Home California Wine Maker Superheroes: Steve Clifton is Superman; Palmina Wines and Brewer-Clifton

Wine Maker Superheroes: Steve Clifton is Superman; Palmina Wines and Brewer-Clifton


This is the fourth Superhero Wine Maker dedication in an on going series appearing here (though there has also been one Superhero Wine Writer dedication in the series). To follow the ongoing series on Wine Maker Superheroes click here: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/tag/wine-maker-superhero/

Steve Clifton is Superman

click on comic to enlarge

The legend of Superman presents the American dream of a great ideal–the man so driven by principles of goodness he is strengthened beyond all others to fulfill the demands of integrity in the greater world. Though we might treat Superman as an overly naive mythology, the story’s design reveals its recognition of darker forces through Superman’s demand to carry a dual identity. He must remain hidden from the larger world which he strives to protect.

Still, even in Superman’s Alter Ego, Clark Kent, his full alignment with higher law is evident. Bumbling Kent can’t help but be good. Revealed in the Gemini presentation of Superman/Clark Kent we witness an important lesson. It is only in a thorough integration of our principles with our desires, our need to be close to others, and even our anger, that we have the strength to do what is right. It is only as he lives from his fuller Superman self, complete with oppositional energies such as lust for Lois Lane, vulnerable need for love relationships, and anger or grief for loss of others that our hero is able to embody the superpowers that set him apart. Clark Kent’s goodness is too narrow and naive for him to act with genuine power.

A further lesson generated by Superman’s gifts can be found in his aura of grace shown through his determination to be part of his community, rather than separate from it. Even as his powers would seem to set him apart, Superman utilizes his dual identity not only to protect the fate of those he loves, but also to allow the community to celebrate together in his protective accomplishments. He has no need to hold the credit only for himself.

Steve Clifton

Through his Palmina Wines, Steve Clifton carries an impressive portfolio of Italian varieties grown in the greater Lompoc region of California. The sheer number of wines produced under the Palmina label (and its sister rosé, Botasea di Palmina, made by Steve Clifton’s lovely wife, Chrystal) in itself reveals an ability to juggle a wealth of projects simultaneously. However, beyond the work of Palmina, Clifton also co-produces with Greg Brewer a complete portfolio of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir through the Brewer-Clifton label.

The quantity of wines would be an unimportant point to raise except for the fact that each bottling offers a wonderful balance of each of the three reasons to drink wine–pleasure, interest, and food pairing. Katherine and I were lucky enough to spend an extended morning with Steve Clifton tasting through the Palmina portfolio (review comics to come tomorrow). What impressed us both during the tasting was how clearly designed to drink with a meal the Palmina wines are. That said, these are not food wines in a narrow sense. Instead, these are clean, well-balanced wines that offer intellectual engagement in a relaxing presentation. There is enough to think about here, but the smarts of the wines are well grounded in a body of pleasure. By the end of the tasting, I told Steve that I’d happily want a blind case of Palmina in my house–even if there are several that stood out for me as favorites, any of the wines would be a welcome addition to my kitchen.

Considering the quality of quantity that Clifton manages to produce in wine serves as a strong first step for establishing a wine maker superhero, but it is how he develops community around his wine that moves him into the pinnacle superhero position as Superman. In talking with Clifton about his goals as a wine maker, he emphasizes his interest in sustainability. Considering the popularity of the word in the United States right now, the idea might not sound impressive. What does stand out is Clifton’s own awareness of what he means by sustainability, and the way in which he follows through on the concept.

As Clifton emphasizes, the notion of sustainability only matters when it makes contact with the way people live their daily lives. While we of course need to cultivate the health of our surrounding earthly environment, it is in seeing how integral to and dependent upon that environment we are that we begin to make a difference in each others and our own lives. Sustainability, then, also depends upon cultivating sustainable community and community relationships. As such, Clifton focuses on developing liveable conditions for his vineyard and wine making employees. In doing so, he also perpetuates a sense of longer term involvement for his employees such that their work includes the benefit of knowledge gained from time. Additionally, by establishing an on going work relationship, employees are able to directly witness, and enjoy the benefits of their own good work.

The refrain heard across California wine country during our travels was that there is a labor shortage–it’s hard enough to find people to maintain the vineyards and harvest the grapes that there is an honest concern over losing fruit before it can be turned into wine. Clifton has helped himself avoid much of this difficulty, however, by establishing on going employees that work with his label consistently throughout the year, thus getting to know the vineyards, while also being able to focus on the daily health of their own families simply by having the luxury of living in one place throughout the year. In these ways, Clifton supports not only the quality of his own wine label, but also the healthy living conditions of his employees.

Further extending his care for the greater community, proceeds from a couple of Palmina’s wines are also donated to charity. The Rosato di Palmina, for example, generates donations for helping to find a cure for breast cancer.

As if his incredible quality focused production abilities, dedication to sustainability, and cultivation of community health weren’t enough, Clifton seals his status as Superman through the unassuming character of his Palmina profile. The goals of the label are centrally dedicated to being food wine. In this way, Palmina presents itself not as a show off wine, but as an integral aspect of a meal, holding a persona meant not to upstage its surroundings, but integrate into it.


Tomorrow we’ll look at some of the individual wines from Palmina through wine review comics.

Thank you to Steve Clifton for taking time to meet us. We’re both so grateful.

Thank you to Seth Kunin for helping me schedule time with Steve.

Thank you to Dan Fredman for helping me move from typing “rose’ ” to typing “rosé.” I’m so excited by that I can’t even tell you.

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