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June 2022

Satellite Wine Club, June 2022

Entity of Delight - 'Bassi Vineyard' - Pinot Gris - San Luis Obispo County, CA - 2021

$38 Retail, $456/Case $365/Case for Members ($30.40/Bottle)

Entity of Delight - Pinot Noir & Nebbiolo - Central Coast, CA - 2021

$38 Retail, $456/Case $365/Case for Members ($30.40/Bottle)


We’ve done it again! Another month of THRIVING here in Santa Barbara. The biggest thing I want to convey this month is a giant thank you for your continued support. Whether you’re a new member, an old-timer supporter, or returning to the club like a lovely long-tailed comet… I am personally so thankful for you. It means the world to me to share these wines, these winemakers, and the Satellite ethos with you. You make us feel so special. Thank you!

This month is magical. Regulars here in Club Satélité will be familiar in one way or another with this month’s selections. Crosby Swinchat and his Entity of Delight Wines have returned with another undeniably excellent release. It’s freaky… Crozdog only hits home runs. 

Two years ago we first met Crosby as he wriggled his way right into the center of our little natural wine community. He’s worked with so many of our local faves including Lo-Fi, Roark, Luna Hart, & Solminer to name a few. He has a bloodhound’s nose for great wineries and great wine people, not to mention his finesse in the winery. It honestly trips me out every time we taste new releases… Crosby does not miss. 

Entity of Delight is the perfect moniker for his carefree yet comfortingly well-made wines. They are rarely bombastic’ and funkalicious’ but instead naturally refined, seemingly chiseled from the metamorphic marriage of terroir and concept. They are direct, light but exquisitely textured, they do not fade but open and unpack with time. His wines represent, for this humble natural wine dreamer, the center of the vendiagram excellence in winemaking diagram. Equal parts great fruit source, minimalist yet refined winemaking, and maximum drinkability. There are few people in this industry showing the patience and skill required to make release wines at this level and price point. 


Hey homies. It’s Sean. June is here, and my skin is burnt. Say it with me now: Fog is not UV protection. But it’s all good. Slathered in aloe, there’s a grin on my pink, peeling face. The culprit? Crosby’s coastal chillers, coming in hot to cool things down. Not just literally. These cuvees offer shade from hot, high-alcohol, mass-produced plonk. Shelter from stitched-together Frankenstein wines. They sit perfectly inside the natural-vin diagram described above. And Croz is truly in the center of it all – crafting, marketing and moving his wines, ever meticulous with site selection and technique for an end result that’s equal parts inquisitive and quaffable.


I’m just as stoked as Drew. I want to drink these wines all summer long. For now, I’ll crack a bottle and convalesce indoors, but friends, you should enjoy these entities under the same azure sky and hot sun that adorn their labels. Clocking in just shy of 12% ABV, they’re ideal for the moment. Just check that UV index and protect ya neck, nose and toes.


Summertiiime, and the livin’s easy/Crosby’s on the microphone with pinot, see?/All the people in the wine club will agree/Croz’s well-qualified to represent the SBC…

Entity of Delight - 'Bassi Vineyard' - Pinot Gris - San Luis Obispo County, CA - 2021

$38 Retail, $456/Case $365/Case for Members ($30.40/Bottle)

Entity of Delight - Pinot Noir & Nebbiolo - Central Coast, CA - 2021

$38 Retail, $456/Case $365/Case for Members ($30.40/Bottle)

Given these wines are made by the same hands and largely hail from the same vineyard, we’re just gonna tackle ‘em together. We’ll meet the person, then see the place. Buckle in.


It’s safe to say Crosby Swinchatt has been around the vineyard block. Wetting his feet at Santa Rita Hills powerhouse Sea Smoke, oddly enough he toured the world to land right back in Santa Barbara County. The young winemaker made good on that time. Linking up with Littorai winemaker and terroir geek Ted Lemon in Sonoma, Crosby followed the first American to manage a Burgundian estate all the way to Central Otago, New Zealand, where Lemon had planted the region’s initial biodynamic vineyard in 1993. Following a year at that Burn Cottage vineyard, and one more traveling the island, Crosby found himself with another heavyweight in Maggie Harrison of Willamette Valley’s Antica Terra. The Southern Hemisphere called again, this time to the Barossa Valley of Australia. Then back to the U.S once more. The big dogs. Napa. Oh yeah, throw a Burgundy harvest in there, too.

It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. After a few years in Napa, the globe-trotter did some soul searching. Of his time there, and his full-circle return to Santa Barbara, Crosby reflects: “To be honest, [it] wasn’t the most inspiring but it did provide a good education. From the beginning of all this was the intention to start my own business and make my own wines. So, in 2020 we moved down here to start that venture, made two tons that year… honestly loving the decision to come to Santa Barbara County to start this, the community here, the versatility in grape growing.” 

After that 2020 harvest at The Hilt, he signed on with SBC legends Lo-Fi, where he remains today. It’s the perfect roof to house his singular cuvées. Like the wines tucked within its walls, the facility stands alone, dotted with sagebrush and arroyo willows along quiet Tepusquet Creek. Here, among other talented winemakers like Mike Roth, Craig Winchester and Patton Penhallegon, is where you’ll almost always find Crosby, working his ass off. It seems the man who saw the world finally planted his feet, and his latest adventure may be the most exciting yet. How lucky that it begins right outside our own backyard.


90 minutes north of Santa Barbara lies another place where the sun never sets. Let’s hop on the 101. Through the Gaviota wind tunnels, zipping in and out of the Santa Ynez, Santa Maria, and Arroyo Grande Valleys, the scene shifts, from sandstone-bludgeoned ridges to oak-ensconced vineyards to towns peppered with strip malls, tri-tip joints and smooth, rounded morros resembling green camel humps. And then, for the first time in about an hour, the ocean emerges. After taunting us through fingers of palm like John Cena, it opens up onto picturesque Pismo Beach. Welcome to San Luis Obispo County.


Split between adobes and development, old ranching and progressive politics, the county is likewise divided in two. South County, stretching from Nipomo to San Luis, lies in the viticultural shadow of Paso Robles to the north. While vineyard plantings took root in the early 1970s, just a couple of years after Richard Sanford, Michael Benedict and Charlotte Young started kicking dirt here in Santa Barbara County, the area was pretty quiet until the late 90s and early aughts.


It’s literally not in the books. When a Paso-based friend and I visited Napa for a WSET course, we hyped our adopted hometowns and roasted the other’s region – mostly in good fun. I extolled the virtues of Edna Valley pinot and near-beachside albariño and chardonnay, trashing his overripe, over-extracted, beat-you-up-and-steal-your-lunch-money Rhône blends. I admit I still cling to this idea, even as beautiful wines are coming out of hot Paso, albeit like bats out of hell. His rejoinder – what Valley? Where and who the hell is Edna? He wasn’t alone. When my pocket of the state was not only unmapped but unmentioned in class, I got pretty quiet.


There was absolutely nothing on the swath of land between Santa Maria and Paso. 75-ish square miles where I lived, worked, and up to that point, learned everything I knew about wine. And I knew it to be plentiful. Over the prior year, wide-eyed and wow-ed, I’d seen and sipped from these vineyards – beautiful places with names like Squire Canyon, Spanish Springs, and Chêne, or oak in French. But Bassi Ranch loomed the largest.


Exemplifying marine winegrowing, Bassi sits just over a mile from the ocean. It’s the coastess with the mostess – closer to the Pacific than any commercial California vineyard, after Derbyshire, near Big Sur.


We’re already well-acquainted with this place. It’s the launch pad from which Crosby sent us to the stars with his Saber to the Moon pinot pet-nat. (Satty’s still stocked, if you need another blast-off.) And in the six months since we last checked in, there’s been some news. Following a nine-year process, likely drawn out by California ally and very stable genius Donald Trump, the TTB finally granted this band of coastline AVA status. There’s plenty to celebrate, but rather than stamp his label with a seductive San Luis Obispo Coast appellation, the backside simply lists the vineyard and county at-large. It’s just one testament to Crosby’s minimalist, fruit-first style, focused on transparency as clear as the bottle’s glass. And Bassi lends that fruit big personality.


Splayed across a south-facing hillside in the bucolic Avila Valley, the vineyard was planted in 2002 to pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay, syrah, and oh yes… my salty sweetheart, albariño. Some grenache was added later on. Organically farmed with biodynamic principles, it’s consciously tended. Flanked by apple orchards and the 101, a sliver of sea visible from the top, it’s quintessential SLO.


I was lucky to ogle this gem a few years back. It captures why I was such a loudmouth in Napa - from San Diego to Siskiyou, there’s really nowhere like it in the Golden State. To be sure, this kind of extremely coastal winegrowing is rare. The edges of the continent are untamed and unholy – you gotta leave a little room for Jesus and breezes. Take Derbyshire above. A half-mile from the ocean, it’s hammered with salinity as if Salt Bae himself seasoned the lean vines. Fully exposed to the wind, there’s significant vintage variation, something that happens in Burgundy and Bordeaux, not California.


Yet Bassi is different. There’s a reason the Chumash called this the Hole in the Sky. Better known among locals for the Grover Beach bong shop that shares the name, it refers to a tiny patch of the coast sheltered by Ontario Ridge directly to the south. While surrounding communities are socked in with fog, Avila Beach, and Bassi above it, see just enough sunshine to gently ripen grapes before they all sleep soundly, most nights under a cool marine layer.


Further protected by the surrounding valley, Bassi also sits within the much larger Pismo syncline, a geologic depression shaped by the Monterey formation. It’s complicated, but think of the Monterey formation as why oil rigs dot our coastline, and tar stains your feet post-beach walk. There’s ancient, marine sediment seeping from below ground, and this ink is tattooed up and down the coast, where it formed, solidified and folded differently depending on its composition and surroundings. Overall, it’s mostly shale, mixed with sandstone, chert and diatomite (die-atom-ite). In this slice of Avila Valley, we’re looking at sandstone divided into two subsections.


Simply put, the first is sandstone with loamy sand. We’ll call it 110. The second (we’ll call it 142) contains a harder sandstone with sandy loam and a little clay. Both of these soils series are as good as useless in conventional agriculture. But conventional agriculture aims to maximize yields off the fat of the land. Organic winegrowing, on the other hand, produces interesting, concentrated fruit from vines in harsh, and in California, dry dirt. 110 is planted to pinot noir, syrah and albariño. But 142 is home to our pinot gris and pinot noir, so we’ll zoom in here.


There’s a layer of sandy loam atop sandstone. Loam itself is pretty fertile, but cut with sand atop thick rock, water will drain and leave vines wanting more. Like 110, this sandstone bedrock is nearly impenetrable. Unlike 110, its topsoil is incredibly shallow. These are very good things. 

Why? Well, a grapevine is a singular plant. Capable of expressing a place like few crops, it produces fruit with the optimal acid-sugar ratio to coax interesting wine. There’s a reason cherry or grapefruit wine just isn’t the same. But it’s still a vine. One that wants to live comfortably, grow full of leaves, monkey around, climb a tree. Left to its own devices, it will slack off – hence trellising, water management and the quest for soil.


And this soil is something. Porous, hard and rocky, sandstone is ubiquitous throughout the coast. It’s practically lifeless, devoid of organic material. Here at 142, barely a foot of topsoil separates weathered, residual rock from ancient Monterey formation. You just don’t plant anything on such unforgiving ground. No one in their right mind would grow the apples or marionberries that line the valley floor up here - such stress would make Stewart Resnick of the water-hoarding Wonderful Company’s head explode. But for the quality-minded winegrower it’s a welcome challenge. Roots dig deep in search of hydration and nutrients. The plant conserves energy, and, with a little human help, directs that energy to ripening fruit. There’s opportunity in the struggle.


Says geologist Brenna Quigley, host of wine geology podcast Roadside Terroir on the world’s soils: “Most… have been built up somewhere that have a lot of clay and a lot of organic material.  And that’s really good for crops and corn… but [a grapevine] is this kind of unique plant that actually really thrives on residual soils”. It’s because of these stressors, not in spite of them, that these wines are distinct and delicious. Mike Sinor, vigneron and winemaker of Sinor-LaVallee Wines and Bassi’s owner, agrees. “They [the vines] produce more flavorful fruit. You don’t get high volumes but what you get has high flavor and intensity of place.”


And that’s exactly what we get with these wines. Let’s open the skin-contact pinot gris. Made in a ramato style, it’s a lot like a rosé, but of white grapes. In color, in aroma, in flavor. Derived from rame, which means copper in Italian, this distinctly Mediterranean take on orange wine is as refreshing to look at as it is to drink. Unlike the metallic-hued bottles of Italy, however, here the pink skins of pinot gris dye the wine coral. It’s equally fruity, savory and mineral - strawberry lemonade and hibiscus meeting sea salt and iodine on the nose. Crisp and salty, the palate is soft with cherry skin-like tannins. Kind of sanguine, too. Orange? Rosé? Copper? Croz? What do we call it? It’s really a genre-bender in a glass. From the elements of Bassi, Earth, Wind & Fire all coalesce in the wine, making it funk like a shining star and boogie like it’s the 21st night of September.


The pinot/nebbiolo is similarly playful… but with an edge. Crosby claims inspiration from Napa vigneron Steve Matthiason for the uncommon blend. Sourced from Bella Vista Vineyard in Ballard Canyon, the nebbiolo sits on the ridge between Stolpman and Saarlos, atop some shaly chamise. Refer back to May for more on that, but basically, we’re talking well-draining, rocky soils like those at Bassi. And at 70% Bassi pinot, we’ve got a good idea what to expect - salty seduction. If Crosby’s pinot pet-nat was a glittered, glam rock-bumping pre-teen, this is like the older brother who leaned into punk. Picked early, the nebbiolo is a gentle splash of tannin adding some structure and smirk to buoyant white cherry ICEE fruit. Rhubarb, fresh rose petals, a little green earthiness and umami all tucked into a salt and peppered-Pacific bed.


Sure, the SLO Coast is still underrated. But that’s just fine. Because as the coolest and longest growing region in California, hype isn’t a factor. These places, and the people caring for them, communicating their past and present, are the driving engine. And they’re unlike any others. Shakespeare wrote that no legacy is so rich as honesty. While the Bard of Avon could probably find a better word to describe these wines, I can’t. All’s well that Ent’s well. But there’s so much more to be done. Something tells me this vineyard will soon be flying high on everyone’s radar. People like Mike and Crosby are why. So head to the Satty Patty this Sunday the 26th, where Croz himself will be hanging out from 3-6 pm to shake these groove thangs with you!

Delightful entities that just do it right: That’s June at Satellite


Entity of Delight



Just Right

And that,

My Friend…

So Tight!

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

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