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March 2018

Satellite Wine Club, March 2018

Roark Wine Company, Cabernet Franc 2016, Santa Ynez Valley, CA

Domaine de l’R, “Les Cinq Elements” 2015, Chinon, Loire Valley, FR


Today’s Satellite Session is brought to you by Cabernet Franc. Father of Cabernet Sauvignon, King of the Loire valley, Evocateur of the Bordeaux Right Bank. A varietal at home in the snowy interior of France and the sunny slopes of Santa Barbara County. A varietal unmistakably itself; all green pepper and cherries, a transporter of herbs, a conveyor of spice, a window into the earth it grows in. 

WINESTRONAUTS! CABERNET FRANC IS MY GRAPE. It speaks food to me. It is the farmer’s market.. Try it with anything green or red on our menu, or yours; this grape sings the song of a vegetable, tuned to the key of green pepper. It loves meats of all types, from wild gamey boar (if you can get your hands on it) to big cuts of beef, veggie stews, and hearty salads. In a pinch? Reach for the Cab Franc. It’s cut out a magic spot between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (it’s progeny), with a medium body, both bright fruit and vegetable character,  and significantly less color and tannin but every bit of the acidity. It’s only fitting that this grape has found a second home in Italy, a country filled with native grapes of the same profile… but we’ll get into that in another winclub release.

Where did this beautiful grape come from? All structured yet crystal clear, not overly chewy, but crunchy and crisp. This is a grape that lacks confusion, rarely with murky depths but all crystalline and clear like the juice in both your cups Winestronaut (assuming you’re opening both of these bottles right now for a side-by-side… do it) I digress\\ Cab Franc is likely from SPAIN?! It only makes sense that this amazing grape comes from an amazing food and wine region like the Basque country of northern, Atlantic Spain… with genetic parentage from one of our other favorite grapes - Hondarrabi Beltza (look for the rosé on our shelf shortly). Like it’s dad, Hondarrabi, it carries that crunch of green bell pepper, a clarity to the soil it’s grown on, and a not-mouth-melting palate of lean, acidic, food friendly splendor. 

Think Carbon when you think Cabernet Franc. The names etymology stems from carbon, meaning black, the color of the grapes of Cabernet Franc. Deep, dark, vigorous and enthusiastic for growth when the weather allows, Cab Franc is an insurance policy for bad weather in Bordeaux. It is mid-ripening meaning it ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon with much of the same beauty of flavor and depth. When you hear about an early winter in France, expect a ‘greener’ bordeaux rouge vintage as the sauvignon will be lost to frost. 

So what does this grape really taste like? It’s herbaceuous, irreverent, lively, and honestly pretty darn fruity when the weather allows for such (as it does in this month’s example from Roark). 


Roark Wine Company, Cabernet Franc 2016, Santa Ynez Valley, CA

Lemme tell you about my guy, Ryan Roark. This dude is Texan and unabashedly so. Ryan went to Texan A&M in College Station to learn the Ag business in both plant pathology and microbiology. While raising corn and other commodity crops was in the cards at first, Ryan lucked out with a semester abroad in the Loire Valley at a family owned estate. Needless to say, this Texan fell hard for that tender French lifestyle. That Loire Valley experience routed his traditional A&M future for the world of wine. With internships from New Zealand to Napa, Ryan immersed himself. All the while, that Loire experience drove him all the way. Today, Winestronaut, we benefit from that experience… with  a Texan made wine from Santa Ynez, planted firmly in the Loire Valley style. Hell, we have two of these wines on our shelf right now (check the Chenin Blanc, it’s thrilling and even more typical of a Loire style). While Ryan’s wines are unmistakably American, they are unavoidably French at heart. 

He follows a simple methodology in the cellar, as those who first inspired him. Get the best fruit, grow it yourself if you can, and let the grapes do the work. All indigenous yeast fermentation, low extraction (let’s not beat up those poor grapes), no fining or filtering, and only the occasional racking to make sure it’s clean for drinking. These wines are honest and pure. Unusual at times and always awesome, but when you think about it… Ryan is an unusual dude, an anomaly, driven by quality and a desire to share… I think he’s awesome too. 

Subtelty, the nose is Green Pepper -> integrated into a stew of rich fruits. Depth is the xfactor for this wine. The scents that develop in this thing are just mmmm… mmmm good. Red Cherry and sack of dried chaparral herbs, a touch of clove, a snip of veggie stew.. This is sunday supper. A sip in this glass is like a dive into a slowly gyrating psychedelic flavor wonderland, opening with rose petals and that wild california chaparral, and then all the crunch and refreshment of a fresh picked basket of red cherries. Hell, here’s what we got from the horse’s mouth down at Roark Cellars:

“At first breath the herbaceous aromatics of the 2016 Cabernet Franc give off dark fruit with a hint of fennel and mint. Once tasted the brightness of this young variety stands forefront as if biting into a freshly picked blackberry. The mid-palate has a formidable tannic structure which elongates into a smooth lingering finish“

Ryan uses old barrels and neutral 600L puncheons for this wine as to not throw overt oaky woody flavors at it. He seeks purity, old school references, and exemplary local flavor here. No, you’re not going to get the same crunchy green pepper here that you would in the Loire. I guarantee you wouldn’t like it if you got it (because it’s irresponsible to pick your grapes before the 4th of July, when those cab franc vines might have had those under ripe flavors). The truth is we are not in the foggy, cold Loire Valley in SB county and that most of our Cab Franc is planted in the hot expanses of the Eastern Santa Ynez Valley. While Roark sources fruit from West of our hottest Happy Canyon, it’s California and darn it - WE HOT. It is near impossible in an especially hot vintage like ‘16 to culture the crunch of the Loire. What Roark does best here here is allusion. He so obviously loves the wines of that magic valley, those which pulled him into the wine world. He is showing us a representation of that style from our home, a home he believes deeply in and is 100% committed to. 

$44 @ Satellite SB


Domaine de l’R, “Les Cinq Elements” 2015, Chinon, Loire Valley, FR

My Grandmother’s Barbecue Sauce. 


Call me crazy but that’s the smell I get the instant the cork pops out of a bottle of Les Cinq Elements. This wine is savory, it’s crunchy, it’s an escape to the foggy cool mornings that wash the Loire Valley throughout the year. This wine is vegetation, it’s a ticondaroga #2 pencil - freshly sharpened, it’s grammy’s bbq sauce - under production, green bell pepper 15 minutes into a stew, it wants to be a watermellon jolly rancher but ended up a cherry pie. It’s all of this wonderful locational flavor. These are the typical flavors of Chinon in the Loire Valley. 

We are here, in the LOIRE people! Open your imaginary eyes and picture an incredibly long and winding river, we call it the Loire. It is born in the heart of France, dead center in the southern heart of France, just a hundred or so miles from the mediterranean and yet it flows proudly to the north western atlantic shores over 1000 winding kilometers away. It is home to wildly varying weather, people, and grape varietals. It connects Southern France with the Atlantic. It moderates the temperature of it’s local vineyards up and down the shores. It is a magic river where nearly all of my unicorn wines are born. The Loire. Love it, Know it.

Domaine de l’R is legit. We only grow Cabernet Franc, they pronounce. Our vines have an average age of 60 years, they shout from the roof of their old farm house. We’re natural, organic, neutral oak, low sulphur, low intervention, dry farmed, they bellow from their cellar door. Just kidding, we just planted 25 acres of Chenin Blanc for the future, they squeal between giddy giggles and snorts. Emphatically, we are the Loire Valley. Explicitly, we are Chinon. This is l’R. A silly name, house of the R. I don’t care, the wine is exceptional. 

Winegrower Frédéric Sigonneau nearly left france forever, for the hot holls of the Ribeira del Duero in Spain… but luck has it that he returned home in 2005 to an estate meant for greatness. l’R is exemplary Chinon, with glacial deposits over limestone, river sediment, gravels, and a wonderful river (the Loire, duh, pay attention!). We are so lucky to have this producer creating such elegant, and classic wines. They are organic, low sulphur, low intervention, and straight gangster. . . Frédéric shares so much with Ryan Roark. 

$40 @ Satellite SB


Crunch the Greens.

This is March at Satellite.

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