A Pause And A Chat With Pali Winemaker, Aaron Walker

I’m overscheduled. This should be obvious to everyone who knows me, but for some reason, I seem to keep missing the memo.

“Hey Arianna, can you meet the winemaker for Pali Wine Company, Aaron Walker, at Delphine, at 6:30, after you get off work at 6:00, before your dinner with Dalla Terra importer Brian Larky, at Hatfield’s, at 7:30?”

“Oh sure. I don’t see why not.”

Because I live in a magical land where I can fly through the sky, up above streetlights and LA gridlock.

And because I have holes in my head.

I screeched into the valet in front of the W Hollywood Hotel, (late, of course), where Delphine – a chic French-Med bistro, in glimmering white tile and retro-cool accents – serves hotel guests, Hollywood pre-show diners, and – this evening – Aaron and his wife, Emily.

“I am so sorry,” I told them, a plea for forgiveness amid my tempest of chair sitting, purse-shifting, notebook finding, pen preparing and shoulder-slumping. They both smiled and assured me that they were happy as clams, munching on small plates of creamy/zesty hummus and warm pita, olives, and glasses of beer (what it takes to make great wine, dontcha know). Our waiter was beside the table in an instant, setting several glasses in front of me (God bless him).

Aaron has had kind of a whirlwind, too. He never intended to be a winemaker. He was on a different journey – studying early education, at San Diego State – when he was steered toward a deep appreciation for good food, by working in restaurants. He even considered a detour to culinary school. But in 2006 he found himself working the harvest at Bonaccorsi Wine Company – interning, in order to learn more about the business and the craft. Since then, he hasn’t looked back.

He joined Pali Wine Co. in 2007, as Assistant Winemaker under Brian Loring. The next year – 2008 – Walker took the helm. And all of this, without any formal winemaking education. He’s apprenticed with some impressive people: Joe Davis of Arcadian, Stephen Dooley of Stephen Ross Wine Cellars, Seth Kunin of Kunin Wines and Gray Hartley of Hitching Post; but most of Aaron’s training has been on the job, with a few extension classes here-and-there. Score one for drive and determination – the skills Aaron considers the cornerstones of his success.

I was there to taste Pali’s two newest endeavors, at two different price points. First, a value-priced Pinot out of Sonoma, the 2009 Pali Wine Co. “Riviera” Pinot Noir. The nose was full of cherry, mixed with a little herbaceousness. On the palate, the fruit-forward, cherry sweetness was braced with zesty acidity. It had a nice balance, a “user-friendly” medium body, and was quite smooth. At $19/bottle, it was $10 less than the next wine I tried: The 2010 Pali Wine Co. “Summit” Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills. This Pinot, with fruit from Fiddlestix and Rancho La Viña vineyards, had a bit more finesse. There was some minerality on the nose, a little cola, a lot of berry. There were flavors of blueberries, raspberries and a touch of chocolate. The finish had an irony metallic-ness. The “Summit” wines are made from fruit sourced from slightly more prestigious vineyards, while still maintaining a high quality-to-price ratio (QPR).

A few bites of hummus, an olive, a couple of anecdotes back-and-forth, and a deep breath, and I was on to the next thing. Aaron and Emily said they were going to hang out for a little longer to finish their drinks and enjoy the laid-back, swanky, vacation-feel of the restaurant, and would be back on the road soon. Headed in different directions – me, south; them, north – after pausing for a moment in each others’ company.

It’s a mad world. Thank goodness for the opportunities to stop and enjoy good wine with good people.

 

 

Photo Credit: Palm Beach Enterprise

 

 

Photo Credit: Ryan WombacherI’m overscheduled. This should be obvious to everyone who knows me, but for some reason, I seem to keep missing the memo.
“Hey Arianna, can you meet the winemaker for Pali Wine Company, Aaron Walker, at Delphine, at 6:30, after you get off work at 6:00, before your dinner with Dalla Terra importer Brian Larky, at Hatfield’s, at 7:30?”
“Oh sure. I don’t see why not.”
Because I live in a magical land where I can fly through the sky, up above streetlights and LA gridlock.
And because I have holes in my head.
I screeched into the valet in front of the W Hollywood Hotel, (late, of course), where Delphine – a chic French-Med bistro, in glimmering white tile and retro-cool accents – serves hotel guests, Hollywood pre-show diners, and – this evening – Aaron and his wife, Emily.
“I am so sorry,” I told them, a plea for forgiveness amid my tempest of chair sitting, purse-shifting, notebook finding, pen preparing and shoulder-slumping. They both smiled and assured me that they were happy as clams, munching on small plates of creamy/zesty hummus and warm pita, olives, and glasses of beer (what it takes to make great wine, dontcha know). Our waiter was beside the table in an instant, setting several glasses in front of me (God bless him).
Aaron has had kind of a whirlwind, too. He never intended to be a winemaker. He was on a different journey – studying early education, at San Diego State – when he was steered toward a deep appreciation for good food, by working in restaurants. He even considered a detour to culinary school. But in 2006 he found himself working the harvest at Bonaccorsi Wine Company – interning, in order to learn more about the business and the craft. Since then, he hasn’t looked back.
He joined Pali Wine Co. in 2007, as Assistant Winemaker under Brian Loring. The next year – 2008 – Walker took the helm. And all of this, without any formal winemaking education. He’s apprenticed with some impressive people: Joe Davis of Arcadian, Stephen Dooley of Stephen Ross Wine Cellars, Seth Kunin of Kunin Wines and Gray Hartley of Hitching Post; but most of Aaron’s training has been on the job, with a few extension classes here-and-there. Score one for drive and determination – the skills Aaron considers the cornerstones of his success.
I was there to taste Pali’s two newest endeavors, at two different price points. First, a value-priced Pinot out of Sonoma, the 2009 Pali Wine Co. “Riviera” Pinot Noir. The nose was full of cherry, mixed with a little herbaceousness. On the palate, the fruit-forward, cherry sweetness was braced with zesty acidity. It had a nice balance, a “user-friendly” medium body, and was quite smooth. At $19/bottle, it was $10 less than the next wine I tried: The 2010 Pali Wine Co. “Summit” Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills. This Pinot, with fruit from Fiddlestix and Rancho La Viña vineyards, had a bit more finesse. There was some minerality on the nose, a little cola, a lot of berry. There were flavors of blueberries, raspberries and a touch of chocolate. The finish had an irony metallic-ness. The “Summit” wines are made from fruit sourced from slightly more prestigious vineyards, while still maintaining a high quality-to-price ratio (QPR).
A few bites of hummus, an olive, a couple of anecdotes back-and-forth, and a deep breath, and I was on to the next thing. Aaron and Emily said they were going to hang out for a little longer to finish their drinks and enjoy the laid-back, swanky, vacation-feel of the restaurant, and would be back on the road soon. Headed in different directions – me, south; them, north – after pausing for a moment in each others’ company.
It’s a mad world. Thank goodness for the opportunities to stop and enjoy good wine with good people.

Photo Credit: Palm Beach Enterprise

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Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes

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