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July 2021

Satellite Wine Club, July 2021

Great Gris for Me!!


Entity of Delight - Pinot Gris - Bassi Vineyard, Avila Beach, SLO County, CA - 2020

$37 Retail, $355/Case ($30/Bottle)


Ross & Bee Maloof - Pinot Gris - Temperance Hill Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, OR - 2019

$44 Retail, $422/Case ($35/Bottle)


Winestronauts,

This month, I come to you hat in hand; humble and open hearted. I bring but simple gifts from the vine. A Pinot Gris and a Pinot Gris (Pronounced: Pee-no-gree). A grape of generally low expectations - oft relegated to the discounted happy hour by-the-glass list of sad, low energy wines - accompanied by a label disclaiming the warning: “Santa Margherita - Pinot Grigio”... My friends, Pinot Gris is better than that. 


Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, Graburgunder, Sivi Pinot - These are all the same. These names often carry different meanings about what style the wine will be, or at least which country it’s grown in… but really we’re talking about the same thing: MUTANT GRAPES 👹

Pinot Gris (french for grey) is just that: Grey Pinot. First noted as early as 1283, the mutated Pinot Noir expression has occurred throughout historical growing regions in Europe for centuries. Now, why the hell would this happen multiple times if at all!? Genetics dear reader, funky ones. 


Pinot Gris is a mutation of Pinot - Not Piot Noir, not Blanc, not even Meunier or Teinturier - It’s weird to think about, but really they’re all the same, more phenomic expression of the same genetics. It’s not a crossing with another vine species, it’s literally just Pinot - in a grey (really a dusty pink) expression. So is this month actually about Pinot? No winestronaut, it’s about learning while drinking - congratulations! 


Back to Pinot and why it’s as weird as it is wonderful. Pinot is genetically unstable, but not likely more than most other vine species. It’s just that Pinot has been farmed for over 2000 years - en masse. Because it’s a great tasting grape (maybe more of a category of grapes), it’s been propagated for millennia, arguably more than any other grape. The result of this is endless variation off of the original species - some 1,000+ documented clones now exist. If it helps to put it in contemporary viral terms: you can think of Pinot Gris as a (very much more friendly) variant of Pinot. 


Now that we know where it came from, let’s discover the grape itself. The name Gris is a bit of misnomer, as the berries are quite pink. This is not a rule, however, as Pinot Gris grown in hot regions can be as red as some Pinot Noir. Weird, I know, but hang with me. The color of the fruit only really matters when it comes to skin contact - Which you will see very clearly betwixt our wines this month! Did you know 2 of the three champagne grapes are red? Well they are! Even for non-rosés!


Pinot Gris, like most of the Pinot Family, is capable of producing a whole world of styles. From the typical dry white style like this month’s Maloof P.G., to off-dry, botrytis affected styles best found in Eastern France’s Alsace Valley, to the various levels of pink or copper colors made by Ramato Pinot Grigio producers in Friuli, Italy (which is entirely what’s happening in the Entity of Delight wine you now possess!). It’s an excellent candidate for sparkling wine too. Pinot Gris is flexible as Simone Biles on a balance beam, and it can be just as powerful to boot! 


This month I am determined to show you Pinot Gris done right, in two wildly different styles by two very different wineries, and, what the heck - from two distinctly separate terroirs. This month we pull back the curtain on what quality Pinot Gris CAN BE! So take my hand, winestronaut. Let’s abandon the industrial, incredibly average grocery store Pinot Gris wines, and enter a paradisiacal world of Great Gris, Gucci Grigio... Glorious Grauburgunder! 


P.S. To our newest ranks of winestronauts: welcome one-and-all!! I hope you like puns, bad jokes, and questionable editing!! I have provided you with two excellent bottles to make it a bit easier to stomach!! ;) 


Let’s get Gris-y


Entity of Delight - Pinot Gris - Bassi Vineyard, Avila Beach, SLO County, CA - 2020

$37 Retail, $355/Case ($30/Bottle)


Who is the Entity of Delight? The inimitable Crosby Swinchatt of course!


Crosby appeared in our lives at the shop last summer when he settled in to the SB winemaking scene. A cousin of our pal Ryan Roark of Roark Wines, he’s got great pedigree. Crosby’s been journey-manning around the county helping out a number of great winemaking friends. He’s a kind of wine-spirit for Santa Barbara. He’s spent time harvesting in Burgundy, knows the natural wine game as well as anyone, and has a knack for being in the right spot at the right time. 


Crosby decided to start Entity of Delight with the 2020 harvest, crazy years make for great opportunities. Through his ever-expanding contacts he was able to secure some truly excellent fruit from a pair of vineyards I love: Chardonnay from Spear Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills, and Pinot Gris from Bassi Vineyard in Avila Beach… where our story begins.


I’ll be real with you, dear winestronaut; when Crosby asked for a tasting appointment I did not expect much. First vintages are a total toss-up for most young winemakers and hitting it out of the park is vanishingly rare. Crosby blew my freakin socks off. 


When he hit me with the Chardonnay I knew he was on to something. The wine was exceptional, truly burgundian and refined in a stirring way. The wine sang with perfect pitch right-out-of-the-tank and we’ll be stocking it shortly! Do not miss out on it. Next, when I saw the clear bottle of deep pink pinot gris I was ready for a treat. This wine rips. 


A quick note on the Bassi Vineyard in Avila Beach. This place is cool - literally and figuratively. Largely alone but for a twin vineyard called Topotero next door (Members who enjoyed the Scar of the Sea sparkling rosé will be familiar!) the vineyard sits 1.2 miles from the ocean, with an epic view of the coast heading south to Pismo. For my money it’s the closest to the ocean of any commercially farmed vineyard in California. Cold climate, often clouded in by a salty fog, farmed completely organically with biodynamic inputs. The vineyard is hitting peak quality at 24 years young and the wine reflects that. 


The Bassi Vineyard Pinot Gris distinguishes itself before you ever pop the cork. Clear glass hides none of the hazy copper-pink splendor of the juice, it glows. Not rosé, not red, somewhere in between. This is an orange wine - a skin contact wine - a Santa Barbara-born ramato just like what we find in it’s homeland, Friuli. 


Be ready when you pull the cork. This wine sings loudly on the nose and carries all the magic cacophony of apricots, honey, sweet tarts, preserved watermelon rind, and sandalwood with a nod to the salty kelpy bay just minutes south away. It’s tense and stirs the nostrils. It makes me thirsty just smelling it! 

On the palate it’s a zinger. Really in-step with the nose the wine is tense with incredible balance between powerful acidity, a lean body, significant drying tannin, and crystalline, reverberating flavor intensity that’s lip smackingly delicious. There’s an element of gorging on dried apricots, on the beach after getting clobbered by a big salty wave that just fills my imagination when I taste it. It’s alive, and vibrant. It’s refreshing and yet never-ending on the palate. The fruit is fresh yet somehow preserved, as though the salty foggy air has cured and locked-in the fresh flavors of fruit dried by the intense afternoon sun. This Pinot Gris is more than just great fruit, it’s a study of place. It’s a study of restraint both on the part of Crosby and, honestly, anyone trying to write about this wine without drinking the whole bottle. 


The only complaint I have for this wine is the limited 75 case production. I think it’s stellar and we’d love to carry it all year long. I’m so excited for what’s to come from Entity of Delight. Please stop by and grab a bottle of the Chardonnay dropping sometime late this month! It’s a slamming success and I hope we see a heck of a lot more wine from Crosby in the future.  



Ross & Bee Maloof - Pinot Gris - Temperance Hill Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, OR - 2019

$44 Retail, $422/Case ($35/Bottle)


Ross and Bee Maloof are CUTE and it’s not just because of their adorable labels.


This young couple have been producing killer wines in Forest Grove, OR since 2015. Bee, a former materials engineer for the aerospace industry brings the science and precision to the game. Ross, on the other hand, is a former fine-dining pro from Philadelphia who’s love of wine and food brought him to Oregon for a harvest that never really ended. 


The pair bring a style of exuberant exactitude to wines that’s refreshing in a seemingly endless sea of overly safe and under-whelming wines. They capture a sense of energy in the Willamette and surrounding area that’s hard to match but for a few other local wineries they happen to work closely with! 


The pair work in concert with their growers, all organic certified or in transition. Selecting fruit from all over the Willamette region they’re able to show a whole litany of expressions that simply capture the essence of what makes Oregon winegrowing awesome. It’s clearly not all california sunshine in every bottle, it’s something deeper, more deliberate. So much of the magic of their wiens comes from the growers they work with and the incredible vineyard sites. 


This specific wine is grown in, what I believe is the most exciting quadrant of the Willammette. The Eola-Amity hills span the western bounds of the valley, north to south. They just up from the valley floor about 1000’ and show a completely diverse set of soils from ancient seabed calcareous limestone, to volcanic basalt, to the same silty loess soils found in Austria. In the case of the 734’ Temperance Hill vineyard, it sits on a mix of Ritner and Nikia series soils, both of which are deep clayey and gravely volcanic soils. It sits on a hilltop overlooking the west out to the Oregon Coast through the Van Duzer Corridor - a truly mythic location for wine growing.


From the pop this wine is the Full Monty. Powerful and boundless yet tight and restrained all the same. A classic in the making! 

Straight to the nose it’s the typical honeycrisp, totally ripe golden apples, blossoms, pressed apricot juice, lemon curd. Tropical and generous. They say in their notes that it’s the kind of wine that will slap you til Friday (and it’s only Wednesday!) and they’re spot-on. 

You feel that *slap* on the palate where a juicy, full body is sliced wide open by a line of searingly refreshing acidity that dilated the pupils and sends shivers down the spine. It grips the tongue with a stony texture and a sparkling sensation up and down. That acidity is key in making this wine what it is, without it you’d feel flab - with it POW. 

I love the way it drinks, full and therefore fulfilling, but with a palate cleansing refreshment that invites more inspection. Total complexity and a clean, food friendly structure. It’s a wine I might call crystalized, where all the apple, apricot, ginger, and honied characteristics are somehow suspended in a most perfect fresh-picked form. Like they’re held in stone - and the minerality just confirms that description! 


The wine is exceptional, minimally *made*. Just grown, hand picked, pressed to ferment in barrel and then left completely still for 10 months accumulating focus and clarity on the spent lees (dead yeast). A classic approach reminiscent of Grand Cru Alsace but in the lens of vivacious dreamers. 


It’s a sick take on Pinot Gris. A perfect compliment to Crosby’s Entity of Delight. The kind of wine you can proudly bring home to Mom and Dad or an underground Portland punk rock concert in their basement. 🤘


Pinot Gris in all the ways it can be: This is July at Satellite. 


 ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ 



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