We met with Nick Palumbo, owner, and winemaker. He purchased the property with an existing vineyard in 1998 and started making wine two years later. In 2002 the winery became a full-time business; at that time there were fourteen wineries in Temecula. Nick said: “I would like to say I was smart (with the timing), but it was dumb luck”. He went on to explain that they have kept it small and focused on quality. This is reflected in the small and unpretentious tasting room, which has a bar with room for six people to stand. There is a handful of well-weathered tables and chairs on the terrace outside the tasting room.
Amber comments: One of the things that struck me about Nick Palumbo is his background as a chef and how it relates to him as a winemaker. I could taste how the wines are made to pair effortlessly with food. Coming from a foodies perspective, that is a very powerful thing. Usually, winemakers come at the issue from the opposite way in that they make their wines and then food gets paired around the flavors they achieve.
The first wine we tried was the 2017 Rosato Seco ($28); a saignée rosé made of Mourvedre (65%) and Grenache (35%). The nose was low intensity with aromas of grapefruit. The colour was a golden peach. Taking a sip I was struck by a bright wine with a soft mouthfeel and flavours of strawberry, lemon, pepper, and a hint of honey. It was, for a rosé, surprisingly complex. Palumbo built their reputation on red wines. They do make one white; a Grenache Blanc; which is sold out, so we were unable to try it.
Amber comments: I loved the beautiful texture of this wine. It had character and spirit and I felt the glass begging me to take another sip. I rarely find that in rosé.
Next up was the 2014 Due Rossi ($45). The wine is a blend of Sangiovese (75%) and Merlot (25%); inspired by a trip that Nick Palumbo took to Tuscany. The nose was intense with ripe strawberry, cherry, and cedar. On the palate, it offered bright acidity with cherry, raspberry, tobacco, and silty tannins. This was a good, well-balanced wine.
Amber comments: This was my favorite sip of the day. I thought the idea of adding Merlot to the Sangiovese was a brilliant move on Nick’s part. They both have similar weight and structure but the Merlot gives an elegance and a bit of maturity to the bright and fruity Sangiovese.
The second red of our session was the 2014 GSM ($46). It presented an intense, lightly spiced fruit-rich nose with cherry notes. It was an acid first wine, with a bright mouthfeel. Delightfully complex; the flavour profile included cherry, plum, raspberry, pepper, and cumin. This is an excellent wine and a fine example of a GSM. The blend is a 40/20/40 split between the three varieties.
Amber comments: I thought this was a very fine version of a GSM. For a wine as young as it is, it was drinking beautifully. I would love to see what it does in another 3 years.
Next up was the 2013 Cellar Dweller “Jimbo Blend”. The blend is 47% Mourvedre, 28% Syrah, 25% Cinsault. It sells for $48. The nose was short on fruit, with leather, green pepper, and forest floor. The Rhône style wine was bright in the mouth and offered flavours of plum, raspberry, and pepper.
Amber comments: I really enjoyed the depth and quality of this wine. I felt it would be fantastic with a meal of anything from old-fashioned meatloaf to a fancy short rib.
Our final taste was of the 2014 Meritage ($52). The blend was 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 20% Cabernet Franc. A rich nose infused with plum promised much. The wine delivered on that promise, with plum and raspberry balanced by acidity and medium tannins. The wine is drinkable right now but should improve with age.
Amber comments: I thought that this wine was one I would cellar for at least another two years. It will come into its own then, smoothing out and relaxing to give you a lush and lingering sip. If you are drinking it now, decant it for at least two hours and let it open up. You will be happy you took that extra step with this beautiful wine.
Our busy schedule meant that we did not have as much time at Palumbo as we would have liked. The wine was excellent and Nick was great company. The tasting room is not an architectural marvel, nor is the view the finest in Temecula. This is the anthesis of the Temecula party reputation. However, if you like well-crafted wine, then we have no doubts about recommending Palumbo.
Amber comments: I was really sad to leave Palumbo so quickly. I felt like I could sit there and enjoy the wine for hours. The tasting room is basic – Nick likes it that way. I really enjoyed the outside seating and the relaxed atmosphere. If you are serious about wine, this is the place for you.