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Jan 2018

Satellite Wine Club, January 2018

Penville - 2014 Stolpman Vyd Grenache, Ballard Cyn, Santa Barbara, CA 

Mas Doix - 2016 ‘Les Crestes’ Priorat, ES 


Here we are! I had planned to write a note about things getting back to normal in Santa Barbara and how the evacuations are now a thing of memory… Yet as I write this I am again evacuated from my home for the risk of flooding! Fear not friend!! I will, of course, use the trope of having seen fire and rain, throughout this short essay. Good thing it fits in perfectly with this month’s wines. Sometimes these things just work out :)

For this rainy month of January I selected a heart warming varietal, Grenache. An adaptable varietal that excels in so many environments, but principally loves a sunny warm summer. Grenache, if made responsibly, captures that sunshine and offers bright, shining examples that please throughout the year. 

Grenache, Garnacha, Cannonau, Alicante; whatever you want to call it, Grenache is widely planted across southern Europe, especially in France, Portugal, Spain, and Sardinia (as Cannonau), and California! These sun-abundant regions are perfect for our early ripening, warm weather grenache. It is vigorous, long living, and totally at home in drought-prone regions. When grown with care, it gives generously fruited wines with deep mineral reflections, Grower beware though, this sunbather can take turn from refreshingly acidic and quaffably alcoholic to sobriety-eliminating and flabby overnight. Harvest dates must be chosen carefully and training methodology generally tends toward de-vigorating this eager grower. You’re most likely to find Grenache head-trained/bush-trained as a free standing little tree rather than trelissed or spread long with cordons or canes. These enthusiastic little guys are fine without irrigation once established, love the challenge of well-draining sandy soil, and can grow hundreds of years if well cared for. 

Today we dive into the ocean of Grenache, with two exemplary wines from vastly different worlds. First we explore the dry-farmed, sand over limestone hills of the Stolpman Vineyard at Ballard Canyon, one of the great vineyards of Santa Barbara County. The Penville Grenache reflects the fog cooled and sun baked days with its soft complexion yet full flavor intensity and outstanding structure. On the other side of the coin we find power, depth, and freshness from the ‘Licorella’ black-slate hillsides of Priorat in Catalunya. The steep, high altitude farming of this legendary and diminutive region is unparalleled for Grenache. 

Today we taste fire and we taste rain, 

We taste sunny days that we thought would never end, 

From lonely vines, spaced far from their friends, 

We taste Grenache, two ways, again and again… :)


Penville - 2014 Stolpman Vyd Grenache, Ballard Cyn, Santa Barbara, CA 

Welcome to Ballard Canyon,a magical place where anything appears to be possible. This 2014 Grenache by young winemaking duo ‘Penville’ (Patton Penhallegon & Michael Villas) is insane. If you know Satellite, you’ll know that this wine represents most of what I look for in a wine. Not only is is beautiful, made with soft hands, and representative of its home, it is a phenomenal varietal representation of Grenache. 

Penville’s Stolpman Grenache is juicy, it is lean and levitous, it is refreshingly acidic, and yet silky on the palate. The fruit of this wine is all fresh strawberries, orange blossoms, and a dusty finish that reminds me of knocking boots off after a long hike in the warm, chaparral covered hills of Santa Barbara County. No smoke or ash in this wine, it’s all foggy mornings and sunny afternoons. 

I fell in love with Penville wines late last year when I was blown away by their balance. They teeter back and forth for me, with a palate filling power of flavor and depth, and yet wispy softness with hardly-there tannins and a fascinating delicate feel. What is the reason for this you may ask?

Whole clusters of great, dry farmed grenache from one of the great vineyards of Santa Barbara county. Stolpman vineyard doesn’t rely on shiver inducing altitudes of Priorat to create its brilliant flavors, but on the constant breeze to and from the sea. Morning fog, afternoon heat, constant breezes - this is the story of Santa Barbara’s East-West Santa Ynez Valley. Magic… and geological luck. Did I mention there is a rare and incredibly awesome hunk of limestone under this vineyard too? Grenache loves water retaining yet well-draining limestone as much as it loves the beach-like sand of the vineyard above. This is dreamy Grenache land, and a style that is taking hold in Santa Barbara. 

More on the winemaking before we turn our gaze to Spain... Penville is all about simplicity, with options. Mostly whole cluster fruit is divided between 4 different fermentation vessels - 476 gallon cement egg, a 1200L Muid, and a 500L French oak puncheon for six months with the remainder fermented completely whole cluster in the egg then transferred to neutral 500L puncheon for six months. These guys are using all the tools they have, and yet so softly. You’ll see the reflection of their low-touch strategy in the hardly-there color of this wine. It’s a brilliant attempt and one I can’t wait to get more of for years to come. 

** A note for the ambitious wine-clubstronaut - Pick up our last bottle of the Penville 2015 ‘Chingon’ of the same vineyard. It is insane, totally sold out elsewhere, and ‘loco-doco’. Get it while it’s HOT!

$38 @ Satellite SB


Mas Doix - 2016 ‘Les Crestes’ Priorat, ES 

Hi, my name is Priorat and I’m here to indulge you. First things first - remember this word: ‘Licorella’. The world famous, incredibly devigorating and difficult soil of tiny Priorat. This Catalunyan subregion in eastern Spain is mountainous, hot, and amazing. Vine yields here are among the lowest in the world, due to the nearly nutrient-free Licorella, the use of steep, high altitude vineyards, the impossibility of irrigation. For instance, each one of the little Grenache vines in this wine carries less than a kilo of fruit.. That’s 2.2lbs! This low yield means intensity.

This little gem, ‘Les Crestes’ comes from a 167 year tradition of family winemaking by the Doix family. While these vineyards were established in 1998, the family has produced award winning wines dating back to winemaker Juan Doix’s great grandfather’s humble 1850 beginnings. Like so many in the old world, tradition becomes this wine. Composed of a traditional blend of 80% Grenache, with a 10% splash of both Carignan and Syrah, the wine whistles of the soils and sun of these ancient hills. Crazy-refreshing acidity is maintained through temperature dropping altitudes of 1200-1500 ft, wide swings from day-time heat to nighttime chills, and deeply rooted vines plucked at the optimum moment from their seemingly impossibly terraced slopes. I invite you to search google for ‘Priorat Vineyard’ for a glimpse of Spain’s amazing ability to build terraces. These feats of human commitment to ‘drinkin’ the good stuff’ will etch the Mountains of Priorat long after humans have gone from them. 

We owe this style of wine to the hard fought return of winemaking to Priorat. So many vineyards became the victims of mechanization and industrialization. Through the last century, farmers abandoned their terraces for the siren’s song of factory work in the cities. Only in the past 30 years or so have visionaries like Mas Doix returned to work the steeps again, and boy oh boy are we glad. 

This wine is as equally interesting, yet more youthful, extracted, and vociferous than it’s Penville brother from SB. It was handled incredibly delicately, picked by hand by the 10kg box, then destemmed and hand sorted, and finally fermented and aged for 8+ months in second use french oak. Deep crimson in the glass, with a powerful blue fruit and wood on the nose, the palate is structured with that blackberry and blueberry jam and a deliberate oak framing. If the Penville is romantic love letter this is a power ballad to your palate. Scream, you beautiful beast! Crank it to 11!

This Spaniard is a powerhouse, with a little bit more of everything, save softness! This is for you, big wine person, this is for you, winestronaut.

$34 @ Satellite SB


These two Grenache wines are alive, brilliant, totally different, and absolutely indicative of the people, the places, and the histories they come from. These are real wines that make me smile and I hope they bring a lot of cheer to start your 2018. 

This is Grenache two ways.

This is fire, this is rain.

This is January at Satellite. 


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