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Inside Palmaz, the Winery Hidden Within Napa's Mt. George

As I drove up to Palmaz Vineyards, I was pretty excited.  Getting to go to these wineries as part of my job is definitely a perk. But this visit was particularly exciting -- I had a meeting with Florencia Palmaz, daughter of the owner, Julio Palmaz. The winery is situated in Mt. George, east of Napa, just north of American Canyon. That's right, in Mt. George.

After a brief, "Yes, Ms. Joyce. Welcome to Palmaz" at the security gate, I drove up the steep incline with vines on either side to near the top of the hill to meet Florencia in the main building.

What intrigued me to start with was that the winery is actually carved inside a mountain. There really isn't anything to see from the outside. Also, it is built specifically to incorporate an innovative gravity-flow method in its winemaking process. The grapes travel from the first floor to the bottom floors in a process that is gentler on them, and tends to better hold the flavors of the fruit. This kind of thing is expensive -- and with everything highly computerized, it combines the concepts of quality Old World winemaking with sparkling new equipment and sophisticated technology.

It would have been easier to build an ordinary winery, of course, but the Palmaz family seems to like putting a scientific and technological spin on things. Julio Palmaz, after all, is a doctor of vascular radiology who became very wealthy after inventing the Palmaz-Schatz Stent, which is now used in operations on patients with coronary heart disease.

Florencia met me in the cool lobby and explained the family history as we walked into the winery. Even the lobby is very tranquil, with only a few visitors being granted access at a time, and the Palmazes personally taking small groups through, it's a very personal experience. The winery is actually made up of a series of caves and tunnels on several levels that span the height of an 18-story building. Looking down from the balcony over the fermentation tanks below will give you an impressive view, as will the touch screen computers on the walls that seem to be in control of every detail.

Being a student of biology herself, Florencia is very detail oriented and can explain the most complex processes, down to what goes on at the molecular level in the winemaking process. If it hasn't hit you already, chatting with Florencia you will quickly realize how complex the chemistry is, and the lengths that winemakers will go to to ensure the quality of the wine in order to produce the perfect Cab. Every single detail you can imagine, from the way the barrels are cleaned, to the specific forest in France they are from, to the winemaking process itself, gives you an understanding why this business is expensive -- and why their Cabernet commands $80 plus a bottle.  After our tour, I sat in Florencia's office and we tasted through a flight, paired with a lovely selection of small bites. Though I'd just seen the detailed care and attention that went into it, I was still very impressed. And if that didn't blow my mind, I also toured their collection of vintage Porsches and, of course, the vintage Land Rover. I left fascinated, excited about my new discovery, and eager to tell all my friends about the winery experience that has so far, topped my list.

We have an exclusive opportunity for Lot18 members to visit this spectacular winery this week in our Vintage Land Rover Tour of Palmaz Winery. In this experience you'll join up to six other people (or you can create a group of your own).


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