This is part of a continuing series of Q&As with members of the global wine community. Vintner Magazine will share business and personal insights from winery owners, vintners, marketing managers, sales directors, QCQA staff and others to help you get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.
Christian Gastón Palmaz
President & CEO, Palmaz Vineyards
VINTNER: Why did you enter the wine industry and what makes you love being a part of it and stay in it?
PALMAZ: Making wine is the ultimate pursuit of perfection. Through its process wine has infinite depth and dimension. After 25 years, I’m constantly humbled by the seemingly endless diversity of terroir this estate can offer our wine program. I’m not sure I will ever see the same vintage twice and that’s precisely why I’d spend lifetimes doing this if I could.
VINTNER: What do you feel have been new challenges in your position that have helped push you and make you better at your job?
PALMAZ: Winemaking is a very human craft. It requires healthy doses of intuition, artistic touch, and risk. Early in my career I had the privilege of working with giants. These were people such as Tina Mitchell and Mia Klein (executive winemakers at Palmaz Vineyards) who were at the tops of their careers. In order to add value I had to learn how to identify and solve problems that held back their creative potential, enhancing that critical human element in wine. Continuously developing innovative tools that truly add value has been a rewarding challenge that not only elevates the wine but also our entire team.
VINTNER: What strategic growth opportunity do you feel is still “out there” for your brand and how are you working on capitalizing on it this year?
PALMAZ: I believe that there is a higher level of connection to be had with our DTC customers. The Napa wine industry relies on a steady stream of visitation but I believe we can do better to maintain connections with our existing customers beyond periodic communications. I’m excited about several programs that the winery is developing that are meant to enrich the lives of our customers who graciously choose to make our wines the center of their tables.
VINTNER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the wine industry, what would it be?
PALMAZ: As one of the oldest manmade food products, wine is one of the most trusted products in consumer history. The food industry, by dabbling in additive innovation, lost a great deal of trust from the end consumer. Now as a result, most foods have to advertise what they don’t contain instead of what they do. The wine industry for now has retained its consumer trust, but as additive innovations creep into our industry, I believe it’s important to look to terroir for improvements in the wines and focus our innovations on observative techniques instead of additive ones.
VINTNER: Who is your mentor in the industry and what have you learned from them?
PALMAZ: I have been fortunate to have been influenced by some of the industry greats of Napa’s history. Early on, I learned the vine from Napa pioneer Richard Steltzner, the timeless wine styles of Randy Dunn, winery engineering from geotechnical geniuses Glen Ragsdale and Gram Wozencroft. Later I would have the privilege of working with the wonderful Mia Klein and of course Tina Mitchell. Each of these giants taught me quality came from the vineyard and was only maintained or lost in the winery. They emphasized the importance of making a wine that complimented the terroir and stewardship above all else.
VINTNER: How would you describe your winemaking philosophy and how has it evolved over the years?
PALMAZ:I used to believe that the winemaker could shape the style of wine significantly. After 26 harvests, I’ve come to realize that although you certainly can be iron-fisted with the wine program, it’s far more rewarding to allow the terroir to demonstrate its diversity and depth. These subtleties take time to develop, which is why I believe in eliminating pre-blending. The wines are best left in their fundamental components until the blending session 20 months or so later. This way the winemaker can “paint the painting” with as many colors as parcels/barrels in the program. Here is where you can really unlock the beauty and grace of a great winemaker.