Patience Is a Virtue at Palmer Vineyards

The winemaker’s hands. • Photo courtesy of Palmer Vineyards

The Spanish word reposo translates as “rest” or “repose” in English, but both those words fail to communicate its nuances. Reposar (the verb) has a kind of patient waiting meaning; it is a surrender to the magic that reveals itself only over time, in stillness.

Which is why Reposo is such a perfect name for the seductive and aromatic wine that Palmer Vineyard’s  winemaker Miguel Martin released last year and which is only available in limited quantities. The toffee, caramel and almond notes of this wine could only come from a long and painstaking process of blending and waiting patiently for beautiful things to happen.

“It started in 2008,” says Martin. The Riverhead vineyard, founded in 1983, is one of the region’s oldest and Martin has been winemaker since 2006. “The idea emerged toward the end of the harvest. I noticed that the Gewürztraminer looked very healthy and thought it would be very interesting to allow it to stay on the vines for a prolonged period. I selected two rows and left them as you would for a late harvest wine. When we harvested, it was the second week of November. The grapes had become like raisins on the vine. There was botrytis (a beneficial fungus vital to sweeten and flavor late harvest wines).

“I took the mature fruit and allowed it to ferment with the skins then put it in an old barrel. Then as it evolved I bought a barrel that had been used for brandy, so I did a type of solera process. I chose a variety that is very aromatic. Then I let it age for eight years.”

Don’t Wine About the Wait

Solera is a complicated Spanish-Portuguese system of fractional blending and aging of different vintages in a systematic way which requires a spread sheet to understand. The full process takes place over many years and lends complexity and also uniformity to a blend so that each year the characteristics remain the same.

Martin adapted this process to allow his wine to acquire the complexity of the wine and brandy that had matured in the barrels before he used them for the late harvest Gewürztraminer. This is not the first time Martin has brought innovations to Palmer from his many years of winemaking in his native Spain (he has also worked in California, Australia and Chile). He first planted Albariño—a grape most associated with Galicia where he got his first job out of college–at Palmer in 2007 and it is now a local favorite. He loves to experiment, he says. “It is how you express yourself as a winemaker.”

Designed to be Sipped Slowly

Reposo, Martin says, was created to be sipped slowly. While other types of wines are meant to get the party started or wake up your appetite or make harmonies with your food, Reposo, like its name, is meant to slow the drinker into quiet contemplation.

The contemplation absorbs all the senses. The bottle is sleek and simple, the wine itself a golden amber that glows. The nose is light honey and caramel. The mouthfeel is slightly more dense than a regular wine, but lifts off the tongue lightly. And the flavors of buttery toffee, toasted nuts and dried fig develop as you sip. As for the fifth sense—hearing—, Reposo asks for quiet in a noisy world.

“Reposo signifies tranquility,” says Martin. “To repose, to leave the agitation and rush of the day behind. It should be drunk unhurriedly, absorbed slowly at the end of a day when you can slow down and take time to enjoy it. It is a wine to separate you from the day and submerge yourself into.”

Martin made only 450 bottles of Reposo and they have been going steadily since it was released, so you should get a bottle sooner rather than later. But once it is in your possession, you can slow down, take your time, get around to it when—and only when—you are good and ready.

“It has spent eight years in a barrel,” says Martin. “It will last a long time.”