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Dec 2021

Satellite Wine Club, December 2021

It’s a Bubble Bath!


Henri Milan - 'Brut Rosé - Sans Soufre Ajouté' - Grenache & Mourvedre - Côteaux d'Aix en Provence , FR - 2019

$56 Retail, $672/Case $538/Case ($45/Bottle)


Entity of Delight - ‘Bassi Vineyard - Petnat' - Pinot Noir - San Luis Obispo County, CA - 2021

$41 Retail, $492/Case $394/Case ($33/Bottle)


Winestronauts,

Happy Holidays! This month we’ve assembled a pair of wines that will make these short days more sunshiney, the clinks of your glasses a little louder, your insufferable uncle a little more endurable. These are wines for both tuning in and tuning out this holiday season. Let these boisterous bubbles flow! 


As we approach 2022 I’m reflecting on 2020 and 2021, the Bash Bros© of tough years. Here we are with a whole lot of unbroken spirit, hope, and genuine happiness. Nearly two years of pandemic has not been easy, but I am so thankful for the gifts this struggle manifests for us. Nearly half of our club membership has joined us in the madness!! Thank you for being a member, for allowing me to take you on these personal wine adventures, for choosing to drink & share these wines made right, by the people we love.


These sappy feelings have a lot to do with my selections this month!


Celebrations call for bubbles. Pink is a calming, hopeful colour. That’s why we’re closing out 2021 with two phenomenal, could-not-be-more-different examples of sparkling rosé wines. We’re celebrating, we’re hopeful, we’re ready to shake our butts, boogie down, and take deep breaths (and gulps) this holiday! 


So, to whom do we cast our galactic wine gaze this month? Why Crosby & Henri of course. One local, one distinctly French, both natty by nature. 


The first is a familiar face. Crosby Swinchatt double-dips the Satellite Wine Club this year after his first freshman release of Entity of Delight ramato-styled Pinot Grigio. That wine, and his very limited Chardonnay, absolutely shocked us this year. We’re incredibly proud to be amongst the vanishingly few retailers to feature his excellent wines.


This month Crosby appeared like a ray of sunlight through the clouds with a 2021 release of Pinot Noir Petnat from the Bassi Vineyard in Avila Beach. - It’s simply impressive. All carbonic fermentation right up to the point when it was bottled with a little residual sugar to make those bubbles. 


The wine is remarkably clean with all the hallmarks of the hyper-coastal Bassi Vineyard - I’m talking fresh strawberry & cherry with a little sea salt sprinkled on. Just vibrantly fresh, sunshiney goodness for your holiday poppage. Enjoy it served any way you can muster… so long as it’s cold!


Mark my words - Crosby Swinchatt will be making some of the best wines in Santa Barbara County for years to come. 


To pair with our nascent local hero I reached into the ether and pulled out one of my favorite sparklers from the Satellite archive! The Henri Milan Brut Nature Sans Soufre Rosé was last featured on our list in March 2018. I’ve been hunting down this wine ever-since. It’s been a total enigma for almost four years so I was thrilled to find it newly-imported by one of our favorite vendors, Roni Selects


Henri Milan is a force for natural winegrowing in southern France. Based in the Alpilles mountains, just north of the Provençal coastline, the Milan Vineyard was planted in 1956 - Henri Milan was there planting vines with his father at just 8 years old. 


Farmed conventionally until the 80’s when Henri took over, he turned the property fully organic in 1984. He  started farming with a horse, encouraging a polyculture of plants amongst his vines. He suffered financially for years because of it. But this decision changed everything, for the better. He replanted his vines based on the soil, farmed that soil full of life, and created a vineyard unlike any other in the region. 


Nowadays he farms the property hand-in-hand with his own son and winemakers across the country a knocking at their door begging to work with the special fruit they grow. This is master-class wine from someone who eschews tradition in the pursuit of his own conscience. That’s why we love his wines - they taste crazy good too!

This particular wine is a Sparkling Brut Nature Rosé made from Grenache, Mourvedre, and a little Alicante - this cépage is anything but ordinary. This is a showcase of the blue marl and limestone soils at Vignobles Milan - making these southern red grapes sing tight, elegant tunes of white strawberry-cherry fruit, laser focused and yet completely soft, elegant, and inviting. The magic is the interplay of fruit and biscuity goodness from just 9 months of sur-lie aging on the lees - that’s not a particularly long time in the great pantheon of bubbles, but in this wine it’s perfect. I highly recommend this for Christmas Eve, The last night of Hanukkah, or NYE. 


A final note that’s super exciting for us. This month Sean Magruder will be helping me with the detailed write-up portion of these going forward. Sean is a brilliant guy, also WSET-3 Certified, and I’m so stoked to have him involved. Now… I’ll hand the proverbial steering wheel to Sean. Strap in! 


Before I go, here’s one of my favorite silly little love songs to sing as you open these bottles for your sweetie this holiday ♡


Tiny bubbles 

In the wine

Make me happy

Make me feel fine


Tiny bubbles 

Make me warm all over

With a feeling that I'm gonna

Love you till the end of time


So here's to the golden moon

And here's to the silver sea

And mostly here's a toast

To you and me


So here's to the ginger lei

I give to you today

And here's a kiss

That will not fade away


///

Henri Milan - 'Brut Rosé - Sans Soufre Ajouté' - Grenache & Mourvedre - Côteaux d'Aix en Provence , FR - 2019

$56 Retail, $672/Case $537.60/Case ($44.8/Bottle)


Howdy everyone, Sean here! You may know me from the Satellite floor, where I enjoy slangin’ the most bangin’ vegetarian cuisine and natural wine this side of the San Rafaels. WINESTRONAUTS SQUAD UP! Likewise, I’m often found spreading the gospel of Albariño paired with oysters and John Coltrane. But now we’re onto something a little different. And while I’m not sure how to follow those syrupy-sweet lines above^^, I invite you to come along as I try…

Henri Milan was seven years removed from his first no-sulfur-added cuvée when he decided to up and leave the Baux-de-Provence AOC (named for a rocky spur upon which its namesake village sits) in 2007. The ambitious vigneron, who, having fully converted to organic farming in 1988, building back his soils following the aggressive, Gordon Gekko-esque Roundup-Is-Good paradigm of the 70s & 80s, knew what wines to make - the wines HE wanted to make. 


17 hectares along an ancient Roman highway - check. Blue marl and limestone at altitude, within earshot of the Mediterranean’s breezy song - check. A soil map to reflect his vineyards’ unique characteristics - yessiree we’ve got the recipe for a free-wheelin’, blowin’ in the wind Henri Milan!


A little more on that good dirt: we’re talking the same soils found in some Grand Cru vineyards of Chablis (translation: VERY GOOD DIRT) that many growers would KILL to farm. No wonder he’s so popular with negociants. 


We’re perched up in the Alpilles (literally “small Alps”). Ears are popping. Temps are dropping. With a northern aspect (sunkissed, goldilocked south-facing slopes are prized within top European vineyards) and natural A/C via cooling mistral winds, this seems like prime territory for lean, mean, mineral white wines. After all, we’re at the same latitude as Lake Michigan and Vermont!


But hold your vineyard horse(s)! Atop much of the limestone lies a stony field strewn with galets, a fixture of the nearby Southern Rhône Valley. These bad boys reflect sunlight and absorb heat for the vines, slowly sweetening ‘em up even as they sleep. There’s acid retention for days… and nights. And despite their fierce temper further north, here the mistral winds are calm, more of a nonchalant peck on the cheek than five fingers to the face. The Mediterranean ain’t too demanding either. Chilled. Out.  


About those foothills? The nosebleeds? They actually crank the sun’s intensity up a notch or four (think how roasted Uncle Jerry gets every summer in Tahoe at ~6000 ft. elevation), encouraging ripeness while offering disease protection. “Come in, she said, I’ll give you shelter from the elements…” 


These factors translate to a longer growing season, moderate alcohol levels, and, most importantly, minimal intervention required. 


So… what does this all mean? ACIDITY! FRESHNESS! INSANE DRINKABILITY! The most inviting and pleasurable traits of a lovely bubbly.     


With the hands-on experience and sheer passion of a bright-eyed kid (did we mention he helped plant a vineyard at eight years old!!), Milan has tilled and toiled organically for all of Mr. Drew Cuddy’s 33 years (happy birthday hefe!) in the pursuit of unfiltered, unadulterated expression of terroir. The proof is in the pudding - a brut nature bombshell highlighting the zig of limestone-imbued tautness and zag of beautifully ripe Provençal fruit. Deep inside this bottle, mingling with white strawberry, cherry blossom and graham cracker, are fealty to the land and flippancy to convention. 


A traditional-method sparkling wine insistent on challenging tradition. Ya love to see it. 


So chill it down and drink it up with your ~~covid-conscious~~ collective. We all need a celebratory splash now more than ever.


Entity of Delight - ‘Bassi Vineyard - Petnat' - Pinot Noir - San Luis Obispo County, CA - 2021

$41 Retail, $492/Case $394/Case ($33/Bottle)


As Drew mentioned, December marks Crosby Swinchatt’s second Wine Club appearance in a matter of months. It’s his second vintage. Maybe his fourth bottling total. This guy has us amped on our own backyard in a big way.


When you meet him and taste the wines, it’s clear why - each delightful entity is dyed with a cheerful, laidback flair that makes for unpretentious, booty-shakin’ quaff juice. GOT ANTS IN MY PANTS AND I NEED TO DANCE! (Last month I actually ran into him at two concerts two Saturdays in a row. Good hangs.) His Instagram (@entityofdelight) puts it best - “Making fun wines for fun folks!” headlines a purple smattering of fermentation art, playful labels and cotton-candy-sunset soif. But make no mistake. These are badass, intellectual wines. They just happen to be stupendously yummy too.


Let’s see where it happens. We’ll drive the hour and a half up the 101 to the San Luis Obispo coast, hopping out near Avila Beach. It’s an idyllic little census-designated place just ten miles south of SLO. Boasting lowkey luxury hotels and killer fish and chips, it’s also where this writer happened to land his first tasting room gig, cutting his teeth on extremely coastal, vineyard-designated wines from sites like Pismo Beach’s Spanish Springs, Squire Canyon, and Bassi Vineyard. These three all lie within just TWO MILES of the salty Pacific, and none tap into that ethereal power better than Bassi. A glimmer of California’s next AVA peeks through the foggy horizon…


We’ve visited this vineyard before - last July, in the bed of Crosby’s ‘84 F-250 alongside purpley-pink grapes destined for skin contact Pinot Gris! It’s home to a host of wines we know and love, attracting star producers like Scar of the Sea and Dunites with its sandstone slopes, moderate climate and fierce commitment to organic farming with biodynamic practices. Back in 2019 I was fortunate to work with Bassi Pinot Noir and Syrah under the property’s owner, local winemaker Mike Sinor… the place is just gorgeous. 


Ok. Quick math. This is a 2021 wine. Harvest typically begins in August, but this year California was on the cool side. So let’s go with early September. Here we are in early December. As the grapes were PICKED ONLY ~100 days ago, this bottle is the paragon of FRESH. It’s teeming with the nouveau-like qualities we expect from carbonic maceration (refer to October’s writeup for a refresher, but [more or less] whole bunches + CO2 = a lively, variety-driven, hard candy-hued strawberry-banana bonanza). 


Not so fast my carbonic companions! Completely de-stemmed and skin-macerated for 24 hours before pressing to reveal an intoxicating cherry limeade color, these puppies then fermented for ten days in tote. (Not being cute, fermentation literally took place in a plastic tote!!) In classic pet-nat style, the wine was bottled before going fully dry to capture plenty of bubbles and their buoyant, jukin’ and jivin’ juiciness. A fun little hoot and a holler. No wonder the monks have been doing it this way for five centuries.   


There’s that classic Bassi tell. The saltiness. A mineral cut lends tension to juicy red fruits wrapped in mouthwatering acidity. The finish lingers on and on, feeling like a bonus round. Zero inputs. Fully coastal. Me gusta.


Crack this well-chilled fella over the sink (this is a FIESTA, some foamy goodness will be itching to join you in the outside world) and ENJOY!! 

///


Hope, Celebration, Tiny Bubbles, and NYE Kisses 

This is December at Satellite



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