Palisades Wine Group Offers Pinot Noir

Two of the Pali Wine owners Scott Knight (left) and Tim Perr, who started their wine business with Judy Perr in January 2005.
Two of the Pali Wine owners Scott Knight (left) and Tim Perr, who started their wine business with Judy Perr in January 2005.
Photo by Rich Schmitt, Staff Photographer

Scott Knight and his partners, Tim and Judy Perr, already had a successful business in Pacific Palisades when they decided to launch a new venture: Pali Wine. The three, who freely admit they were amateurs when it came to wine production, have an actuarial consulting firm (Perr & Knight) in the 881 Alma Real building. The company was founded in 1994 and has 100 full-time employees across the country, with offices in Irvine, Jersey City and Boca Raton. Their business is solid and growing, so what would possess them to enter a field as speculative as producing and selling wine? ‘It evolved out of drinking wine,’ Tim Perr said. ‘Judy and I enjoyed visiting wineries and collecting wines and the business became intriguing to us.’ The Perrs (who live in the Palisades) and Knight gathered equally enthusiastic wine-drinking friends and co-workers to start a company, and were ‘cheeky’ enough to vow they wouldn’t be satisfied unless it featured a quality pinot noir. ‘We didn’t want to make an average wine,’ Tim said. ‘We want the best fruit and best winemaker and yet keep the prices as low as possible.’ They started by convincing Brian Loring, a legendary pinot noir winemaker in Lompoc, to craft the wine. Their enthusiasm and a plan to produce single-vineyard wines finally convinced Loring and, in January 2005, Pali Wine came into existence. Next, the group had to find the right grapes, because most had already been promised to other wineries. Oregon’s Shea Vineyards had offered fruit to Loring and he gave some to Pali Wine, along with grapes from Durell (Sonoma) that he didn’t need for his own production. ‘He was completely instrumental,’ Judy Perr said. ‘He could have had sold the grapes to anyone, but he sold to us.’ The Palisades group also secured small amounts of grapes from Inman Olivet (Russian River), Carasacchi Jalamas (Lompoc), and Turner Vineyards (Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara). When the grapes were harvested, the 20 partners and additional friends worked the ‘crush’ at Lompoc, which meant they de-stemmed, pulled off leaves and separated other undesirable material from the grapes. ‘The first few years, we had no paid labor whatsoever,’ said Knight, a Santa Monica resident who admitted that the agricultural community surprised them because, ‘people at other wineries are willing to help you out and you do the same for them.’ ‘The people in the wine business are down-to-earth,’ Tim noted. ‘Everyone does business on a handshake and everyone keeps their word.’ The Pali Wine group’s next decision was whether to use corks, because corks cause between five and 10 percent of wines to become tainted with trichloroanisole (TCA), which is harmless but gives the wine a bad taste. ‘About one bottle out of every six has TCA,’ Judy said, ‘but the problem is people don’t think it’s a good wine unless it has a cork.’ Instead of a cork, Pali wines have a saranex liner that allows a small amount of air to leak into the bottle, which is how wines age with a cork. In 2005, the Pali Wine Company produced 1,300 cases of pinot noir and received high grades from various wine tasters. One-third of their product was sold through mailing lists and the rest wholesale in 13 states. In 2006, the group retained the same vineyards and added Fiddlestix (Santa Rita Hills), Morntazi (Willamette Valley, Oregon) and Keefer Ranch (Russian River). They produced 3,000 cases and were licensed in 26 states. From the 2007 harvest, they project that they will have 4,000 cases from 11 vineyards and will reach 40 states. ‘We’re also looking toward the international market,’ Knight said. Last year, the group purchased their own winery in Lompoc, which they share with their friend Brian Loring. ‘We built a winery that we could all fit into,’ Knight said. Pali wines continue to grow in popularity and continue to score in the 90’s. Anthony Dias Blue with the Blue Lifestyle Minute said, ‘Pali Wine Company’s 2006 Pinot Noir, Fiddlestix, Santa Rita Hills for $48 is the best I have tasted yet this year. At 94 points, this pinot is bright and juicy with black cherry and serious fruit.’ Pali Wine Company is also creating a special reserve with a Palisades theme. Although the Perrs live in the Huntington Palisades, the first two bottles will be called Albright and then Bestor, followed by other street names. Maybe Charm Acres? The company currently makes eight different pinot noirs that can be purchased at Gelson’s or by visiting www.paliwineco.com