I met Scott Palazzo a bit more than a year ago, when he visited Ohio to plug his wine. We had a blast tasting his wine and shooting the breeze. He has this great mane of silver hair, and history as a vagrant in Bordeaux in his early twenties. As I recall he used to be a producer in the music business, and directed some music videos, among other things, so in all, a very interesting guy. We didn't actually talk about the wine as much as we did other things (no doubt because of our common musical background) but I did learn enough about his vinous offspring that he achieved his objective. Besides I had already bought his wine because it is sensational.
Among the things he told me about his wines (because he does make more than one) was that they are informed by the practices he encountered in St.-Émilion (the Bordeaux appellation famous for Merlot- and Cabernet Franc-dominated wines). I appreciated that he didn't say "Bordeaux-like". You may think me a nitpicker over this, but bear with me: he may say "Bordeaux-like" (or Bordelais, something along those lines) to other people routinely, but on this day perhaps he was bored with that descriptor so he happened to say "informed by" (or maybe it was "inspired by," but that's moot now). Whatever the case, the way he said it to me makes an important distinction, and is a FAR more accurate statement, because it is VERY DIFFICULT (with the exception of cool vintages like 1999) to make wine in Napa Valley that is "Bordeaux-like", largely because it's HOT in Napa Valley, and NOT HOT in Bordeaux. If you've ever watched your garden (or even your grass) grow over the course of multiple summers, you'll know that steady, predictable, warm weather is good for it (though with grapes, you generally don't want rain after a certain period in the growing season, where your garden is always thirsty).
Scott Palazzo runs a terrific micro-operation. He produces fewer than 2,000 cases of balanced, graceful wines that are zesty, vigorous, expansive, aloof (seems out of place, I know), and packed with the slutty fruit profile one can only get in California. They are at once rhapsodic and introverted, and the first time I tasted the 2005 Red Wine, I thought of, for some weird reason, Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day. The evolution of the character in the movie was extreme perhaps, but the wine followed a similar path--it continually took on character, gaining in appeal and depth, while never losing its surface sheen.
Palazzo Wines come in two flavors--a Red Wine and a Cabernet Franc. Both are currently from the 2006 vintage. Now that I've checked the website, I see that the Franc is sold out at the winery, but it is in the market, although quantities are limited, so check with your retailer. The Red Wine is available through the website still, and I can tell you that it is a smash.
The Best Part? The wines are $60! I know, that's not inexpensive, but they are not $120 like so many Napa Valley trust-fund reds are--and this is a marvelous bargain for the quality in the bottle. I would adjure you to add Palazzo to your list of yearly must-buys.
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