Palmina: A Focus on Wine and the Plate

palminaPalmina is more than a winery. It’s a philosophy, a passion and a strongly held belief that wine is an extension of the plate, a component of a meal and a means to bring people together.

Formed by winemaker Steve Clifton in 1995, Palmina is named in honor of Steve’s great friend, Paula. Like a grandmother to him, she taught Steve to love cooking and wine, and the Italian lifestyle became a spark in his life. After Paula succumbed to breast cancer, Steve found that her given name on her Italian birth certificate was Palmina, and the winery was thus fittingly named.

Serendipity intervened in 2000 when Steve became more in contact with Italian winemaker mentors and needed to find someone who spoke Italian. He was advised that a manager at a local restaurant was fluent and was introduced to Chrystal Seals, who not only provided the needed translation but shared his passion for wine, food and all things Italian. Chrystal soon became involved in all aspects of Palmina, and the couple was married in Friuli, Italy in the spring of 2004.

Steve produced the first Palmina wines in the basement of his home in 1995. His career in the wine industry had begun in 1991 when he left his previous incarnations as a musician and nightclub entrepreneur behind and decided to beg his way into a tasting room position at Rancho Sisquoc Winery. Little by little, he worked his way into the cellar and, in time, became the assistant winemaker there.

Over the next few years, Steve’s on-the-job schooling would include production and winemaking positions at Beckmen, Brander and Domaine Santa Barbara wineries. Steve met Greg Brewer in 1995 and formed the partnership that became Brewer-Clifton, a winery devoted solely to vineyard-designated Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Sta. Rita Hills appellation in western Santa Barbara County.

Chrystal (Seals) Clifton went to Italy to study film and communications for her college years abroad and fell in love with the entire culture of wine and food. Studying at the University of Bologna, she returned to the United States and the Santa Barbara area fluent in Italian, passionate about food and wine, and with a yearning to return to Italy.

Realizing that the lifestyle she loved so much in Italy could be attained here, in 2000 she joined Palmina and became involved in all aspects of the growing business. With her language skills and background, she is invaluable in forging the relationships with wine producers in Italy that have provided phenomenal insight in forming Palmina’s philosophy and style.

Today, Palmina produces a full range of wines crafted from Italian varietals grown in Santa Barbara County. Palmina is not trying to emulate the Italian versions of those wines, but rather translate the history of the grapes to the growing conditions and vineyard sites of the unique characteristics of Santa Barbara. The wines are Italian by inspiration with flavors rooted in Santa Barbara, and each is intended to be a delicious component of a meal.

In Italy, food and wine are part of a healthy, happy way of life that brings people together. Palmina wines are made in a deliberate manner that allows each to complement food. Indeed, the wines are simply a part of the meal — an extension of the plate.

Palmina is all about relationships that bring people back to the table to sustain themselves with good wine and food, conversation and a small respite from the hustle and bustle of today’s world. Palmina crafts wines that are a key part of that equation — wines that can be enjoyed everyday, and that complement and enhance a wide range of food styles.

Steve Clifton recently launched a new endeavor. It’s called La Voix, and is focused on upscale Pinot Noir. That’s a French variety, which is why you won’t find it under the Palmina name.

But if La Voix delivers on quality like Palmina and Brewer-Clifton have, you can bet the wine will be sublime.

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Palmina Wines is open for tasting Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1520 East Chestnut Court in Lompoc, Calif. For further information or directions, call 805-735-2030.

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