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April 2019

Satellite Wine Club, April 2019

Domaine de l’Ecu - ‘Orthogneiss’ - Muscadet Sevre et Maine, 

Loire, FR 2016

Lieu Dit - ‘Melon’ - Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, CA 2017


Today we taste the salt of the sea, the crispiest apples, the silently rumbling fog, the spirit of great farmers, the ambition of wonderful winemakers. Today we get to know one of the great varietals of the world, if largely overlooked. IT’S MELON MONTH! 

No, Friend. Not Melon of the Water type, nor the Honeydew Variety… not even Sour Melon! No, something far more compelling, with more personality, more fervor, more friendliness as a pairing to fresh oysters. Melon de Bourgogne is the focus of our palates this month. An exceptional varietal, only grown exceptionally in exceptionally small parts of the exceptionally large globe. 

The motherland of this grape might be Burgundy, as one might infer from the ‘de bourgogne’ part of its name, however, it might as well be called Muscadet as it has so put this region on the map. While other grapes like Grolleau, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc are grown here the Melon de Bourgogne is the center of everyone’s attention. 

So what makes this grape special? Well let’s start with Ampelography. It’s got the ability to withstand the legendary frosts of the coastal lowlands of Southern Brittany and the Loire Coast. It is also resistant to Powdery Mildew and Eutypa Dieback (a really mean disease that kills the vines!). It’s hearty and resistant, like the coastal oyster industry of the french coast… something we really like to pair it with. 

The grape itself is the progeny of Pinot Noir, making it closely related to its brothers and sisters: Chardonnay, Aligoté, and Gamay Noir… It is sooooo close to Aligoté in flavor, texture, and weight they are easily mistaken. The fruit of this amazing grape is intensely Appley, like ripe yellow apples, and it’s equally intensely Salty!I love to imagine this wine as the flavor of a cool atlantic fog rolling through an apple orchard in the middle of harvest, smooshed apples underfoot and salt in the air. It’s a romantic scene that plays out perfectly on your tongue!

The higher quality wines of Muscadet are traditionally aged ‘sur-lie’ or ‘on the lees’ (the leftover dead yeast from fermentation). This adds a layer of complexity to the wines that tends to come across as richer texture, and as smokey, reductivity (if not agitated while aging), or as a brioche/baked note if the lees are stirred regularly (introducing more oxygen).  These wines can be extremely long lived, with deep layered spicey, vegetal, floral, and even cured flavor profiles. In terms of the great white wines of the world this has every bit of structural integrity (Acidity, Intensity, Texture, Body, and Finish) as the other more recognizable wines. 

I think it’s a perfect wine to blow off that last bit of winter fog. Cheers to the spring with apples that zing and salt that sings! 

Domaine de l’Ecu - ‘Orthogneiss’ - Muscadet Sevre et Maine, 

Loire, FR 2016

This is the king. Guy Bossard, the grandfather of Domaine de l’Ecu is the first name mentioned in my ‘Wine Grapes’ reference book under the list of quality producers. Certified Organic for over 40 years and certified Biodynamic for over 20 year, Guy is one of the reasons Muscadet wines have only improved and been taken increasingly serious over the years. As you’ll find in this very bottle, the incredible quality of his single terroir expressions have led to the creation of a new quality ranking system and a general race for the peak of what’s possible in the region. 

This wine is a wonder. This 50-60 year old plot of Melon is the warmest of the estate and grown on pure Orthogneiss Soils which promote exotic fruit, clear spicy and savory notes, and giving an almost iodized quality to the salty palate. Aged in big ‘ole underground cement tanks and never pumped and only delicately pressed for the purest juice. This wine can easily age for 10 years and is drinking incredibly well at the moment. 

Here is a note from Nadia Dmytriw of Floraison Selections, the brilliant importer of Ecu. She knows Guy and his protegée Fred well and she is responsible for introducing me to these incredible gifts...

“Domaine de l’Ecu was founded by pioneering Guy Bossard in 1972, certified organic in 1975 and certified biodynamic by Demeter in 1998. The domaine has been producing unique, single terroir Muscadet for almost 40 years running and makes a stunning array of Vin De France bottlings as well. Fred Niger, who trained extensively with Guy before taking over the estate in 2012, is an equally hands on owner and fanatic in the vineyards. He crops extremely low, and produces Muscadets that have remarkable depth, precision, as well as ageability. Like Guy, Fred is deeply committed to biodynamic and organic practices but he takes these commitments even further by incorporating various types of energy work, working in terracotta amphora, and using minimal to no sulfur. Fred continues to make the domaine's stunning single parcel Muscadets maintaining their benchmark quality, while expanding the domaine's offerings with myriad single variety bottlings beyond the appellation's Melon de Bourgogne and fermenting and ageing in amphora.

In the vineyard, soils are worked and green harvesting is essential in order to keep the high yielding, workhorse Melon de Bourgogne in check. This helps aerate the vines protecting them from mildew and also encourages greater expression of site in the fruit as the vine spends less energy on non fruit-bearing growth. Everything is harvested by hand. There is no modern technology in the the cellar, not even pumps. All cuvées are fermented with native yeast and gravity is used throughout the cellar, from receipt of the harvest and pressing into the fermentation and ageing vessels, whether it be an underground cement tank for the Muscadets or neutral barrel or terra cotta amphora.”

Drink this wine with Oysters, Thai Food, Cassoulette, Lobster, Octopus, really anything with strong flavors and spice. It LOVES it.

Guilt free, perfectly natural, salty apple fog wine… to make you shine :)

Lieu Dit - ‘Melon’ - Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, CA 2017

This is a wine by the homies, for the homies. We’re taking straight up gangster, mind blowing, dead-ringer for a Muscadet, old vine, organically farmed, perfectly captured Melon de Bourgogne of California. No one in the US does it like these guys. Lemme tell you about them!

Eric Railsback and Justin Willett are the new masters. They founded Lieu Dit in 2011 in the wake of success at their own wineries: Las Rascasses and Tyler, respectively. The wines they’ve made with other great cellars like Wenzlau, Arcadian, amongst others, are transcendent. Eric is also responsible for much of the past hype around the lists at Les Marchands, RN74, Gordon Ramsay Restaurant, and Osteria Mozza. His sommelier background informs so much of the decision making at Lieu Dit. 

These guys make wine that bridges the gap. The Lieu Dit approach is super simple: Start typical grapes of the Loire Valley, grown in ideal local Santa Barbara Microclimates, and create low-intervention wines of purity and freshness. Their wines never fail to reflect an uncanny relationship to their reference wines in the Loire, and yet carry the extra kiss of Santa Barbara Sunshine.

That’s what’s going on in this elegant little bottle. Just like the Domaine de l’Ecu we find a salty backdrop strewn with yellow apple and a foggy, weighty texture. The wine has a little more California in it too! A hint of ripe meyer lemon pops off the apple, a hint more crispness all around. What it lacks in layers of savory spice it makes up with energy and, possibly, even more potential for ageing. The wine, as with so many Loire Valley White Varietals, will show more of itself as years pass… if you can stand keeping your paws off! 

Bone dry, mineral AF, deeply textured, Appley, Salty, Complex and Profoundly flavored… This is impeccably Melon de Bourgogne.

A quick note on the vineyard. The grapes for this come from and organically farmed block at Santa Maria Valley’s Premiere Vineyard: Bien Nacido. The vines were originally mislabeled from the nursery and so to this day there are bottles floating around from other great winemakers labelled PINOT BLANC - SANTA MARIA VALLEY. A classic mistake for our burgeoning wine country… I wonder what else is out there making sommeliers question their life’s work. 

As the label denotes, drink me with Oysters… or really anything else will do. This wine has cajones! 



*Hot Take Sequence Complete - Robot Rest Sequence Initiated* 

This is April at Satellite

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