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April 2022

Satellite Wine Club, April 2022

It’s Satellite Time! 


Âmevive x Satellite - 'Milky Way' - Marsanne - Ibarra-Young Vineyard, Santa Barbara County, CA - 2021

$36 Retail, $432/Case $346/Case for Members ($28.83/Bottle)


Solminer x Satellite - 'Floral Feelings' - Skin Contact Blend - Santa Barbara County, CA - 2021

$34 Retail, $408/Case $326/Case for Members ($27.16/Bottle)


Winestronauts,

This is a heck of a special month.. And the beginning of a very special year for Satellite. We have been cooking up some seriously exciting wine for you and I am so, so ready to share it all with you. 


This month we’re exploring the meaning of ORANGE. It’s skin contact all month long. So reach out, get close, touch somebody!


Bonus: Not only is it a focus on Orange Wines but these are special Collab wines! They’re fully allocated to Wine Club for the month of April and will not be sold to anyone but you, dear winestronaut. Lucky Ducky!


Some of you may be familiar with our collaboration projects of years past… and you know they’ve been awesome! For the uninitiated: we partner up with our favorite local producers to make special lots of wine just for Satellite (and thus for you, dear winestronaut). In 2019 we made our first ‘cosmic counoise’ with Potek. Then last year we added a ‘moon wrangler malbache’ from Solminer and ‘galactic gamay’ from Storm to the mix. This year we’re exploding the concept with (we hope) 7 wines and adding Âmevive and Lo-Fi to the roster! 


The idea with these projects has always been to work with the most capable winemakers in the county, pushing their production deeper into the natural wine world, while making a wine we can serve confidently by the glass, and to wine club. We’re talking perfect wines for perfect people!

In past the Counoise has always been ØØ (no added SO2) but both Galactic Gamay and Malbache have had the slightest addition of SO2. Not that it’s wrong (SO2 is a useful, truly amazing substance that is totally innocuous when used at a minimum) but when a wine is chemically balanced, bone dry, and otherwise perfect - you do not need to add sulfur!


So that’s the story here folks: My theory is to work with winemakers I really believe in. Encourage them to make their wines more naturally. Take on the risk by committing to the full lot produced… then do a victory dance with them when the wines turn out just as imagined! I think this program will only continue to grow and, I hope, will serve as a strong foundation for local winemakers to push deeper into the pure-wine world where the only ingredients are naturally farmed grapes, a clean winery, and patience. 


I know Sean will complete the notes below, but I just want to take the time to acknowledge the special relationship we have with both winery partners here. 


Solminer and Satellite go back to the very earliest days in 2017 when I was just getting this crazy thing started. Owner & Winemaker David DeLaski appeared in the shop with a bottle of everything they made in their first vintage. I joked with him that we would quickly become their downtown tasting room… because we bought everything they made. Since then David and his amazing wife Anna have certified their farm Demeter ® Biodynamic, exploded their production, and become one of our favorite places to visit in the valley. You can’t say biodynamic in SB county without mentioning Solminer. The quality of their farming comes first and it shows so clearly in their wines. We love them. 


Âmevive was a more recent discovery for me during the pandemic.. Alice Anderson and her partner Topher de Felice took over a long term lease and responsibility as caretakers at the historic Ibarra-Young Vineyard (just down the road from Solminer in the Los Olivos district). This vineyard was planted in 1971, tying the more famous Sanford and Benedict vineyard for oldest in the county. Historic is one thing, but the farming is what really gets me. Alice is a true regenerative farmer - employing a flock of ducks, herds of babydoll sheep, heaping piles of compost from the property, and a soil-first approach to farming called no-till. The soil here is alive, holding so much more water than comparable sites. It isn’t even really a vineyard so much as a perfect natural garden. It’s the kind of place you could spend all day just looking at herbs, and vines, and dirt! 


Both of these wineries are so special to me. They represent the very best that Santa Barbara can offer. They are true Vigneron/Vigneronne wines made by people who are intimately involved with the soil & the vine as much as the winemaking process. They put farm first, rely on no tricks or poisons to grow, only their hard work and trust in the process. There is no doubt they’re the hardest working winemakers in the county… no one else is idealistic enough to undertake such an exhaustive approach. And. It. Shows!


This month I am so proud to share my dream with you, winestronaut. These orange wines represent two ends of the skin contact spectrum, but they come from the same ideals. These wines came to us through hard work and regeneration of the environment - and I think that’s really damn cool. 


All of this is to say: these wines kick ASS! They’re super limited, super delicious, and super guilt-free. So feel free amigo, pop another cork and get into it! It’s time for a little skin contact.


//


Ahh… April: the season of showers, cherry blossoms, and high school prom. But since you belong to a natural wine club on the sunny Central Coast, those things are far away and behind in space and time… so we’re celebrating the season of skin contact! Yes, everyone’s favorite eyebrow-raising wine term is having its moment this month. Like little grape skins submerged in their juice, we’re diving deep into Santa Barbara County with these selections. Not just geographically, but as Drew mentioned, historically too. Nearly 50-year-old marsanne vines, among the oldest grape plantings in the county! An off the walls blend featuring one of the world’s truly ancient varieties! Lots of sheep! All stemming from consciously-farmed properties rife with life, laughter and lovin’. Let’s get to work on our farmer’s tans.


Âmevive x Satellite - 'Milky Way' - Marsanne - Ibarra-Young Vineyard, Santa Barbara County, CA - 2021

$46 Retail, $432/Case $346/Case for Members ($28.83/Bottle)


Alice Anderson was already crafting killer white wines and pinot noirs under local riesling wunderkind Graham Tatomer when opportunity struck. The Young family needed help. Their Ibarra-Young vineyard was in a precarious place - decades of farming with a heavy hand à la chemical sprays, scheduled watering and general interference left a once-beautiful ten acres fallow and famished. Vines full of legend, caught between a sunny past and an uncertain future.

 

But the Youngs desperately wanted to honor their mother, Charlotte, for whom the vineyard is named. There was no abandoning what her and vineyard manager Miguel Ybarra started in 1971, the same year Santa Rita Hills pinot pioneers Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict planted their namesake vineyard 12 miles to the west. Breaking ground in more ways than one, the vineyard had seen three generations take part. It was time for fresh input. And not just a manure dump. 


So, in the nascence of the pandemic, while Lysol wipes were vanishing from store shelves and reality was slipping from our remote-clutching fingers, Alice, and her partner Topher, began farming the historic vineyard with gusto and gumption. Two years later, it’s an ongoing mosaic of biodiversity - each eco-conscious action a tile illuminating the vibrant characteristics and colors of the land. These vignettes will unearth themselves more and more in time.

 

And we’ll dive in that dirt. But first, let’s rewind. For Alice, who hails from Modesto’s almond (pronounced am-mend) country, a life outdoors was always in the cards. Earning a Wine & Viticulture degree from Cal Poly, where she studied alongside fellow rockstar/Satellite homie, Scar of the Sea’s Mikey Giugni, she nabbed a Napa harvest before jumping into biodynamics at Lake Wanaka’s Rippon Vineyard in Central Otago, New Zealand. Enjoying her time with the Kiwis, another opportunity came, and a bigger pond with it – France; specifically the Northern Rhône Valley. Where syrah and marsanne are king and queen.


It proved formative. Two years traipsing the Rattlesnake Canyon-steep vineyards of Saint-Joseph furthered her determination to make wines of transparency and place. An ultimatum to learn French or else woke her up extra early to study DuoLingo before the day’s cellar work. And it was here, atop wind-battered hillsides with few woman counterparts, that dreams of one day horse-plowing her own vineyard sprouted - amidst pockets of garrigue, apricot trees, and of course, syrah and marsanne grapes.


Climatic conditions make organic and biodynamic farming in wet, cooler areas like the Northern Rhône a tall order. Moisture equals disease pressure, and the howling mistral wind tempers flowering and fruit-set in these grapes, decreasing an already-scant crop load early in the season. Little berries need big help (à la herbi-fungi-pesti-cides, among other techniques) to produce a substantial yield come harvest.

 

But things are different halfway around the world, on the warm flatland of the Los Olivos District. Here, the sun is bright, the air is dry, and burrowing gophers, hungry birds and the occasional late frost are Alice’s main concerns. At least on the outside. There’s a world of work beneath her feet.


One big project: restoring nitrogen to the soil. A cover crop of beans, vetch, lupin and Spanish clover can help. These plants attract bacteria that pull nitrogen from the air and route it to the roots in more effective forms - basically stronger sources of energy. They also feed sheep, chicken and ducks, who then recycle that food to the same ground… you know how.

 

It’s a smelly, sweaty, and beautiful cycle. Regenerative organic practices directly impact carbon storage, keeping element No. 1 where it belongs - in the soil, instead of the atmosphere. In turn, carbon-sequestering dirt requires less water, disruption and treatments of all things -cidal (-killing!). Put good stuff in, get good stuff out. It’s simple, kinda. Easy? Not quite. Alice and Topher toil for their cause. But that’s nothing new for these two.

 

A portmanteau of “soulful” and living” in French, Âmevive (ahm-veev) reflects the spirit Alice seeks to sow in her vineyard, draw from its inhabitants and capture - in bottles adorned with bucolic watercolors of vineyard natives, like foxes, jackrabbits, dragonflies and California quail. With two farming cycles to boot, she acknowledges the results of her labor won’t be known for a little while. “There’s probably a five to eight-year timeline when it comes to the topsoil having enough nutrients, microbes, fungi and plant roots to make a [statistical] difference… we’re building that, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a transition, and we’re in it for the long haul”.

 

In the meantime, her vineyard is springing to life, and her wines are gorgeous. In 2021, she made everyone’s favorite peachy, breezy, sometimes leesy wine… yes, albariño. For me?? Alice, ya shouldn’t have!! But marsanne is the star. Planted in 1973, when Nixon was covering up Watergate and Keith Richards should’ve been covering up his teeth, these are low-yielding plants hangin’ out atop their own roots. 


Thanks to a pesky little grape louse known as phylloxera, own-rooted vines are rare as rain. And thanks to Santa Barbara County’s still-teething wine industry, 50-year-old vines are a hailstorm on a blue moon. Alice’s are teeny, tiny grapes grown on gnarled wood running deep into the ground, and they’re producing concentrated, compelling wines that translate their terroir in ways that baby plants just can’t. Having recently turned 30 myself… I say age before beauty, indeed.🧐

 

And she brought some new tricks to these old dogs. About one half of the pick was fermented on its skins; the other treated as a white wine, pressed, settled and vinified as pure juice. Partial skin contact lends an irresistible texture to the finished wine – remember our grüner guy Carter Paul and his February bottle? Similar thing here. Unfined, unfiltered, and unsulfured, it looks like a cold glass of lemonade, and as Drew mentioned, give it some oxygen with lil’ sips here and there - lends some air and keeps things cool at the same time! Safe skin contact is great skin contact.

 

It’s intensely aromatic -  think struck matchstick, bruised yellow apple and pear with hints of beeswax, ginger and lemon yogurt. Braced by moderate acidity and body, lean tannins wrap a bow on white tea and banana Laffy Taffy affability. Bottled sunshine. Refreshing, lengthy and bone-dry, honeyed tree fruits nevertheless persist on the gums like Liz Warren on the senate floor.

 

And like the senior senator from Massachusetts, Alice is navigating a different way forward within an industry dominated by dudes. Not that she’s anything but grateful for the journey. This modest, uh… Modestan? Modestite? Modestogan? - is ears to the ground, eyes to the sky, nose to the compost bin, and living for the soul of it all. Hard to not feel infected, inspired and more than a little intoxicated with it ourselves, too.


Solminer x Satellite - 'Floral Feelings' - Skin Contact Blend - Santa Barbara County, CA - 2021

$34 Retail, $408/Case $326/Case for Members ($27.16/Bottle)


Unlike the usual pond-hopping we make from one selection to the next, as mentioned, this ain’t a typical month, so we ain’t making a typical jump! In fact, we’re sticking it out here in the Los Olivos sunshine. If you’ve tried Solminer’s wines, whether here at Satellite or their cozy tasting room in the heart of the valley, you know why.

 

Anna and David deLaski farm five acres in the Los Olivos District, just one mile from Ibarra-Young. Their estate, the deLanda Vineyard, is a mashup of their last and first names (deLaski, Anna, David), and like Ibarra-Young it’s painted with the rich palette of permaculture. The Solminer brand is an homage to their harvesting the sun, soul and sediments of Santa Barbara. Did I also mention this is the month of fun made-up words?? 

 

Their sun-mining began a decade ago, upon purchasing three acres planted to syrah in the Los Olivos District. Deciding to graft to our güd pal grüner veltliner and blaufränkisch (the blue French one, sourced from Santa Maria’s Ken Volk and Sonoma syrah squire Pax Mahle), the vineyard now includes riesling, muscat, and a number of heirloom apple varieties producing delicious cider. Oh, and they’ve got one of California’s two plantings of st. laurent, a rustic, savory red grape that owes its parentage to pinot noir.

 

Growing up a stone’s throw from Austria’s renowned Wachau region, it may seem Anna’s wine career was predetermined. In fact, she credits her and David’s very personal biodynamic crusade to a life-changing visit with Nikolaihof. Ring a bell? We enjoyed their sexy, spicy grü juice back in February. It was sö leiwand! But sustainable forestry took Anna to Calgary, Alberta before reaching the golden state, where she met David, then an electronic dance DJ, under the Mojave Desert stars. She knew his music first, and he jokes she was his only groupie.

 

A chance wine tasting in Solvang was all it took. Ready to leave the LA rat race behind, they packed up and moved into a syrah-buffered property the previous owner had dubbed a nuisance. Like their own change of scenery, the newlyweds knew it needed a changing of the guard. And grapes. At the time in the Los Olivos District, Rhône varieties like grenache, syrah, mourvèdre, and viognier were given the red carpet treatment. They worked with the climate, and you just didn’t really plant other grapes there, no one did, why bother? 


Fast-forward a few years, and plenty of that syrah, planted in 2000, is still around. But through their expansion into all things unconventional -grapes, viticulture and winemaking, it’s clear what Anna and David are doing here is special. Biodynamic farming is their chief passion, and the lion’s share of their work.

 

The century-old, esoteric philosophy conjures plenty of images. Maybe you’ve heard about the cow pie horns, the compost teas or the calendar dictating vineyard activity (or lack thereof) based on complicated planetary movements. You might think of shamans and mysticism. There’s an undeniable abracadabra, forcing one to suspend disbelief atop a shaky bridge traversing the crater between spirituality and science.

 

There’s also practicality to it. Anna and David engage in most, if not all of the regenerative applications Alice does, and it was through the lens of biodynamics they found this holistic approach. Says David: “Biodynamics is regenerative farming that starts with treating the land as purely as possible. We look toward a system of creation rather than destruction.” Alice and Topher, Anna and David all contend that inside a closed system, the vineyard, and more importantly, the topsoil that nurtures and sustains the myriad organisms which depend on it, will sustain itself, and us.

 

And they seem to be right. A 2014 white paper from the Rodale Institute highlights farming systems trial data compiled from over three decades on the Caribbean slopes of Costa Rica. Compared to conventional farms, those practicing regenerative organic agriculture released 35% less CO2 and required 28% less energy (measured in MJ/acre/yr). The reward for their efforts? A nearly 300% profit increase. And yields were statistically equivalent.

 

Remember Alice’s long-term nitrogen-fixation plan? A separate study showed regenerative organic farms released 45% less nitrogen and releasing 40% less CO2 compared to conventional ones. It’s important to note that in both systems, by far the highest overall greenhouse gas emissions were caused by soil processes fueled by nitrogen - in mineral fertilizer, compost and crop residues. Meaning nitrogen-fixation directly correlates to a 40% reduction in CO2.

 

Ok, back to wine. Sourced from four organic and/or biodynamic vineyards across Santa Barbara County, including, of course, the deLanda vineyard, this blend boasts a grüner majority, followed by riesling, viognier, and muscat, a Methuselah-aged grape cultivated by the ancient Greeks, from which most other wine grapes are descended! Besides the estate fruit, we’ve got Serena San Marcos (at San Marcos Pass, the highest elevation vineyard in the county), Spear Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills and the larger Santa Ynez Valley all represented. It’s a true SBC fiesta. David’s spinning the turntables, and guess what, we already know the MC – as assistant winemaker, our buddy Carter Paul helped bring these floral feelings like butterflies to our bellies.

 

Two weeks of fermentation on the skins lends the wine deep colors and textures. Skin-contact, orange; there’s no mistaking why amber wine is also part of the lexicon… this baby looks like Laura Dern just excavated it from the dig site and Sam O’Neill’s got some ideas for an amusement park. Fortunately the only biological wonders here are just tasty, naturally-fermented grapes. The nose bursts with candied apricot, bruised apple, white flowers and cinnamon. Framed by lively tannins, white pepper and bitter herbs make for a sort of spicy applesauce on the palate. Each grape brings something to the table - grüner’s spice, riesling’s bright acidity, viognier’s peachiness, and muscat’s perfumey flower basket. A fresh, feisty natural wine, it’s best drunk quickly - not like that’ll be hard.


As the Rolling Stones crooned: “Let’s drink to the hard-working people/let’s drink to the salt of the earth… who burn the fires and who still till the earth”. The fire for honest and responsible viticulture and winemaking burns bright, and friend, you’re supporting folks who truly care for the well-being of the planet. These farmers may not still till the earth, and this writer may not follow the biodynamic calendar, but as I write this today, Earth Day; these words, and the people and places and organisms and products they conjure, hold particular weight.


//


I usually end these write-ups with a light-hearted joke, or lyric, or play on words, or all of the above. It’s fun. It’s a breather. It breaks up and wraps up a lot of nerdy soil talk. But in reflecting on these particular wines, I’d like to try and succinctly distill something much more important.

 

And that is this: Consider eating less meat. Consider riding a bike, if just once in a five-day commute. (Gas prices are giving us the first push of the pedal, no?) Consider putting down factory-farmed and mass-produced products, and supporting local farmers and agriculture instead. Once again, if you’re a member of a Santa Barbara natural wine club, I imagine these things and more have crossed your mind. Yet they are too vital to be left unwritten once again.

 

And yes, the planet’s 100 largest corporations still contribute to 71% of greenhouse gas emissions. They dwarf even our collective carbon footprint. But we can never know the reverberations even our tiniest, most negligible choices may produce. So, for this planet, the only home any of us have ever known, we can do more. And we must.


///

April Showers,

May Flowers.

Orange Wine, 

Pass the Time.

No SO2, No Rhyme,

Totally fine :)

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡



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