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Jan 2020

Satellite Wine Club, January 2020

‘Blenders in the Glass’

Domaine Sarradels - ‘Du Raisin Chic’ - Red Blend, Saint-Paul de Fenouillet, Val d’Agly, Rousillon,FR - 2016

Florez Wines - ‘Free Solo’ - Old Vine Heritage Blend - Santa Clara Valley, CA - 2018


Buckle up. Strap on your gnarly boots. Gird your loins! This month it’s a no-holds-barred natural wine fiesta. Pure Pure Glou Glou from Me Me to You You. These wines are exciting in every way and I think you and your mouth are going to love them! 

This month we have… Blenders in the Glass. It’s red blending season here in Santa Barbara! We’re past the winter solstice, wishing our way to warmer days. Yes. Sweaters are still in full effect (I’ve been rocking a very hot sweater rotation if I do say so myself), it’s nippy, it’s brisk, but there’s hope for heat! I think this month’s selections are just the thing to get us out of a frigid winter funk. 

So what are the wines this month? They’re irreverent red blends from two equally young and equally ambitious winemakers. The local is James Jelks of Florez Wines based in beautiful Aromas, California (just outside of Santa Cruz). He’s a young, super dynamic winemaker who worked his first vintage in France well before his 21st birthday. He’s Davis trained and Natty-French driven and his wines are a perfect balance between precision and nature. Rémi Koval of Sarradels shares James’ same approach to wines. With a combination of back-breaking hard work in the vineyard and minimal intervention in the winery the wines of this former-sommelier are transparent, vibrant, and energetic. There is no hiding anything for either of these guys. 

The wines you’ll experience this month are incredibly limited. Exceptionally produced. Entirely natural. Explicitly delicious. All blended up for the good of us all. 

Domaine Sarradels - ‘Du Raisin Chic’ - Red Blend, Saint-Paul de Fenouillet, Val d’Agly, Rousillon,FR - 2016

Rémi Koval is a sommelier-come-winemaker who has pursued his love of wine to an obscure, high altitude, remote part of South-West France. 2016 is only his second vintage and I am entirely excited for what it to come. 

Based in the town of Saint-Paul de Fenouillet, Remi, with his wife and band of friends, produces incredibly small production wines without the use of any pesticides or synthetic anything, no irrigation, no sulphur, no filtration, no fining… just sweat equity. 

Remi’s wines are truly spectacular and so much of it has to do with location. Nest in the Agly Valley, the village of Saint-Paul de Fenouillet is ridiculously beautiful. In the high foothills north of the Pyrenees (France’s wall to Spain). Think shockingly steep cliffs dripping with pro & amatuer climbers, ancient churches built in remote mountain caves, thousand year old arched bridges dot the roads alongside alpine rivers. This is French Valhala. 

Remi’s 8 hectares of vineyard are all high altitude, the highest in the village at almost 2500ft. While sun-drenched, the high altitude brings down the temperatures, especially at night, helping to preserve precious acidity in the grapes. The vines also face north, limiting the daily dose of heat even more. The vines are all revived from being left abandoned by the last farmer many years ago, a common story in this relatively poor part of the country. Here, he farms a diversity of local grapes in harsh black schist soils - Muscat, Macabeu, and Grenache Gris to Mourvedre, Grenache, and Syrah. Most of these are gobelet trained, like adorable little bushes. 

The wine you possess is nothing short of electric. Named satirically ‘DRC’ alluding to the world’s most expensive wine from Domaine Romanée Conti in Burgundy, it is instead ‘Du Raisin Chic’ or ‘From Posh Grapes’! You’re drinking something v. sexy. 

The wine is hand harvested and immediately foot stomped to start a natural fermentation, no destemming - just big juicy fresh bunches of love! After 10 days the wine is pressed off to avoid over-extraction of tannins. The wine then settles in large fiberglass tanks for 8 months and is bottled without any additions, no finings, no filtrations, nor sulphur. This is just the juice! 

Beyond its stylish label - this wine is delicious. It evokes springtime memories, with ample fresh violet flowers and plums. It’s bright and substantial on the palate but the acidity and low tannins keep it dancing. Don’t be afraid of the CO2 on the first pop, it will pass OR your can give it a little shake with the cork in it. The CO2 helps to protect the wine without the use of SO2! 

I love what’s happening in this bottle. I’ve been waiting for this wine. It’s delicious, honest, and simply the start of something great. 

Florez Wines - ‘Free Solo’ - Old Vine Heritage Blend - Santa Clara Valley, CA - 2018

James Jelks is cooler than me. He’s probably cooler than you too. This guys is rad and his wines match that description. 

James is a native Santa Cruzer, was raised and went to Viticulture and Enology school at Davis, and has worked in all corners of the wine production world. His resumé is enviable, having worked his first wine job with California natural wine legend Donkey and Goat Winery before he even turned 21. He has his fingerprints on wines from South Africa, New Zealand, France, Oregon, and all over California. His wines are deeply rooted in a french natural tradition, with a focus on quality over quantity, natural farming, native yeast fermentations, lots of whole clusters, no fining, filtering, or additions, and only a slight use of SO2 when absolutely necessary to protect the wine. (The wine in your possession don’t need no sulphur!)

James works out of one of the coolest co-work wineries in the country. My friend Ryan Stirm of Stirm Wine Co. (check the Riesling Magnums on our Back Bar!) put together a small winery for himself in the not-much-of-anything town of Aromas, CA. In it, he shares extra space with three other younger winemakers in exchange for rent and labor. It’s a thinktank for natural wine and one that encourages the kind of exploratory yet clean natural winemaking. I highly recommend calling ahead for a tour next time you’re driving to the bay. 

James seeks out entirely unique and unexpected vineyards for his wines. From the mythical 140 year old Enz Vineyard in San Benito, or this unnamed vineyard in the Santa Clara Valley - the wines are laden with a sense of place. 

Let’s talk about this heritage blend - ‘Free Solo’. First things first: the Vineyard. At 100 years old this vineyard has been owned by the same Italian-American family since it’s planting in 1920: five generations! The vineyard is farmed exclusively by James, all organically. It is essentially dry farmed with one single watering per year when in drought. It is tiny too - just .6 acres in total. (It used to be 18 acres until the building of the 101 eliminated most of the site). James uses all of the grapes grown here for a wild field blend. In it you’ll find Zinfandel, Mourvedre, Carignan, Alicante Bouschet, Petite Sirah, and the aromatic Black Muscat. 

James hand harvests all of the grapes and gently destems ⅔’s of them. He piles the destemmed fruit on top of the whole clusters as a way of protecting those whole berries from oxygen, leading to a semi-carbonic fermentation (this makes for more fresh and bubble-gummy fruit qualities alongside the more extracted destemmed fruit). Like the DRC James makes delicate, slow pump-overs twice daily to wet the cap, encourage a healthy fermentation, and get a bit more complexity. He presses with some residual sugar to avoid an alcoholic extraction (we don’t want this wine to get too serious!) and lets it finish fermentation in old neutral oak barrels. It is then left for 10 months to rest on the lees, is racked once to separate it from the settled lees, and bottled without the addition or removal of anything at all. 

The wine is sultry yet entirely fresh. Deep black fruits at their first ripeness. Just budding with the essence of healthy, bountiful fruit flavors of Pomegranate, cranberry, dried cherry, and what James calls a ‘mentholated signature’... I would call it grapes grown near fennel and Eucalyptus! I love the way that aromatic black muscat adds an overt floral aroma to the top of this wine, making for a fully complex yet carefree nose. One could easily imagine recreating the scene on the label with this wine… Anyone up for a winey bike ride? Just 69 cases produced. 

I can’t say enough about this wine and the DRC from Sarradels. They are made in such a similar style and yet they evoke completely different flavors, memories, and feelings. These wines are why I love drinking natural wine. They are singular, impossible to recreate in a vacuum. They are a gift from their winemakers, a postcard of a terroir, a tribute to their vineyards, an example of hard work transformed into art. 


Look at you

No SO2

Free, Clear, Clean

That’s the Glou Glou

When I long for a drink

You’re the wine, I think

You’re a Red Blend Dream Machine

And I love you. 

Red Blends made of Grapes and Hard Work - That’s January at Satellite

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