Sunday, March 06, 2011

Palaia Vineyards in the Hudson Valley

Palaia Vineyards, pronounced "Pa-Lie-Ahh", is named for the winemaker's grandfather, Angelo Palaia who emigrated here from Italy and passed his winemaking skills on to his son and grandson. Jan and Joe Palaggi bought Sweet Clover Farm that has been in the Hudson Valley for over 200 years. Once a dairy farm, it is now home to over 10 acres of vineyards with more planned for the future. The 200- year old bank barn had been restored over the last 3 years and is now a beautiful, clean winery on the lower level, with storage and a tasting room above preserving the look and feel of the historical building. The barn required major structural re-engineering, and was lovingly restored.

I recently visited Jan at the winery. First I went down stairs to see the tank room. To make the space usable down stairs, they had to lower the floor by almost three feet, and poured a brand new floor.

The size of the barn down stairs provided exceptional space for many, many tanks. At the far end of the barn, they had obliterated the floor, thus giving the downstairs a room that reaches more than 20 feet into the air, where they rested three huge 1,200 gallon variable capacity jacketed stainless steel tanks.

Everything was clean and bright, and well taken care of. Jan was right to be proud of her set up in the tank room.

Upstairs, I was pleased to see a beat-up, dog-eared copy of WOODSTOCK: Three Days That Rocked the World, Edited by Mike Evans and Paul Kingsbury with a foreword by Martin Scorsese on one of the tables in her tasting room, since it was published by Sterling Publishing Company. It might seem silly to point that out, but it's not. It's an important point about Palaia Vineyards - they were into Woodstock and classic rock. Peace signs and tie-dye are ubiquitous in the tastingroom, which is a part of who Jan and Joe are. And they love music.

The tastingroom is beautifully appointed. The walls of the tasting room say "old barn," but the style of the room is much more sophisticated than that. The room is festooned with antique furniture and shelves all of which feature their wines.

OK, the wines.

But first a note about the labels. They are very fun. Each label features a vintage photo that date as far back as the 1800’s on both sides of their family, but sometimes they sneak a modern one in there just for fun. The photos are on display at the winery along the stairway entrance to the tasting room.

The first wine I had was a Merlot 2005. The wine was incredible. It was a light-to-medium bodied red, with a nice medium-to-deep color. There was a lot of bright raspberry and vanilla on the nose, and both came through on the palate. Great fruit, with nice acidity and smooth tannins. It was very lovely, almost Burgundian in style. Wonderful!

The second wine I had was the Cabernet Franc 2006. The wine was a beautiful bright red in the glass. Here, there was bright cherry on the nose, with a whiff of vanilla. Again, beautiful light fruit up front, bright , bright sour cherry, almost like a Pinot Noir. But with the classic touch of pepper so common to Cab franc, it finished smooth, with medium acidity and soft but persistent tannins. Again, very, very nice.

The last one I tried was their Lemberger 2006. I am not a fan of Lemberger. I have had a slew of New York Lembergers and I have not been overwhelmed. The Lemberger I have liked best was down from New Jersey where their number of hot sunny days made the difference for me. Many NY state Lembergers are made into blends, but Palaia's is straight 100% estate grown Lemberger. So I tried Jan's Lemberger with some trepidation. Palaia's wine had a deeper color, with a nose that was a big hit of bright sour cherry. There was a touch of smokiness to it. But the fruit was bright and fresh. This was in actuality a nice, soft wine. The nice thing about Palaia's version of this grape was that the fruit was there, but it wasn't overpowering. Again, it was in the realm of a light-to-medium Pinot Noir. Many Lembergers are high in acidity with tannins of varying degrees. This had a nice combination of acidity and tannins. There was great mouthfeel on this wine. It finished smooth and evenly. A wonderful wine. Instantly my favorite New York state Lemberger!

Palaia is a fun place to visit. They have two large rooms off the tasting room - one is a banquet room, and the other is an enclosed, heated porch where often feature musical guests.