with Christina Pallmann
RussianRiverTravel.com Writers John Haggard & David Defries
Editor's Summary: Christina
Pallmann is one of the intriguing wine figures of Northern California. For this
article John and David have a personal interview with her. Learn about Christina's
life path that has taken her from working with world-renowned Michel Rolland at
Chateaux Le Bon Pasteur in Bordeaux to Sonoma's "Queen of Pinot Noir"
Merry Edwards, and now as Winemaker at Fritz Winery in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley
where Christina is creating exquisite 90+ wines.
Pallmann, Winemaker from Fritz Vineyards & “Chance”
“You really don’t need to know where you are
going until you’re thirty”, sound advice, Christina recalls of her
mother. And, accordingly, in her thirties, Christina Pallmann was offered the
prestigious position of winemaker at Fritz Winery in Sonoma’s Dry Creek
working closely with Merry Edwards for her first two years.
We spent a charming evening at Christina’s home in
Healdsburg, California, discovering how she came to this point in her life, receiving
91 pts from Wine & Spirits for the Fritz Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2004
and 90 pts for the Fritz Russian River Pinot Noir 2004 Clonal Select.
“Actually my mother was full of sound advice”,
Christina interjects with a half-smile, “Watch out for the men who are ski
instructors in the winter and tennis instructors in the summer”.
Undoubtedly Christina Pallmann is an individualist.
She has worked with the best in the wine industry from France to Sonoma. A child
of a German diplomat, born in Canada, raised in South Africa and Germany, educated
in France and Berkeley, California, she is a child of the world who has spent
her life a foreigner. Her wines are as individual as Christina.
24691 Dutcher Creek Rd.
Cloverdale, CA 95425
The Tasting Room is open daily 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Christina’s “European accent”, influenced
by so many of her homelands, causes her voice to rise and fall in tone as the
hills of Sonoma, which, infused with her infectious giggle commands us to put
down the Fritz Sauvignon Blanc we were gleefully sipping (a lovely, crisp, Sauvignon
Blanc with intense citrus flavors and an herbaceous mid-palate, with lingering
white grapefruit on the finish) and, “ooh let’s have the Chardonnay
with the Clarines.” The fine acidic balance of Christina’s 2004 Fritz
Russian River Valley Chardonnay was the perfect compliment to each bite of our
rich soft-ripened Clarines cheese from France, which by now was an oozing golden
creamy mound in its pot, outshone in brilliance only by the glorious straw color
of the Fritz Chardonnay.
“My sister did an exchange with the Louis
Latour Family in Burgundy,” Christina mentions between Clarines and Chardonnay,
“The Latour grand-daughter and my brother fell in love.” Visiting
the Latours at their chateaux made quite an impression on a teenage Christina
and, as is the way in France, Christina got to try some of the finest wines of
the world from some of the most prestigious cellars, long before she was twenty-one..
What was it like working with Merry Edwards?
“I loved working with her, she has my deepest respect.”
Merry and Christina had their work cut out for them when they arrived at Fritz
Vineyards in 2002. The winery wanted a new direction and with Christina and the
consultations of Merry Edwards, they found their way. A facelift was performed
from the vineyards to the label. Production was pulled back to 3,000 cases while
tough changes were made. The winery is back up to 18,000 cases today.
One of Merry’s influences can be seen in the
variety of clonal work. For example in the new chardonnay blend, they introduced
the Wente and Rued clones, which Merry brought up from Mount Eden. They have also
released a reserve Pinot call the “Clonal Select”.
So what about this Chardonnay?
“Picked early, during the cool part of the morning.
Kept cold, whole cluster pressed, straight to the tank and let it settle overnight.
Then, down in the barrel room for 100% malolactic fermentation. This chard was
“It’s a California tradition to introduce a
pure strain of yeast into the must to control fermentation. But, yeast exists
everywhere, Kloechera may be brought in from the vineyard. It produces a very
pretty floral aroma but is only an early fermenter. No matter how clean your environment,
there’s always an innoculum present. In the winery, you can expect to be
exposed to Saccharomyces (the ‘in-house flora’) a strong alcohol fermentor.
If you’re lucky, you start with Kloechera and end with Saccharomyces.”
Winery is located in Dry Creek California at 24691 Dutcher Creek Road, Cloverdale,
CA. Telephone 707.894.3389. Tasting room open daily 10:30am to 4:30pm.
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