Steppin’ Out – Palissandro Vineyard and Winery “La Dolce Vita”

PalissandroA couple of weeks ago I received a call inviting me to a “Release Party and Grape Stomp” and Palissandro Winery in Fair Play. Although I have been following and writing about the wine industry in El Dorado County since the early 1970s, I had never heard of this winery, so I did a bit of research on their very professional webpage.

Palissandro Vineyards and Winery is the dream of Shaun and Jeannine Blaylock. When Jeannine was a little girl, her Grandfather, who had come to the United States from Catania, Sicily when he was 17 years old, made wine for the family.

He purchased zinfandel grapes from the hills of Milpitas and did a custom crush each year at a local winery. Two to three barrels were made annually for personal consumption and to share with family and friends.

He taught Jeannine’s father how to make wine and Jeannine has fond memories of the family working together during the fall crush.

Jumping forward a few decades, after years in the corporate world the Blaylocks decided they wanted a simpler lifestyle, so in January of 2009 they flew to Idaho to explore cattle ranches. But, Jeannine found Idaho too void for a native California girl.

In the spring of that same year, after helping Robert Van der Vijver prune his Barbara grapes, Van der Vijver informed the Blaylocks that the acreage adjacent to his vineyard and winery was available and they bought it.

The Blaylocks, with the help of Van de Vijver, spent many days deciding what style of wine they wanted to produce. After many samples, they picked the wine style of Northern Italy. These wines lend themselves to being fruit forward, having a full mouth feel and minimal tannins so they would finish softly.

Again with the help of Van der Vijver they purchased local grapes and made their first wines in the fall of 2009, literally by hand.

Since both the Blaylocks loved roses and planted many rose bushes on the property, they thought “Rosewood” might be a nice name for the winery. Their friends thought it sounded too commercial and that they should look for a more Italian name to match their wines. After going through name after name, Jeannine put rosewood into their English to Italian translator and up popped “Palissandro.” They had found the name.

Although they are presently relying on grapes from local growers, they have planted a number of varietals in their own vineyard. These include nebbiolo, a red grape that is used to produce Barolo and Barbaresco from Italy’s Piedmont region; montipulciano, another red grape and the primary grape of the world famous wines known as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo; pinot grigo, a grape used to make Italy’s most popular white wine that hails from the northeast region of Veneto and Friuli in Northern Italy; barbera, a red grape that grows fantastically well in the higher part of the Sierra Foothills and the most famous Italian wine grape of all, sangiovese.

“I make my wines the old fashioned way,” said Shaun Blaylock when I asked him about the numerous containers of fermenting wine around the winery building. “Except for the pinot grigio, none of my wines is touched by stainless steel and everything is done by hand.

“I have 130 barrels arriving shortly, some new, some that have been used for one year and some that are neutral. There is a lot of wine ready to go into them.”

“We don’t just buy grapes from other growers,” added son Brandon Blaylock, “we are very involved in how they are grown and handled before they are picked.”

The “Release Party and Grape Stomp” took place next to their winery, outside in our wonderful October weather. The food, which was “Oktoberfest” in character, was prepared by them, delicious and paired nicely with their wines. Although open to the public for a nominal cost, it was just one of the many spectacular events they hold for their wine club membership.

Presently their wines that are available in the tasting room, all of which I found are very nice, include 2012 Pinot Grigio, 2011 Rosa, non-vintage Vino Da Tavola (Wine of the Table), 2010 Barbera, 2010 Felice (a Super-Tuscan blend), the newly released 2010 Sangiovese and their non-vintage Vino Dolce (a port style wine). It is a small winery, so the amount of wine is limited.

Palissandro is real family winery with both Shaun and Jeannine, along with son Brandon and daughter Lauren, very involved in the business. It is located at 7449 Fairplay Road (between Van der Vijver and Granite Springs wineries). Their very friendly tasting room is open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For more information call (530) 620-2063 or visit their webpage at www.palissandrowinery.com.

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