Spilling South: Santa Barbara’s Pali Wine Co. Expands with SoCal Tasting Rooms

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
photos by Bob Dickey and Pali Wine Co.
updated 10/24/16

Pali Wine Co.'s new San Diego tasting room is in the Little Italy neighborhood

In what is a first for any Santa Barbara winery, Pali Wine Co. is spreading south.

The popular premium wine producer already has a presence on the Central Coast, with tasting rooms in both Lompoc and downtown Santa Barbara’s buzzy Funk Zone.  This past weekend, Pali opened up a much-anticipated tasting room in San Diego’s vibrant Little Italy neighborhood.  And by this time next year, it plans welcome wine seekers with tasting rooms in Anaheim and the thriving Arts District in Downtown L.A.

“Our biggest goal is to increase our direct-to-consumer sales,” Pali winemaker Aaron Walker told me this week.  The winery currently leans on distributors to sell its wines, with margins that are comparatively slimmer.  Tasting rooms allow wineries to circumvent third-party distribution and sell wines straight to the public, allowing for bigger profits, more wine club sign-pus and better image control.

Aaron Walker (Dickey photo)
“Our Santa Barbara tasting room has done very well in the last four years,” Walker continues, “so our owners are making a real push to replicate that model in similar neighborhoods."

Indeed, the success of Pali’s expansion will hinge in large part on location.  Think of the dramatic rise in appeal of Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone; an area once avoided by most locals now attracts steady foot traffic with hip happenings and stylish storefronts both day and night.  Little Italy, just north of downtown San Diego, is similar in its appeal, with vibrant culture, trendy restaurants and stylish stores all rolled into one.  Anaheim, famous forever for little more than Disneyland, is in the midst of a significant revamp which has led to a new batch of culinary and entertainment venues, from craft breweries to vintage shops.  And the Arts District, a once-gritty industrial zone in the eastern edge of Downtown L.A., now features a thriving street scene and a bevy of eclectic shops.

One common thread: “Up and coming, highly populated urban areas with high visibility and high foot traffic,” says Walker.  Prime for the direct-to-consumer model.

Pali’s San Diego tasting room is on Little Italy’s tourist-friendly India Street and features its various vineyard- and appellation-specific pinot noir and chardonnay wines, as well as Central Coast Rhone and Bordeaux varieties from its sister label, Tower 15.  The facility also offers eight rotating wines on tap, both for wines-by-the-glass and refills under Pali’s popular growler program.  A small-plate menu is also available, with items like charcuterie boards and seasonal, regional selections of snacks and fruits.  The space was also designed with a small wine-production space, which will allow Walker to build on a wine program launched last year that sources grapes from northeastern San Diego County.  “It’s our way of offering our wide range of wines while also keeping these locations local,” adds Walker, a San Diego State grad who lived in San Diego for 12 years before moving to Santa Barbara to make wine.  This year marks his 10th harvest with Pali Wine Co.
Pali Wine Co.'s new San Diego digs
Leveraging the appeal of small neighborhoods has always been part of the Pali persona, actually.  “Pali” is the colloquial nickname for Pacific Palisades, the seaside Southern California hometown of co-founders Tim Perr and Scott Knight (and this writer, coincidentally).  Many of their wines even bear the names of quaint Palisades communities, like Huntington, Bluffs and Riviera.  The label makes about 20,000 cases of wine a year out of its state-of-the-art Lompoc winery.

Find out more at paliwineco.com.


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