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In-Depth with Christina Pallmann
By 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.

Christina 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.

Fritz Winery
24691 Dutcher Creek Rd.
Cloverdale, CA 95425
(707) 894-3389

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..


Q. 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”.

Q. 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 58% uninoculated.”

Q. Uninoculated?

“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.”

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Fritz 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.

John Haggard and David Defries are co-owners of Sophie’s Cellars, The Sonoma Wine and Cheese Market. Each Wednesday, when the store is closed, John tours wineries, vineyards, cellars, speaking to the people from grape-growers to winemakers who create the fine wines of Sonoma. Sophie’s Cellars presents one of the most extensive and unique collections of limited production Sonoma Wine. Buy wine online at or visit the boutique wine store at 20293 Hwy 116, Monte Rio, California, open each day 11am-7pm, closed on Wednesdays.

Beyond The Article

View Wineries By Appellation
View Wineries By Destination
Alexander Valley
Chalk Hill

Dry Creek Valley

Green Valley


Russian River Valley

Sonoma Coast

The appellations of northwest Sonoma County. Each with its own distinct growing conditions. It is said that if a grape grows anywhere in the world, there is a place in Sonoma County were it grows well.

Dry Creek Road

Olivet Road

Westside Road

View wineries by destination. Learn about the area and read more on the winery websites.

This is also a great section to browse if you are visting the Russian River. Within the appellations listed to the left, these destinations have the perfect blend of wineries open to the public and great scenery.

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