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Aug 2019

Satellite Wine Club, August 2019

2017 Whitcraft - Chardonnay ‘la Lie Fine - Cuvée Margarita’, Santa Barbara County, CA

2017 Jean Paul Brun - ‘Terres Dorees’ - Beaujolais Blanc, FR


I have been on a (not so) secret mission. This mission has been critically important to me as a wine lover, wine educator, and wine pourer. The mission? Teach American about Chardonnay. Chardonnay is not just overly oaky, go-gurt thick, buttered popcorn, high alcohol ‘cougar juice’ popularized by Rombauer and other pretenders! Chardonnay is good. Chardonnay is noble. Chardonnay don’t need no industrial winemaking. Chardonnay is awesome and I’m about to lay it on you. 

Cougar Juice. You may know by now that we have always kept Rombauer on special at Satellite. It may seem odd that a natural wine shop, focused on farmer made wines and locally farmed produce would ever carry something so mass produced and heavily manipulated… from a homogenous jumble of farms without character or guaranteed ethics in farming. It’s a wine infamously associated with country clubs, boujee gated communities, and vain body enhancements. You want the raw truth Winestronaut? 


It’s true. I’m coming out about the Rombauer here. It’s just so funny! Here’s why: 

Rombauer is horrifically overpriced. It is my lowest margin item and costs roughly 2x the other great, naturally produced wines we serve by the glass. It is literally a gift to those who love it. I’m ok with it. Discounting Rombauer so dramatically gives me an opportunity to put all the other great wines we carry on the same platform. Rombauer should not cost so much and that is why I devalue it, inherently boosting the value of the wines I believe in. 

You are not bad if you like Rombauer. I just want you to know there are wines out there that are better: they cost less, are ethical in farming and winemaking, are artfully produced, seasonally reflective, and genuinely interesting. They’re also not loaded with the 21 season salute of glyphosate, preservatives, stabilizers, and intensive winemaking techniques which contort this pour grape juice into the girthy, thick, and, honestly, abused wine that I will pour with a smile and a brief dissertation on natural wines. If there is one thing I will ask of you it is this: Please decrease the amount of Rombauer Chardonnay in your life! (and Cupcake, Kendall Jackson, Ravenswood, Ferrari-Carano, J Lohr… this writeup is nowhere near long enough to include them all) 

‘Ok natural wine dude, what am I meant to drink?’ - SO MUCH! Guys, there’s a world of Chardonnay out there (and Roussanne, Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Romorantin, etc.) with limitless exciting flavors, depth, creaminess, oak, and most importantly, they’re better for you. This month I am going to introduce you to two which are showstoppers. Hugely important wines and winemakers in my life and ones which I hope you will love. 

This month it’s about kicking the Rombomb to the curb. Let’s let love for nature, for purity, for seasonality, for passion reign supreme! We’ve got local legend Drake Whitcraft’s ‘Cuvée Margarita’ Chardonnay paired up with living legend, Jean Paul Brun’s Terres Dorees Chardonnay from Beaujolais (One of my favorite wine producing regions!). These wines speak volumes about less being more… So that’s where I’ll leave this intro!

2017 Jean Paul Brun - ‘Terres Dorees’ - Beaujolais Blanc, FR

Let’s start with the classic, the legend. Jean Paul Brun is a magical producer. In Charnay, on ‘Terres Dorees’, his 30 Hectares of Organically farmed Gamay and Chardonnay Jean Paul focuses on creating ‘artisanal wines’. His wines are a manifestation of his distaste for industrial wines produced with additives and grown in unhealthy conditions. His wines are pure, using natural yeasts, they’re low in sulfur, change depending on vintage, and are entirely focused on preserving the freshness of the fruit. 

No, this is not Burgundian Chardonnay. Think of it as somewhat of a renegade that everyone likes and appreciates, a desperado with a flower in her hair. 

Beaujolais is directly south of Burgundy in Eastern France. It’s not big at all, seamingly shoved in between Macon and Lyon. And while it touches Burgundy in the north and Rhone in the south, it is so clearly neither and so very, very important. The wines here express something very special, something which is becoming more common in all winemaking regions but which really started here: Freshness. It may seem silly to think that’s a novel idea. Freshness, ha. But think of it this way. These people discovered carbonic fermentation, they invented the nouveau style (wine explicitly to be drunk young), Gamay - the most important grape here - loves to be made in a fresh fresh style, even the air is crisp and fresh! Jean Paul’s Chardonnay embodies this character.

The Terres Dorees Chardonnay is almost a style in and of itself. Brun is a master of it and it is now one of his most important wines. The wine is grown entirely organically, he also does not use copper sulfate which would kill the soil life. All the grapes are harvested by hand, then destemmed and fermented with native yeasts. This wine goes through a full malolactic secondary fermentation as well (this is where the creaminess comes from, friend), with gentle, occasional stirring of the lees (dead yeast which settles on the bottom of the tank, when stirred it acts to release some natural SO2 and to add a layer of brioche-ish fresh baked goodness to the wine). The wine is aged in Concrete and Stainless steel to maintain a very pure fruit character. It is bottled with a tiny dose of just enough SO2 and some residual CO2 naturally preserved from the fermentation. Purity here is absolutely key. 

This wine is so delicious. It’s a dynamic balance of classic chardonnay notes; fresh greener apples, poached pear, a bit of citrus zest, and a delicate floral character, a little spice, and a quiet influence of malolactic and lees stirring. The wine is minerally with a sense of the ambient limestone, it’s totally crisp, and with a rock-solid acidity which is so refreshing. 

Precision is key for Brun and it really plays out in this wine… a wine which represents insane value, a different look at Chardonnay. This man is about to preside over his 40th vintage in Beaujolais and that experience as well as his commitment to purity is as clear as the flavors in his wines. 

2017 Whitcraft - Chardonnay ‘la Lie Fine - Cuvée Margarita’, Santa Barbara County, CA

Drake Whitcraft. We’ve had his wines here before. We’ll have his wines here again. Drake is not only the first truly second generation winemaker in the county, he is one of the very best. Everyone knows Drake in the wine community here. He is a completely essential character to us and someone deeply essential to understanding Santa Barbara Wine Country. 

Drake’s Dad, Chris, started the winery back in 1985. It was one of the earliest urban wineries in Santa Barbara, and a harbinger of a new level of quality in local production. He brought with him some basic equipment (most of which is still in use today), his experiences at Heitz Cellars, Chalone, and Williams-Selyem, and the Williams-Selyem wild yeast strain (also still in use). He started his family here, created some of the best wines in the county for over 25 years, taught Drake the trade,  and passed tragically in 2014. Chris was a giant in SB, you would be wise to try some of his older vintages if you have nice friends with nice cellars, they are a delight. 

Drake has taken the winery in a positive direction, continuing the search for new exciting grapes and styles that Chris started out on in the 80’s. Now Drake is making wines from not just Pinot and Chardonnay, but from Gamay, Syrah, Grenache, Trousseau, and Lagrein! His own backyard Trousseau Vineyard now can produce nearly 100 cases of wine from just the .25 acres he lovingly farms (we have it, you should grab it, yum!). Drakes experiments simply kick ass. 

The very special bottle you now own is a part of Drake’s ‘la Lie Fine’ project. At the end of each single-vineyard bottling project Drake leaves the cloudy, leesy (dead yeast cells) wine in the bottom of the barrel and blends it with similar leesy wine from another single vineyard (in this case we’re talking Zotovich and Presq’ile vineyards). Once blended it settles out and clarifies further. After a week or so he bottles it with no additional SO2, no filtration, and a whole lot of excitement. That’s what you have. 

Like the Terres Dorees, Whitcrafts wine sees full malolactic fermentation and very minimal Sulphur additions. The wines differ from there though! This wine sees some newer oak as the single vineyard bottlings tend to. Drake uses mainly tightly grained french barrels and rarely exceeds 25% new oak which leads to a lean sense of oak, rather than overt and ‘slutty’ to use an accurate if ugly term! The vineyards are exceptional sources: Presqu’ile is an organic certified estate in Santa Maria, with incredibly sandy soils and a terrific vineyard management team. Literally no expenses are spared at Presq’ile and I for one appreciate their generous level of commitment to quality! The Zotovich Vineyard is in the heart of the Santa Rita Hills and happens to be one of Drake’s favorite sites, certainly his favorite for Chardonnay. It is farmed in a sort of ‘Lutte Raisonée’ or ‘Reasoned Struggle’ approach meaning they are essentially organic, but spray specific chemicals locally when required to eliminate pests. They do all natural composting, let ground cover grow up and till it back into the soils, practice deficit irrigation to just give enough water for fruit to grow, and generally have an incredibly good vineyard! The wine is fermented using a natural yeast strain I mentioned before. It was identified by Bert Williams at William’s Selyem winery (literally one of the greatest California producers ever.) and always used by Chris and Drake to maintain a level of consistency across their many cuvées from many various vineyard sites. It is an interesting discussion I’d love to dive into in further Whitcraft wine club drops! 

This wine is exceptional. Elegant and sparkling in the glass, the wine has the sightest bit of suspended particles. It’s lithe and lean on the palate, like mountain stream water! It has deceptively refreshing acidity, truly magnificent flavors of crunchy fresh yellow apples, tons of wild flowers, a hint of fresh popcorn and fine butter, a dusty minerality, and silky texture. The finish is… quietly energetic and really goes on and on. I wrote in my notes “Popping”, and I think that’s entirely accurate. This wine is a BANGER! 

Drake is doing it people. The wines keep getting better and better. You should really take a moment to fall in love with his wines. They are like drinking the essence of Santa Barbara! Do yourself a really nice favor and call over to the winery some nice saturday afternoon, see if they’re open for tastings, go visit Drake and his Assistant Winemaker “Chris P. Bacon”, drink some wine, maybe smoke a little something nice. It’s a vibe and you have to see/taste/experience it to believe it!

No, Rombauer is not in this shipment but it is always available for a discounted rate at your favorite natural wine shop! Just know that literally every other wine on our shelf is SO MUCH BETTER! 

I love you, 


You know It’s a good day

Glass Full of Chardonnay

No Rombomb for ma Tum-Tum

Just come-on with the Yum-Yum

It’s Natty Chardo, Bae. 

This is August  at Satellite

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