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March 2020

Satellite Wine Club, March 2020

What’s a Rosé, really?

Scar of the Sea - Methode Ancestrale Rosé  of Pinot Noir - Topotero Vineyard, Avila Beach, SLO County, CA - 2019

Finca Torremilanos - ‘Ojo Gallo’ Clarete - Aranda del Duero, Ribiera del Duero, ES - 2018


CAN YOU SMELL-EL-EL-EL-EL-EL What the springtime’s cookin’? 

My allergies can! 

Spring is upon us. Daylight saving time is almost over. Longer, later, warmer days are coming. My apricot tree bloomed today! I’m sneezing, sniffling, and loving every second of it. 

What does all this blooming and sunshine (and endless snot!) mean? It means we’ve got fresh Rosé and it’s time to enjoy it. Let us toast the first blooms of the decade. The rebirth of the land! The allergies and the blooms alike! 

This month I want to explore rosé. What is it? The answer isn’t that simple. As with all wine styles: it’s a spectrum brimming with a million shades, endless colors, vastly different grapes, blends, regions, flavors, traditions, and exceptions to every rule. 

Rosé, at its most basic, is pinkish wine. Not fully red nor colorlessly white, never opaque, and yet some come right to the brink. There are two styles we see most often: the hardly-there, zephyrous pink hues of Provence-Style Rosé - directly pressed from their crisp, just-ripe red grapes - to the deeply hued ‘sagnée’ or ‘bled’ style wines, literally bled from their berry-filled tank just before going fully red. 

“Sure, wine guy, I know about rosé, BRO! Blow my mind or get out!”

OK… Whatcha know about ‘clarete’? Red grapes, White Grapes, Skin Contact, Strong Flavors! Clarete refers to a clear or lighter colored red wine, though “dark rosé” or “Blush” might be a more accurate translation. From deep traditions in France’s Bordeaux and it’s Spanish cousin Rioja comes a style I’ve become fascinated by. Traditionally it’s a blend or co-fermentation of reds and white with limited time on the skins, but it can be so much more! We’ve got skin contact white wines blended with direct-pressed red grapes. There’s sagnée red cut with still white! Maybe it’s elements of both! Is it that I love wine made with no rules, just pure creativity? Yes. Is it that I am crazy about strong, individual flavors, that come from pushing the envelope? Uhuh. Is it cool to drink Clarete and impress your friends with something they might have never heard of? Dolphinate-ly. Does it taste good? Turtl-ey. Am I dragging on? Yep! 

Ok… I covered the still kinds of Rosé but what about the sparkling kinds? Did you know that most Rosé Champagne is made with primarily white-vinified wine and colored with small amounts of red-vinified wine? How about that bottle of Scar of the Sea you have there? Well it’s hardly got color at all!! That’s because it’s pinot noir grapes were pressed to juice just moments after arriving at the winery, hardly taking but a kiss of color from the shattered edges of broken grape skins. No red added here folks, just sexy-soft coloring from one of winegrowing’s lightest colored red grapes!! 

What is a rosé? Up to you, boo. Is it red? Almost, sometimes. Is it white wine made from Red? Yeah, pretty close there too. But not quite! It’s that spectrum of lovely, tinted wines, made for pleasure, for chugging, for hot days, for crisp days, for sunny days. It’s the wine of spring, with a color to match the blossoming, the awakening of the world! 

So dive into Rosé. It’s more serious and more diverse than you might have thought! All hail the power of pink! 

Scar of the Sea - Methode Ancestrale Rosé  of Pinot Noir - Topotero Vineyard, Avila Beach, SLO County, CA - 2019

Long-time fans of Satellite will recognize Scar of the Sea. Maybe you’ve had their Chardonnay? Perhaps an ethereal Pinot Noir? A sexy natural cider? 

Mikey Giugni’s exceptional fermentations are a gift from the central coast’s more obscure, best farmed, marginally situated vineyards. They are often truly classical styled wines from extreme sites, farmed with excellent organic viticulture by small land holders, folks with crazy passion. Mikey is part classical winemaker, making some of the most exciting, complex, and light handed wines anywhere… Wines that feel familiar, as though he’s imprinted elements of Burgundy’s finest sites in his bottles. And yet, He’s  a California dreamer by a large portion (or just a dream for all you real fans out there, ♡) with real creativity and a lust for the new new, the marginal sites and flavors, driving towards those flavors one can only find by daring to risk failure. He rarely fails. 

Mikey is a master. Not just in a local sense, but in a masterful sense! He speaks the language of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in a way that really does rival the classic winemakers of Burgundy. He takes his time. He lets the farming and fruit quality guide the expression of his wines. He sets the wine on a course for success and lets it navigate itself to the bottle, gently nudging it along with little interference. His embrace of minimalism delivers a cacophony of diversity that only great grapes from excellent sites, fermented spontaneously, and aged without intervention can create. He has fully taken nature on as a partner and we’re ever the beneficiaries of that partnership. 

“So, tell me about the wine, dude” 

Ok Winestronaut, strap in. Mikey plucks these special grapes from Topotero Vineyard, not even a mile from the waves of Avila Beach. This organically farmed vineyard is a tiny five acre plot located on an ancient riverbed of mixed gravelly soils. Separated from the sea by little more than a few homes, a bit of brush, and an insignificant hill. It’s basically in the ocean. The vineyard was planted all to Pinot Noir back in 1998, making these vines right at the beginning of their peak maturity. They were harvested at just 18 brix of sugar, meaning this fully dry wine struggled to get just 11% alcohol! (Cold sites make for the most crushable, low ABV wines!). The juice was pressed straight off the berries, fermented naturally using only the yeasts found on the grapes in old neutral french oak barrels (give me micro-oxidation but no oak flavors!!), then bottled right before dryness to capture the final few CO2 breaths of it’s yeast. The bottle was capped with a crown cap, and left to finish fermentation and age a bit before Mikey pops the caps, expels out the leftover dead yeast (lees) and corks it. Voila… nothing added, nothing (but lees) taken away. This wine is fully ØØ (no SO2 or other muckery!). It’s just simply lovely, lively wine. 

This simply made, lovely, lively wines is so special. It is ethereal. Like a tinted-pink sea foam captured just before the tide pulls it away. The aromas of fruit blossoms are springtime, a touch of yeasty, leesiness from the fermentation is veritas, a salty, kiss of kelp hints at its proximity to the sea. The palate belies nothing. It’s all of these salty, fresh fruity blossoms, growing on an island of chilly, crisp seawater. It has the most pleasing texture, with delicate bubbles that integrate into the liquid like wind in a silk cape, a feather brush on a bed of flower petals… (I’m clearly working on my romance novel writing). Guys this wine is sexy. 

So here you have it. The first rosé bubbles of spring. Captured naturally. 

A Cautionary Tale: Contents under pressure! Serve this chilled right down in an ice bath or out of the fridge… Keep a hand or towel on the cork!! I’m not saying I shot wine all over my laptop and desk but I’m also not denying that it may have happened. My computer does taste better than usual though, that’s for sure. 

Finca Torremilanos - ‘Ojo Gallo’ Clarete - Aranda del Duero, Ribiera del Duero, ES - 2018

Winestronaut, let’s change gears. This is a whole different beast… A ‘Cock-eyed’ Wine… but I’ll be back to tie it all together in just a few paragraphs. 

Let me take you to Spain. 

Finca Torremilanos is in the middle of a great deal of nothingness. Two hours from Madrid & Leon, Three hours from Rioja and Bilbao, Five from Santiago, Six from Barcelona. We’re out here, on the north-east shoulder of Portugal. Today, it's just me, you, and the Peñalba-Lopez family who for the past 60+ years have been the economic core of the tiny village of Aranda del Duero, on the banks of the Duero River. Lets.Get.Rural.

A warm, dry, very high altitude site nearly 1000m above sea level, this village is perfectly positioned to grow a whole host of indigenous Spanish varietals, seven of which find their way into this incredible elixir. 

“What? Seven varietals? Seven different grapes? In one wine? Why? What? That just sounds irresponsible” - Not irresponsible, friend, historic! This approach might not be quite as old as the hills themselves, but pretty darn close. You have to think of this wine as a part of the history of this land, where simple subsistence farming has dominated for millennia, through dozens of wars, conquerors, faiths, languages, cultures. Like Spain itself, this clarete style rosé is an amalgamation of all of the history this land is steeped in. 

Let me elaborate! This wine stems from necessity. It stems from the lucky abundance brought by invaders of all types. Tempranillo, Garnacha,

Bobal, Monastrell, Viura, Abillo and Malvasia. These are the seven grapes that make up this cock-eyed delight. At least three of them do not originate in Spain (I’m looking at you Italian Malvasia, and yes, even you Monastrell {Mourvedre} & Tempranillo, you Italo-Phoenecian invaders)... Even still,these vines have thrived here for millennia. While some are foreign, they fit right in as naturally as a hotdog on Coney Island! (Thanks Germany!) 

The wine is the result of a need, a need to use everything grown. It’s an expression of the whole vineyard. A wine meant for the harvest workers. Something substantial, to refresh with lunch, and almost definitely used to sterilize drinking water in pre-modern times. This style is fully the wine of the people. It does not necessitate a categorical style because that’s irrelevant to the people who’ve made it a part of their existence for generations. This is simply a wine… a delicious wine, but a wine nevertheless. It simply is. 

How is this simple wine made? Pretty simply. First off you start with epic grapes: 80-180 year old vines grown biodynamically on an ancient weathered mountain (Montecastrillo), with the absolute utmost quality care from the Peñalba-Lopez brothers and their plough horses (yep, 200 hectares ploughed by horse… NAY!). The grapes, both red and white, are all harvested by hand at the same time, crushed and left to ferment (naturally) with all the grape skins for seven days in small concrete tanks. After seven days the juice is pressed off the skins gently to avoid too much more color extraction. The wine then rests for 8 months in old oak barrels to soften up. It’s bottled without SO2 (just like our lovely Scar of the Sea!) and sent off to us to enjoy. 

This wine is RADICAL. It looks like a deep colored rosé, feels like a structured red on the palate, but refreshes like a more delicate white. It’s got strength, a sense of self confidence (?, sure). This wine is the tradition of a strong people in a remote place and it sure feels like it embodies part of that identity. 

So what is a Rosé? It’s not red, not white, sometimes both, definitely something in between. Many styles, many grapes, some with bubbles. Rosé is an interpretation, whether old as time or new as the rising tide. Regardless of everything: Rosé is fun. Rosé is wine, and you should drink it like it’s going out of style… historically it has quite a few times!


What’s a Rosé? It’s the stuff of dreams. So dream and dream deep my friends!

Pink wine. That’s March at Satellite. 

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