If you’re a wine lover, you’ve most likely heard of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. These indigenous French varietals are the vetted stars of California wine production; they continue to make great juice in every style from crystalline sparkling to rich velvety red all up and down the west coast.
But there’s another family of varietals you may not have heard of. Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, and Barbera are the autochthonic varietals of the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy. Thin-skinned Nebbiolo, which derives its name from ‘neblina,’ Italian for fog, is the grape that produces powerhouses Barolo and Barbaresco, arguably Italy’s finest red wines. Darker, full-bodied Dolcetto and red-fruited Barbera tend to represent some of the highest quality, most food-friendly Piedmontese values on the market today. But they get next to no lip service from California producers.
Enter Steve Clifton, who had the bright idea of producing Piedmontese varietals right here, on the Central Coast. As he came up in ranks in the late ’80s early ’90s from sommelier to tasting room at Rancho Sisquoc and finally into the cellar, he realized that literally no one in California was producing Italian varietals. He saw this unique hole in the market and crafted his first vintage of Palmina wine in the basement of his home in 1995.