Growing up in an Italian family in Philadelphia, Michael’s first passion was food, and he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York straight out of high school. It was while at the CIA that he was introduced to and fell in love with wine. After getting a bachelor’s degree from UNLV, Michael moved to Napa to begin his journey in the wine world with a harvest job at Neyers Vineyards. He stayed on for several years as cellar master at Neyers, then worked harvests in Italy and New Zealand before settling as assistant winemaker at Failla Wines under Ehren Jordan, where together they produced a wine named Wine of the Year by Wine Enthusiast in 2008. After Failla, Michael consulted for Fred Schrader of Schrader Cellars on a vineyard development project on the Sonoma Coast, and then landed as head winemaker at Adobe Road Winery. For seven years there (the final three with Palmer as his assistant winemaker), Michael produced a wide variety of highly rated and award winning wines from grapes grown all over Sonoma and Napa, including Cabernet Sauvignon from the Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard.
Palmer followed a series of passions in his life that ultimately led him to wine. A world-class alpine skier in his youth, Palmer competed in NCAA Division I for Bowdoin College and continued his skiing career post-college on the international level racing all over the world. Next he pursued a passion for filmmaking, attaining a Master of Arts degree from NYU-Tisch School of the Arts, and later moving to Hollywood to embark on a ten-year career in feature film production. During that time Palmer pursued another of his passions in his spare time – wine – taking sommelier courses at night to receive advanced certification with distinction from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET). Eventually wine surpassed film as Palmer’s chief passion and he transitioned full time to the wine business, inspired in no small part by his introduction to Michael Scorsone a few years earlier by a mutual friend of theirs. Palmer moved to wine country in 2011 to attend Sonoma State University’s Wine MBA program, and a few months later Michael said, “Hey, do you want to make some wine together?” And here we are…
The wines we make under the Domenica Amato label, named for my paternal grandmother, are sourced from small, family-owned vineyards and hand-made with passion and authenticity using old-world methods.
Growing up as the son of an Italian immigrant, food and wine were an important part of our family life. My father and uncles would make wine every year in our garage, and the extended family would regularly gather for Sunday dinners featuring my grandmother’s freshly baked bread.
Literally translated, my grandmother’s name means “Sunday love” – each bottle not only honors her memory but also expresses my passion for food and wine that was first stoked at those Sunday dinner tables and developed along my journey from culinary school to my winemaking career.
Domenica Amato focuses on the Rhône varieties Grenache and Grenache Blanc, as well as blends featuring those grapes, with additional offerings each year that may change based on the discovery of an exciting new vineyard source or the desire to experiment with different varieties, styles or blends. As part of our constant exploration of both old and new methods to make unique and distinctive wines, we ferment and/or age some of our wines in clay amphorae and concrete egg, and make some of our white wines with skin-contact.
Crafted to be food-friendly and elegantly rustic, I hope you will enjoy our Domenica Amato wines with your loved ones around the Sunday dinner table.
– Michael Scorsone, Owner & Winemaker
My grandfather James Palmer was a small town man who kept things simple. From his childhood picking peaches and pears in my great-grandfather’s orchards, to building his electrical contracting business Palmer Electric, to serving four terms as judge in the Placerville Justice Court, he lived his life by two simple credos – if you want something done right do it yourself, and don’t put up with any bullshit.
Our approach to winemaking echoes the lessons I learned from my grandfather Judge Palmer – simple, straightforward, and honest. My business partner Michael Scorsone and I learned winemaking the hard way, paying our dues with long hours of hard work in the cellar. We make the wines ourselves at our small artisan winery outside of Healdsburg, and launched and operate the business with no investors, no consultants, and no employees.
Judge Palmer produces Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietal wines from grapes grown in both Napa Valley and Sonoma County. We maintain collaborative and long-term relationships with growers who share our commitment to quality and sustainable winegrowing.
All of our wines across both labels are fermented naturally with native yeasts and no additives other than the minimum necessary sulfur are used during production.
We believe that the honesty and passion with which we make our wines will shine through and resonate – but you can be the judge of that. Try a bottle with a jury of your peers.
– Palmer Emmitt, Owner & Winemaker