attempting to emulate what the Italians have done for years with these grapes. The intent is to make the best food wines possible by understanding the translation of the region, grapes and foods, and how they are best interpreted here in Santa Barbara County.”Palmina website
The name Palmina comes from his great friend Paula, who was like a grandmother to him. The name on her Italian birth certificate was Palmina, one who taught him that the essence of life revolves around friendships, cooking and wine.
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This month the Italian Food, Wine and Travel group talk about Italian grape varieties grown outside of Italy. This is a list of what my #ItalianFWT colleagues are featuring:
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla: “Cheesy Bites, a Colorful Board, and a Barbera…from California”
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm: “Italian Grapes Grown Outside of Italy and Served Out of a Box? Che Diamine!!!”
- Andrea at The Quirky Cork: “Tuscany Meets Turkey with Chateau Murou Montepulciano Sangiovese”
- Jeff at foodwineclick: “Italian Grapes from Unti Vineyards at the Winter Grill”
- Martin at ENOFYLZ Wine Blog: “A Splendid Cal-Ital: 2016 Giornata Nebbiolo Luna Matta Vineyard”
- Jennifer at Vino Travels: “Remy Wines: Italian Grapes in Oregon and a Winery After my Heart”
- Terri at Our Good Life: “Italian Grapes in Lodi Paired with Grilled Salmon Tacos”
- Nicole at Somm’s Table: “2 Italian White Wine Blends Born in California”
- Gwendolyn at wine predator: “Italy in California: from Aglianico to Zinfandel” and “Italy in California: Nebbiolo from Humbolt’s Terragena and Santa Barbara’s Silver”
- Susannah at avvinare: “Vermentino, A Star In and Out of Italy”
- Lynn at Savor the Harvest: “Honoring An Italian American: Palmina Wines in Santa Barbara County”
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass: “Native Italian grapes find a home in the land of Pinot Noir”
What a fun article. We lived down the street from an elderly Italian gentleman who made wine in his basement. I used to love stopping by and visiting him. We would sip wine and he would reminisce.
Lovely memory Wendy!
Fascinating selection of grapes! I love me my red Italian wines (especially Nebbiolo) but it’s truly the whites that captivate me. Nice to that more than just Pinot Grigio has made it to the US.
Yes Clifton really has a super selection of Italian grapes. On the PG, I figured that would be a variety in Turkey versus Catarratto!
Yet another California winemaker I have never met…I will have to track down a bottle, or two. And, when the world opens back up, that’s not too far from me. I’ll plan a visit. Thanks for sharing and for joining us. Enjoy your holiday.
What a great story. We visited their tasting room once down in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. Wasn’t he a musician at one point also? His Italian varieties are delicious!
Yes, he actually met Greg Brewer via music, they became fast friends and started Brewer-Clifton. I’m curious what you thought of the tasting room and experience? I haven’t visited yet.
It was ages ago! But it was a great little tasting room in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. This is a group of tasting rooms and wineries in an Industrial Complex in Lompoc. Not terribly glamorous, but fun kitschy, and really functional. They have a tasting room in the front where the “offices” would be and the warehouse space is the winery. Brewer-Clifton had a tasting room that was further into town.
I remember being so excited to explore Italian varieties with them, as they are harder to find in the Santa Barbara region. The place was cozy and welcoming and the wines were delicious!
Thanks for sharing that Robin! Someday I’ll get there.
Life certainly is good when there are friendships, cooking and wine! This is quite a list of Italian grapes that he uses. Would love to taste the Savoia!
I hope you’re able to find Savoia or any of his wines!
I didn’t know about Palmina despite knowing Brewer-Clifton. More to try! Thanks for sharing!
Certainly Nicole, glad I could introduce you to someone you don’t know about, a rarity ;-D
I love Italian wines and am happy to learn of Palmina. How did I miss them?!? I clicked over to their website, they seem like very down to earth people, no hoity-toity huge winery- my style. Thanks for introducing me!
Although I haven’t visited the winery/tasting room, I agree with you, they seem chill and relaxed. Hope you’re able to find their wines, or better yet, visit. Cheers Mary!
Funny when doing research for my article, I read that Palmina and Giornata were the only two wineries in CA solely working with indigenous Italian varieties. I believe that was true at one point. Nevertheless, these are wonderful wines. I “discovered” when we used to go to the Santa Barbara Wine Festival annually for a few years. A wonderful recollections Lynn that triggered some fond memories for me too!
I concur with you Martin, I also read the same. I’m glad this triggered memories. Hope to read a Palmina review from you soon!?! Giornata is on my list for a someday visit.