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March 2022

Satellite Wine Club, March 2022

Ceci n’est pas un wine club!


Press Gang - “Mon Dieu…” - GSM - Robert Rae Ranch, Santa Rita Hills, CA - 2019

$37 Retail, $444/Case $355/Case for Members ($29.58/Bottle)


Domaine du Possible - 'C'est pas la mer à boire' - Grenache, Syrah, Carignan - Côtes du Roussillon, FR - 2019

$56 Retail, $672/Case $538/Case for Members ($44.83/Bottle)


Winestronauts,


Where does the time go!? The time warp is real! 


Here we are in MARCH and as we get further and further into this year the excitement just continues to ramp! In the coming months we’ll release many of our own labels with some of our favorite wineries in the region. The wines taste ridiculously good… I am elated!


While we’re cooking up a few months of Satellite collabs for the future we do have an exemplary satty-selection for you this month. It’s Grenache+ all March! What do I mean by Grenache+? I mean it’s time to talk about Grenache as a foundation for assemblage, Grenache as the leader of the band, The captain of the team… Grenache as the firmament in which all the beautiful grape-stars twinkle and shine down upon our smiling, thirsty gullets.


You’ve seen it a million times before, Winestronaut, the Grenache-based-blend is omnipresent in the world of wine. The classic: GSM, The efficient: Grenache/Syrah, The “Climb-aboard”: Grenache with some amount of Carignan, Cinsault, and/or Mourvedre as well as Syrah, and finally: Grenache with all of the above, and heck, even Grenache and the completely unrelated Malbec grape featured in our past (and forthcoming) project with Solminer Wines: “Moon Wrangler Malbache”. Everything and anything, even white grapes, are up for blending with Grenache. NO RULES!


Grenache is a friend to so many, most particularly the winemaker. Like a movie star, it has all the elements necessary to shine in the starring role and only gets better as the supporting roles fill in the storyline. Grenache is the Leonardo DiCaprio of grapes: excellent alone, sublime when paired with the right crew. 


You might also spy a similarity in labels this month… Statements in French about these two wines being something specific… specifically NOT a GSM and NOT the whole ocean to drink - but, fellow winestronaut, what are these wines? Well that’s where my homie Sean “Grude Dude” Magruder steps in to rap on the specifics! Check below for his smooth-jam missives on these two completely opposite approaches to Grenache-based-blending!  


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Friends, I know I’m far from alone in declaring: springtime is the shit. THE best season. The cat’s pajamas. The bee’s knees - fuzzy, pollinating pals buzzing around as sunlight hours abound. Long days at the beach, no need to beseech. Sun’s out, please be careful when and where you bring those guns out. This Arizona native is still unaccustomed to daylight savings, so you already know I’m STOKED STUPID. Refreshing and renewing, there’s love and jasmine in the air, live music in the Bowl, and grenache in my piehole. It’s *literally* lit.


I find Drew’s DiCaprio metaphor fitting. Soft and sappy, as spiced and high-octane as it wants to be, this sweetheart of the Southern Rhône Valley is both classic and ever-evolving. True to its roots while constantly reinventing itself. The lead guitarist who can play a mean second fiddle. And to be honest, not a grape I quickly warmed up to -  quite literally because grenache is often found in hot, and um, compromising places. Like the backseat of a Coupé de Ville aboard the Titanic. Or Verona Beach in the summer, amidst Montagues and Capulets airing their dirty laundry. 


Yet, versatile as it is, the sweet red berry won me over as a clever, quick-witted solo artist in Catch Me if You Can (see Murmur Vineyard Grenache, Ila, 2016). It also found a fresh role in a timeless GSM blend, surrounded by its aforementioned fellow grape-stars in The Departed, or 2019 Les Amouriers Vacqueyras. Damon is syrah, Nicholson mourvèdre?? 


Needless to say, this grape can do it all, and there’s a grenache or DiCaprio for all. Hailing from cooler, saltier climes, this month’s wines offer more and more intrigue with each sip. Chock-full of twists and turns, they’re enthralling and decidedly different. Shutter Island with a little sunshine. Let’s nosh some ‘nache.


Press Gang - “Mon Dieu…” - GSM - Robert Rae Ranch, Santa Rita Hills, CA - 2019

$37 Retail, $444/Case $355/Case for Members ($29.58/Bottle)


Mon Dieu, my god… our foray into grenache-based blends opens with this glou-glou who’s got lots to say. A nod to Belgian surrealist René Magritte’s This is Not a Pipe - (a painting of in fact, a pipe), Ceci n’est pas un GSM est un GSM like none I’ve come across. But more on that later. First, a little stage-setting.


March marks our fourth month in a row featuring solo projects from local cats working for established labels. First was our boy Crosby Swinchatt of Lo-Fi and Entity of Delight, who in December put forth a punchy pinot noir pet-nat. Stephen Searle of Jaffurs and Leitmotif wooed us with his bountiful blue syrah in January, and last month, Carter Hallman of Solminer and Carter Paul taught us how to stop worrying and love the grüner. 


Now, Kyle Knapp of Press Gang and none other than Stolpman Vineyards is showing what a GSM that’s not a GSM can do. These talented moonlighters have brightened and enlightened our taste buds night after night on the Satty patty. It’s time we shine that light right back on ‘em.


Following Santa Barbara legend Sashi Moorman’s 15 years at the helm of Stolpman winemaking, the Ballard Canyon trailblazers knew they had big shoes to fill. Their empire, and its production, had expanded far beyond the tried-and-true estate wines that put them on the map. And this was 2016, just before Love You Bunches. Luckily, Kyle Knapp was patiently waiting in the rafters of the Lompoc wine ghetto. Hardly a new-comer, it’s where he’d been working under Sashi since founding Press Gang six years prior.


A low-key landmark of the City of Arts and Flowers, the “ghetto” houses an industry collective crafting some of the region’s most captivating wines. And it’s here that Kyle is shepherding Stolpman’s winemaking program into the 2020s with boldness and finesse. His confidence can’t be understated - dude survived a great white shark attack at Surf Beach and shreds barrels to this day. Find the Shark Week episode!!


Speaking of wild times in the Lompoc boonies… let’s take a little detour to the wind-swept Santa Rita Hills. Our cool-climate cuvée hails from Robert Rae Ranch, tucked away in the appellation’s southeastern corner just 15 miles from town. Also known as Patterson Vineyard, the organically-farmed property boasts 100 acres of olive, chestnut and fruit trees at 800 feet elevation. Wine grapes perch atop lavender bushes on a north-facing slope battered by coastal winds. It’s at the edge of ripeness for grenache. But nutrient-dense clay loam soils lend weight and openness to slow-ripening, acid-retaining grapes. 


And back to ‘Poc we go. Electing to keep things interesting, Kyle co-fermented all three varieties in a whole-cluster ménage à trois. So much green, heat and free love you’d think it was Woodstock. And it’s truly old-school - let’s remember that wine is RARELY made this way. Especially in California. For a host of reasons, grape varieties are fermented individually, blends are assembled during the aging process, and stems are tossed aside, as they tend to complicate things. That’s where premium fruit and a winemaker’s light touch come in handy.


Aged in neutral oak for five short months, this unfined and unfiltered bottling is easily the zippiest GSM I’ve ever tasted. Think Stolpman’s So Fresh wines: packed with bright, juicy fruit framed by tight tannins and herbs. And it SCREAMS Santa Rita Hills like Bloody Mary. Seriously - it’s savory, salty sea stuff on the nose. Rosemary and olive brine. Spicy cherry and sarsaparilla. A little sweet tobacco and strawberry add warmth to the coastal chill. 


Denser than expected, musky red and blue berries wrapped in rosemary rush the palate. Concentrated, buoyant and fresh - strawberry leaf and rosemary persist for minutes on end.     


Mon Dieu… you’ve got me wrapped around your finger. Like the Cranberries, you have to let it linger. Slowly the idea of the non-GSM GSM is becoming clearer. That smashed, leaky bottle on the label is not a GSM. It’s not even a smashed, leaky bottle, it just represents one. Rarely do we truly capture the things we depict. The universe is too full of stars - we can’t even begin to fathom its infinity. But wine is finite, and fortunately, the stars happened to illuminate this one bottle in all of its ephemeral beauty. And that alone is enough.


Domaine du Possible - 'C'est pas la mer à boire' - Grenache, Syrah, Carignan - Côtes du Roussillon, FR - 2019

$56 Retail, $672/Case $538/Case for Members ($44.83/Bottle)


Oh là là… Another French phrase, another 2019, another whole-cluster grenache and syrah-led jamboree. Ce scénario, c'est du déjà-vu, ça a déjà été fait une fois! We’ve done this once before! But the similarities between Mon Dieu and C’est pas la mer à boire end there. We’ve got old vine carignan, we’ve got the Mediterranean, we’ve got the most French-looking Frenchman I’ve ever seen, winemaker and proprietor Loïc Roure! C’est parti (let’s go)!


Translating to “it’s not the sea to drink”, or stop complaining, this isn’t so hard, C’est pas la mer à boire adorns a particularly minimalist label. It sports this very same Courier New font in a Halloween-orange matching the bottle’s capsule. Vague and understated, it’s a far cry from our favorite watercolor etched-Scar of the Sea and clean, refined Tissot labels. 


It’s not something I’d feel compelled to grab off the shelf, either. But a lesson learned. Because within this simple bottle is a montage of deliciously unpretentious, no-frills viticulture and winemaking. It’s straightforward wine made by lifelong farmers on the margins of a nation and the center of Roussillon’s new-old-school. Welcome to Domaine du Possible (the House of the Possible). Dip a toe in la mer.


In 2003, after abandoning a past life as a desk jockey and nixing plans to open a restaurant/wine bar/retailer, Loïc Roure founded his estate winery. Fast-forward nearly two decades, and he’s managing and operating 10.5 hectares entirely within the Côtes du Roussillon AOC. Here in France’s most southerly appellation, we’re shoulder-to-shoulder with the Pyrnees mountains, staring directly into the depths of the Mediterranean. It’s beautiful and rugged, friendly and confident on the fringes. Think Marseille meets Beaujolais - a sea-gazing, smiley mouthful of missing teeth. 


Unlike the Santa Rita Hills, it’s a region whose wines I’ve just recently explored. And like our little gren friend, at first glance I wasn’t immediately sold. No famous producers, no singular grape to champion the region, no renowned appellations with grand cru vineyard porn. Misconceptions about heat and style threw needless clouds of doubt into a place with skies as blue as the sea defining it. 


I’ve changed my tune. Bottlings such as Les Sabots D’Hélène’s La Mauvaise Réputation 2020 carignan, Danjou-Banessy’s Coste 2018 macabeu and Domaine Carterole’s Esta Fête (This Party) 2020 grenache blend have rocked my socks off with their nuance, purity of fruit and focused acidity. And this shredder from Domaine du Possible is no exception.     


Camped out in a winemaking co-op abandoned a decade prior, Loïc philosophically and literally cleaned house. For 70 years, this giant cave in the tiny village of Lansac housed a number of mass-produced, chemical winemaking projects, and the social worker turned vigneron says it took six years to feel a natural equilibrium in which ambient yeasts could guide healthy fermentations. Slowly but surely, his low-intervention style found harmony with the space. Or, more likely, the once burned-out space gradually became hip to natural winemaking.


These processes jive well with Loïc’s vineyards. Entirely organic, his plantings, most of which go back 50 to 100 years, lie atop a patchwork of soils that include schist, gneiss and granite. The blend before us comes from a one hectare parcel planted on schist in 1966. What the hell am I talking about? Let’s get meta with metamorphic rocks.


Igneous (volcanic stuff) or sedimentary (different minerals etc. combined) rocks that were exposed to intense heat and pressure deep below the Earth become metamorphic rocks, like slate, schist and gneiss. They present interesting benefits and challenges to grapevines. Water retention is a biggie, especially depending on climate; sunlight intensity another. Grapes need at least a little water, and not too much sun. An even hotter form of slate, schist typically comes from sedimentary shale. Shale (gets hotter)→ slate (gets hotter)→ schist. Got it? Not at all? Well, there’s a little more.


Schistosity is a very real and very fun word, referring to, you guessed it, how schist-y a rock is. In other words, how numerous and deep are the cracks and splits within the rock that water, air, and a vine’s roots can explore. These fractures offer opportunities for gnarly biological interactions and, more importantly for us, incredibly flavorful expressions of terroir. How much schistos could a schist schit out if its schistosity could schit schist? 


Alright, we’re back. Here in the Pyrenees foothills, France fades into Spain, rainfall is scant and herein lies the magic of schist. Loîc’s old, wild bush vines have by now lost their vigor and yield few grapes. They’re tired. But well-established roots know how much water and nutrients to slurp to produce concentrated grapes and compelling wine. 


As with Mon Dieu, C’est pas… was fermented entirely whole-cluster. Loîc also left this love on its skins for a month, and WOW is it something else. Intensely savory on the nose, Red Vine-y fruit, cornichon, and graphite flirt with pink peppercorn and five spice. Sage. Mustard seed. TEMPURA? This is nuts. And it’s much fruitier on the palate, wrapped in plush texture and mouth-puckering acidity via a sprinkle of carignan. That month-long maceration lends deeper color and supple tannins. And it continues to transform in the glass. 


I told Drew while we tasted - GS blends are rarely so lifted yet structural. And it seems like we’re going back to the future with these two rockstar minimalist winemakers. But brash, beefy Biff Tannen these wines are not. Which leads me to the beauty of the grape. Grenache forms the bridge between lighter and bolder wines, Ambrosia and Kiss, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Blood Diamond. A bridge I will no longer travel with trepidation. Because grenache, like spring, is the bomb. 


“Grenache, you had my curiosity… but now you have my attention”   


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Grenache with buddies

Tastes so nice under sun, with snacks

Heals the heart, fresh start.

  • Haiku for Grenache Feelings

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ 



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