Satellite Wine Club, June 2020
The Wild West Sure Feels Like Home
Methode Sauvage - ‘Iruai’ - Red Blend of Mondeuse, Blaufränkisch, and Trousseau - Shasta-Cascade, CA - 2019
Amplify - 'Mixtape' - Red Blend of Tempranillo, Grenache Blanc, Merlot, Refosco - Santa Barbara, California, USA - 2019
**Serve these treats lightly chilled around 65ºF!
WOAH. By my count it’s March 93rd and unseasonably warm and wonderful outside! Since reopening our patio (currently flowing onto State Street!) we have hardly had time to think, but boy-oh-boy have we loved seeing each of you reemerge from your homes like Rip Van Winkle after a 20 year snooze. Welcome back Winestronauts, we have missed you.
While we don’t know what twists and turns this particularly spicy moment in history will take, I can confidently say Satellite is here to stay… and we are better than ever! In the last few weeks we underwent a major kitchen remodel DOUBLING our kitchen size!!! What that means is that you’ll see our menu continue to grow into all sorts of wonderful things. Ice Cream anyone? Chef Emma and crew are all fired up and whipping up magical newness every week.
I’ve wrestled with what to select for this month’s wines and I have to admit this month I was a greedy boy.. I followed my cravings: I want levity, loftiness, airy-fairy smile juice… something to enjoy in this emerging heat, something I can toss back equally, whether on a hot day or a June Gloomer! I wanted wines with sunshine inside them, and I’ve found them! These wines are just what I need, and I think you’re going to love them too.
What have I gotten us into this month? Well, my greed (maybe need?) for sunshine, simplicity, and inspiration has triangulated two wines that are completely singular in style and yet so related. Two mythically strange blends which are impossible to describe in terms of classical descriptors and common wine writing. These things are something new to the entire world of wine. In my search for ease and loftiness I’ve somehow challenged myself to describe things with no reference points, no distant relatives, nothing but a common thread of fearless exploration into the margins of winemaking, grape growing, flavor profiles, and artistic expression.
This month we explore the edge of the new world, both literally and figuratively. From the foggy salt air of coastal Santa Barbara county to the Swiss-like meadows of the high Trinity Alps in Northern Siskyou & Trinity counties: this month is unexpected, it’s edgy, unequaled, and completely awesome. Join me, Winestronaut!
Methode Sauvage - ‘Iruai’ - Red Blend of Mondeuse, Blaufränkisch, and Trousseau - Shasta-Cascade, CA, USA - 2019
This wine should not exist. Yep. Like the little wizard on it’s label, this wine is some sort of mythical creature conjured by the magic of nature and quite probably a lot of the strong, skunky smelling psychoactive parts of nature!
“Iruai” comes from the ancient Shasta people’s word for the Scott Valley where Methode Sauvage calls home. I would say that yes, while this wine is made from an unlikely blend of European grapes, the Iruai project is distinctly indigenous to the Shasta-Cascade region.
What’s so crazy about this naughty bottle? Let’s talk grapes. The wine is composed of Blaufrankisch, Trousseau, and Mondeuse. Do not feel bad if those don’t sound familiar… all three are little known in the US but DAMN if they aren’t delicious! Let’s talk about alpine varietals for a moment :)
Blaufränkisch, wassup! The king of Austrian red grapes, this varietal is gaining a lot of popularity with imports surging, however, there’s hardly a handful of vineyards producing it anywhere in California. Native to the limestone shores of Austria’s Lake Neusiedl, the varietal is structurally significant with great acidity, well balanced tannins, strong color, and just the right amount of body to make you say ‘yes, i will have another glass please’. It’s been closely compared to the Mondeuse grape, though less floral, and Syrah, though less meaty. It’s a grape that’s incredibly flexible and makes terrific examples from the very lightest, airiest (see the juice in this bottle) to the biggest, bordeaux-iest styles. In our case, altitude, cool climate, and particularly challenging soils give this Blau expression a savory depth that provides a dancefloor for the wine to boogie upon!
Trousseau (or Bastardo if you’re Spanish!) is a distinctly fun varietal which you will find me extolling the strawberry-juiced virtues of each time we get our allocation of local Whitcraft or Stolpman’s Combe project. The bright, glorious red juice of Trousseau is increasingly rare on the three-graped spectrum of this wine. Native to France’s Jura Mountains, which compose Switzerland’s NW border with France, the wines of this grape universally taste delicious. The truly strawberry-juice flavors of this grape are divine; the kind of flavor that forces a childish grin from even the sternest faces. Trousseau has been getting around for centuries, though it’s become rarer and rarer in it’s eastern French stronghold as Pinot Noir steals the limelight. I would argue, however, that this brilliant grape deserves a place in your heart. In the case of this delicious example, Trousseau brings the tangerine zest and wild strawberry pop that translates to “damn that’s delicious”.
Our final irresistible piece of this alpine triple-lutz crunch is MONDEUSE! Remember that name, cherish it, respect it, seek it out! (It’s pronounced mon-dooze, pretty fun to say!!). When I think of Mondeuse, I think Flower Power, high mountain hillsides, raw, topsoil-devoid rocky vineyards with delicate white flowers clinging to existence between the sound of far-off rockslides and intermittent yodelers. It’s the kind of grape that has largely been reserved for mega wine geeks and the tiny population of Savoie, it’s native land which hugs Switzerland’s SW corner. It’s no slouch, however, and while it might be rare, it is an utterly invaluable grape varietal. One of the very few aromatically floral red grapes, it brings a peppery perfume that firmly places one’s mind somewhere under a giant glacier in the Alps. It’s a transportive flavor experience and brings this wine from good to woah.
While I had no idea that the Trinity Alps: A. Existed B. Grew Grapes, or C. Were so incredibly beautiful, I am now a huge fan. Big shoutout to Chad Hinds, the mind behind these devilishly delicious bottles. His winery, Methode Sauvage has come on to the scene as if from nowhere this past year. A lucky few may remember the “Bloom Phase” chilly red that still has people calling the shop 4 months after we sold out.. Chad makes great wines. Why are they great though? I think it’s their consistent lack of ego. Like the fast sketch & Watercolor of a mountain sunset (with a funky little wizard burning some mysterious looking brush 😉) the wines that Chad manifests aren’t about him, they aren’t about power, they aren’t meant to shock, however, they’re more of an impression of place, a flavor study of the interaction of vine biology and geology. There isn’t ‘winemaking’ going on anywhere in his winery… it’s all shepherding. Doing just enough something to evaporate the presence of a winemaker into nothing.
So what does this majestic little mountain sprite taste like? ‘Pepperflowerblackberrysummerwater’ is just about as close as I can get to a single word expression. Holy snickerdoodles, this wine is fun, and serious enough to have me asking for more like it too!
On the nose it’s floral, the Mondeuse is calling out loudly with dried lavender and blackberry, Trousseau backs it with tangerine skins and a basket of ripe strawberries, Blaufränkisch sets the bass notes of blackberry bush and subtle savory spices.
On the palate the wine is a DELIGHT. Not overly sharp, with a milder acidity that feels so friendly. The light tannins are rustic and while they don’t hang around, they do pop up as if to say HI, DON’T FORGET I’M A RED WINE! So much of the texture of this wine comes forth in surprising ways… first there is definitely a little CO2 in here! (Put the cork in and give it a solid Mollydooker shake if petillence isn’t your jam) The CO2 definitely gives a distinct pop and buoyancy to the mouthfeel that just fits. The other side of the texture coin is a distinct ultra fine grit, you might see little micro-sized bits sticking to the sides of your glass! That’s what we call dry extract, all of the microscopic grape and yeast particles suspended in the juice. Conventional winemakers filter that out BUT with time they settle and aid in the wine aging with more complexity… and I honestly think the wine is better for it. I want the truth!
Flavors of the mountains bound forth, more so in every sip. Initially it’s a smashed blackberry bush, then a tangerine blended with tiny mountain strawberries, then the blackberry/blueberry comes through more directly. All the while an element of cool high altitude mountain plants seems to breeze through, reminding me of its origin high up in the wilderness. Elegant but wild, yes please!
This wine is rad, it’s alive, it’s completely unique and that. is. neat!
Nobody says it better than winemaker Chad Hinds:
“Born out of the mythical wine growing region I’ve taken to calling the Shasta-Cascade (from the Siskiyou Wilderness in the mountains of far Southern Oregon, down through the colliding Cascades and Trinity Alps that give rise to the mysterious Mount Shasta). This wine is a love letter to our winery's wild new home in Scott Valley (called iruai by the Shasta People), pioneering a sense of place that channels a vast mineral range, a savage elevation, and a generous beauty… It's the wild and mysterious light-bodied red that makes Pinot Noir taste like a Republican. Discerning drinkers choose Shasta-Cascade Red.”
Drink this wine, love this wine!
Amplify - 'Mixtape' - Red Blend of Tempranillo, Grenache Blanc, Merlot, Refosco - Santa Barbara, CA, USA - 2019
Cameron and Marlen Porter are native Central Coasters and they know the region and its vineyards as well as anyone. Their small winery, Amplify, in Santa Maria has gained a cult following over the past few years, and for good reason. Their wines are SICK!
Cameron is the former Assistant winemaker from Presqu’ile winery in Santa Maria, an incredibly over-the-top winery with facilities that set them firmly amongst the most advanced wineries in the area, maybe the country. I shiver to think about the investment sunk in there and, meanwhile, I’m completely jealous of Cameron’s free reign to create his own label in that epic space! While they have moved full-time into their own space in Santa Maria, the sweet digs at Presqu’ile are akin to a pair of rocket boosters launching their winemaking to the moon! Insane stuff and I highly recommend visiting that spot next time you’re up north :)
Nowadays Cam and Mar find themselves in a much simpler, more intimate space - it’s a vibe - and I had the chance to catch up with them in late May when I personally picked up the wines! It was a treat to walk the new winery with them and imagine how it’ll evolve as they break it in.
The vibe of Amplify is easy to capture in a few tastes: It’s free, it’s experimental, the wines are meant to CRUSH: Always delicious, deviously refreshing, and completely unlike anything else out there. The wines also tend to be rock solid; I’ve never tasted a flaw in their recent wines and, thusly, I bought everything they made this vintage on the spot!
How do they make their devilishly good wines? Naturally. Organically grown grapes from all corners of Santa Barbara County, Native Yeast fermentations, neutral vessels like old oak and stainless steel, no additions beyond minimum effective SO2, and constant attention - serious restraint and patience!! - to intervene only when absolutely necessary. These wines are what we’re looking for: delicious, creative, simply made, from the cleanest grapes, and by the nicest people.
If you get the chance. Visit Amplify. The new (very small) tasting room will open later this year in Santa Maria!
Let’s get into this tasty, strange yet somehow familiar, treat!
The four grapes are all organically farmed between two sites:
- 31% Grenache Blanc - Tres Hermanas Vineyard
- 21% Refosco - Tres Hermanas Vineyard (Direct Pressed & Cofermented with Refosco)
- 37% Tempranillo - C5 (or My Friend Matt’s Vineyard)(⅓ Whole Cluster)
- 11% Merlot - C5 (or My Friend Matt’s Vineyard)(Destemmed)
This wine is a part of a growing set of red & white grape blends and cofermentations that are honestly stealing my heart daily. We might call these by a few names: a blush, a clairet (Bordeaux), a clarete (Spain), a kooky crazy natural wine (Wine Spectator, probably)... what you need to know is that there’s not yet a fully agreed upon name for this approach to winemaking, in fact, in most wine producing countries these kinds of wines aren’t even allowed to carry the name of the appellation they’re grown within… with the major exception being Champagne! (Side Note: Yes, Rosé Champagne is nearly always made from a majority of white wine blended with a fully red wine in small proportions!)
So yes, cofermenting Grenache Blanc and Refosco then blending it with independently fermented Tempranillo and Merlot is not common… I don’t think it’s actually ever happened before. It’s like two Spanish farmers hot tubbing with a Bordeauxlaise French Lord and an Italian Flower Child. That’s kind of the point here: it’s not that weird and like our magical wine from the Shasta Cascade region, it feels almost familiar and that’s a sign of great winemaking and great farming.
So what’s happening in this crazy bottle eh? Let’s dip in the old schnoz!
First of all: this color is a cool deep rosey ruby red that is also completely see through. The watery clear rim suggests a lightness and yet the deep core tells me something punchy is happening here!
On the nose I’m reminded of elements of that Iruai! It’s ripe mountain strawberries (Ever been to Harry’s Berries at the SB Farmers Market? Those kind… the expensive kind!). Those berries are backed by a punch of floral perfume from the Refosco (Synonymous with Mondeuse, that floral element in the last wine!). There’s a punch of a few more things happening on the nose too: stemminess from the Tempranillo whole bunches, a full breath of red roses from merlot, hey… is that tennis ball I’m getting from Grenache Blanc? (look for it Winestronaut… I promise these are not the notes of a stoned Sommelier!). The nose is popping, it’s diverse, it’s exciting.
On the palate the word is “YES”. Smooth texture, with light tannins, refreshing acidity, a lightness backed by a juiciness akin to Welch’s. It’s all of those elements from the hugely diverse grape selection that mingle, creating a layered yet light and airy, magnificently quaffable porch pounder! I stand by all of those scents and raise you tart cherries, blackberries, orange rind, a bit of savory spicy black pepper oil.
There’s more to this wine in every slurp, and you don’t need to worry about it if you don’t want to. It’s all there for you, and yet, just there for you ;) This wine is dichotomy, it’s unusual and yet familiar, it’s just what I want in these times.
Now a word on winemaking from the boss, Cameron Porter:
“Our second vintage crafting our red iteration of Mixtape, we've centered around 2 of our favorite vineyards, Tres Hermanas in eastern Santa Maria Valley and C5 in the heart of Santa Ynez. From a similarly cool growing season, the 2019 remains a bright, juicy, light red wine, meant for a wide array of foods. Perfect with a chill on it, this can handle big flavors and spice, or act as the perfect porch-pounder for spring and summer. That being said, we find that the 2018 is still incredibly fresh, so don’t be afraid to lay a bottle or two down for a couple of years”
A word to the wise, both of these wines like a little chill. Not too cold, and certainly never too hot. I think they’re best pulled from the fridge about 30 minutes before diving in :) too cold and you’ll miss the subtlety, too hot and… gross.
Cheers to you Winestronaut.
Wiggle while you Giggle
Think while you drink
Reds, Whites, Stars, Stripes
These are wines with a little kink!
This is June at Satellite.