Napa Valley AVA
Providing the groundwork for the next generation
Even though his invention of the Palmaz Coronary Stent has made him an international celebrity and a hero to millions who suffer coronary problems, it is easy to see where Dr. Julio Palmaz’s own heart is concentrated at the present time.
Now 63, the Argentine-born physician and his family have developed their Palmaz Vineyards winery into one of the great showplaces of the Napa Valley, and quite probably the entire wine world. But, it is important to emphasize that the new winery is a Palmaz Family operation, involving all existing members of the doctor’s immediate family.
Born in Buenos Aires, Dr. Palmaz and his wife Amalia and their infant daughter Florencia came to the United States in 1977 for his radiology residency at UC – Davis, the developmental campus for a great many of today’s celebrated winery owners and winemakers. Dr. Palmaz quickly became fascinated with winemaking and spent most of his off duty hours scouring nearby Napa Valley and its myriad of distinguished wineries. When the family left California for Texas in 1982, Amelia Palmaz extracted a promise from her husband to return one day to the area both loved so passionately.
That promise was fulfilled in 1996, at about the time the patent for Dr. Palmaz’s coronary stent was about to expire. Amalia Palmaz returned to Napa to find a piece of property the Palmaz Family could develop into vineyards and potentially a winery.
“To my mother’s surprise, she found a place she liked almost immediately,” explained Florencia Palmaz, 32, the official spokesperson for the operation. “It was an abandoned winery and vineyards in really deplorable condition and almost everyone thought she was a little crazy.”
The land was actually the historic old Cedar Knoll Winery of Henry Hagen that was built in 1881 and flourished until prohibition ended its existence in the first quarter of the 20th Century. The beautiful master house and the extensive grounds went untended while the vines lay fallow for the next eight decades.
Amalia Palmaz saw great potential in the site and thus began a herculean effort that lasted for seven years and finally reached fruition last year. Of the 600 total acres, some sixty are under vine at elevations of 400, 1200 And 1400 feet.
But the true diamond of the Palmaz effort is the winery itself, carved deeply into the face of Mount George, the mountain located due east of Napa City. The complex is an incredible series of tunnels and lofty domes that rises to the equivalent of an 18-story building. Finished in 2007, Palmaz Vineyards is an exquisite and exacting feat of engineering that gives home to Dr. Julio Palmaz’s pet theory of winemaking---usage of true gravity flow winemaking.
“My father is forever the researcher.” Florencia added. “He decided that when using gravity flow techniques, the wine is never subjected to the violent agitation of pumping, which can change the wine’s intra-molecular structure. This gentle treatment allows the finest nuances of flavor to develop naturally—the result is a complex, elegant wine.”
In order to accomplish his purpose, Palmaz was instrumental in what has become the largest unsupported (unreinforced, meaning no pillars were used) soft rock excavation in the wine world. The entire system is maintained by a series of 16-foot rock bolts (every five feet) that are epoxied into the mountain.
Palmaz Vineyards first release of wine came in 2001 earned a series of rave reviews, even before the entire winery was even finished. Only 1200 cases were initially produced and that number has grown only slightly since then. Around 2000 cases will be made available this year, and that figure seems to represent the company’s goals for the near future.
Palmaz Vineyards is a family affair in the finest tradition. Julio Palmaz still spends a part of his time in the winery operation. All other family members spend 100% of their efforts on behalf of Palmaz Vineyards. Amalia Palmaz is the president and oversees the day to day running of the winery. Florencia handles all the sales and marketing while her brother Christian Gaston is the director of operations. Christian’s wife, Jessica, is the director of hospitality.
“Our family’s goal was to establish something at Palmaz Vineyards that was to serve the needs of our family, both now and for our later descendents, “finalized Florencia Palmaz. “My age group will provide the groundwork and the next generation will hopefully take it to the next level.”