It was a deal in the works for a couple months, but this week, Pali Wine Co. announced that it had signed a long-term contract to take over the management and use of grapes from the Huber Vineyard, a property planted by Norman and Traudl Huber in the Sta. Rita Hills in the late 1980s, long before the pinot noir- and chardonnay-focused appellation was officially formed. The Hubers are also known for growing one of the California’s only blocks of dornfelder, a deep red grape from Germany, which is where the couple was born and raised until moving to the United States in the 1950s.
“We are very excited to be working with and farming this somewhat historic vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA,” said Pali’s winemaker Aaron Walker. “Of course, most people know Huber for dornfelder, which is only 1.5 acres, but it also produces very nice pinot and chard, of which there are about 10 acres of each.”
Walker answered a few more of my questions via email this week.
What made Pali interested in the Huber Vineyard?
We were approached by the Hubers (via real estate broker Tom Davidson) about this opportunity as Norm and Traudl are looking to retire. We felt this would be a great fit for us for the next four to eight years.
We are currently planting 50 acres in the Sta. Rita Hills, almost right across the highway from Huber, but that vineyard will not be productive for at least three more years. Those vines are being planted next month. This lease allows us to get into the farming game a little sooner than we planned.
Obviously, the goal with farming our own vineyards is more control of the costs and quality. So this lease is a way for us to get jump started in the farming arena.
Do you plan on taking all the fruit eventually, or still selling off some of it?
We will be taking all of the fruit with two exceptions: one, the Hubers will continue to produce the dornfelder from the vineyard under their label this year and next. Starting in 2015 and beyond, the dornfelder will be ours. And two, I have agreed to sell a little bit of the chardonnay to Liquid Farm. They have been sourcing from this vineyard recently and would like to continue to. Also, I like Nikki and Jeff Nelson and want to help them out.
Is the idea to do Huber Vineyard estate designates, or blend the wine, or both?
We will do both a vineyard designate pinot noir as well as put some into our Sta. Rita Hills pinot noir bottling known as Summit. Chardonnay will likely be bottled as a Sta. Rita Hills chardonnay, which will be a new wine for Pali as the only chardonnays that we have produced up until now have been from Sonoma, the Charm Acres blend and one from Durell Vineyard.
You can try Pali’s current wines in their Funk Zone tasting room at 16 East Yanonali Street (open Mon.-Tue., 2-6 p.m.; Wed.-Thu., noon-6 p.m.; Fri.-Sat, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.), or see PaliWineCo.com.
You can try Huber’s wines by visiting their tasting room in the Sta. Rita Hills off of Highway 246 at 4892 Hapgood Road (open Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5p.m.; and Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.), or see HuberCellars.com.