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May 2022

Satellite Wine Club, May 2022

It’s Satellite Time! Part Deux!

Âmevive x Satellite - 'Quasar Clarete' - Marsanne, Tempranillo - Ibarra-Young Vineyard, Santa Barbara County, CA - 2021

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

Solminer x Satellite - 'Moon Wrangler Malbache' - Malbec, Grenache - Santa Barbara County, CA - 2021

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


Deja vu… in red this month! May is part deux of our Âmevive/Solminer collab projects! All ØØ, regenerative biodynamically farmed wines made in perfect harmony with some of our favorite vignerons & vigneronnes in the county. No SO2 needed, just great farming, patience, and presence. 

We’ll get back to some regularly scheduled programming next month but in the meantime… slip on your best sandals, toss on an apron, light the grill, and let’s open up some summer flavor. 

These are such important projects to me and to Satellite. This year redefines the boundaries of our own wine program here in the restaurant. They encompass all things we believe in to the very deepest rung. Locally grown, regeneratively, in a polyculture of native herbs and grazing animals, without any chemicals whatsoever, respecting the biodynamic calendar. In the cellar it’s simplicity first, ego never - Hand harvested grapes brought, fermented natively, racked to old neutral barrels, 


Sean here… and where has the year gone?? It feels like just yesterday snow dusted the San Rafaels, the Bowl re-opened for spring, and we were all strutting our stuff, mask-free. (If you haven’t seen me around, it’s because bronchitis had this writer down for most of April). But the sands of time wait for no one. Nor does the detritus of State Street, as anyone who visited last week’s wind-smacked Satty Patty can attest. It wasn’t that bad. We’re just spoiled Santa Barbarians. And in more ways than one.


Because through those jacaranda-flecked, croissant-crust and cigarette-butt gusts lie two new breezy bottlings. Like April’s selections, they’re from our own backyard, made by some of our favorite farmers and all-around folks. The very same winemakers featured last month - Alice Anderson of Âmevive, and David deLaski of Solminer! Yup, they’re back, back again, stirring the pot and ginning up the juice. “With so little drama in the S-B-C/it’s kind of dope being Sol-M-I-ner n’ Âmevive.” With their wine on their mind and their mind on their wine, it’s only natural we’d pass these two the AUX cord for the second month in a row. In other words: they got it goin’ on.


On the heels of April’s sumptuous skin-contact wines, Alice and David crafted two more custom collaborations just for us. Like the Milky Way Marsanne and Floral Feelings blend, these cuvées were not disturbed in the slightest. Regenerative-organically farmed grapes and nada más. They speak of place and persistence. Adventure and a little risk. And they’re absolute crushers. Porch Pounders. Balcony Buddies. Roof Juice. Whatever you call them, wherever you drink them, we won’t judge. They’re just best with a little sunshine and some laidback tunes.


To borrow a phrase from my dear friend, Satellite star, and eponym of the beloved Zink Toast, Paul Zink, I’m going to take you to Chilly Red Land. Grab your Ray-Bans and Rainbows (sandals, emojis, everything). It’s time to glug some keester-movin’ moon fruit.

Âmevive x Satellite - 'Quasar Clarete' - Marsanne, Tempranillo - Ibarra-Young Vineyard, Santa Barbara County, CA - 2021

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

Last month we dove into the storied Ibarra-Young vineyard, one of the oldest in all of Santa Barbara County, and what makes Alice Anderson its ideal shepherd (literally). The work Alice and her partner Topher are doing here is truly special, and as evinced by last month’s missive of a write-up (illness gave me a lot of time to think about old vines and duck poop), clearly, we could go on and on about regenerative-organic agriculture. But let’s pivot to another piece of the story. Because while the processes and people are an intricate part, so too are the grapes and place.


Ibarra-Young sits in the beating heart of the Los Olivos District, a broad, flat alluvial plain which is itself more or less the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley.  Sandwiched between the highlands of Happy Canyon to the east and the rolling hills of Ballard Canyon to the west, it’s got a warm and fuzzy feeling, accentuated by sunlight breaking through the bearded fog and shaggy coast oak snuggling every fence.


Zooming out, the region is almost like the pit of a V that’s flipped on its left side (>), with much steeper slopes to the north- and south-east – our once salt-tipped San Rafaels and hyper-Pacific Santa Ynezs, respectively. It’s important to note that the San Rafael foothills form the outer north-northeast boundaries of both Los Olivos and Happy Canyon before nearly smacking into the transverse Santa Ynez Mountains. The actual sideways in Sideways. The key to our region.


Which is admittedly new, both viticulturally and geologically. Not much is set in stone among Santa Barbara County’s youthful swath of vines. We have few long-heralded vineyards, varieties, (and, until recently, visitors) compared to Napa’s cabernet castles, Sonoma’s pinot palaces, Paso Robles’ GSM ranches and wherever you drink zin in Lodi. The region is still assembling the game board. Maybe we’re late bloomers, sprouting a number of new sub-regions with a few different games in town. (If you noticed, two grapes and one blend mentioned above happen to boast stellar examples across Santa Barbara. Oh yeah, and chardonnay is the single most underrated grape in the county).


But however recent, the history is fascinating. Los Olivos more or less got its start when Fred Brander planted sauvignon blanc here in 1975. Not long after syrah-pioneering Zaca Mesa sprung into Santa Maria a few years later, one of its earliest employees, cellar hand Bob Lindquist, began experimenting in these interior pockets of the valley with a host of Rhône grapes like grenache, mourvèdre, and of course, syrah. Too hot for pinot and too cool for cab (though a warming climate is already rearranging the rules), Bob also led the charge for lesser-known marsanne, roussanne, and tempranillo, which he smuggled from Pesquera, a famed Spanish winery in Rioja.


And we’re grateful he did. Because like Charlotte Young’s first marsanne plantings from which we guzzled last month (it should be noted she too was quickly hip to syrah, planting her own in 1971, more or less the 0 A.D. of SBC wine), these Ibarra-Young tempranillo vines produce pure magic. Ushered in 25 years after Charlotte’s, these plants are now that very same age, and more than ready to get serious and settle down. Down into some damn good dirt.


DGD definition #1: alluvial. You’ve probably heard it before, and if usted habla un poquito español, you’re on the right track. By alluvial, we’re talking soils once transported by running water, in this case from both the San Rafaels a few million years ago, and the Santa Ynez River about one million years ago. Here, these are small, varied in color, and composed of chamise, (pronounced shuh-meese), a peculiar sort of loamy, shale-y, well-draining sand, and chert. Chamise soils, says Alice, “make a wine more energetic… [they] are lighter on their feet and can be more expressive”. More on chert further dern.↓↓


And what about those nomadic grapes? Well, the Los Olivos District is kind of the new-old-school, a Rob Lowe of a region with a backbone of 40 to 50-year-old vineyards supporting a baby-faced AVA founded in 2015. But unlike the Montecito heartthrob, Los Olivos is still chasing fame. Smaller roles, in smaller vineyards. 

That means young winemakers like Alice, who purchased marsanne from her soon-to-be-property in 2019, get to work with established sites and more affordable crops. A unique and rare opportunity. It goes without saying that grape-growing and winemaking are pricey pursuits - the costs become indelible long before the fruit of one’s labor leaves any lasting mark. This confluence of age and accessibility makes for an exciting new wave of fresh thinking; a free-run that won’t soon lose juice.


Again, for more on Ibarra-Young, refer to April’s write-up. We went deep. Leo Di, Inception deep. But by now, understanding the old vines, new faces, less-celebrated varieties and seductively shale-y soils, the bigger picture is starting to form. Let’s fill it in with some specs on the Quasar Clarete.


It’s up to Drew to explain a quasar… but I can help with the second word. Claret is a somewhat-archaic European term for red Bordeaux. Clarete simply refers to a blend of red and white grapes. Think of the extra e coming from white. Or better yet, just avoid the e-less claret, because there’s also clairette, a French white grape, and we’re not in 19th century Britain. Roughly half marsanne and half tempranillo, all de-stemmed and co-fermented the way Dionysus intended, the wine was aged in small, stainless steel barrels for a quick few months to preserve its freshness.


And it is gorgeous. So, so heart-palpitatingly purple - a sign of its youth, purity of fruit, and the quantum chemistry of co-fermentation. (Look up the science behind syrah/viognier co-ferments to have your noggin rocked). More ruby on the nose, cherry gummy, red Sweet Tart and kirsch tousle with a kind of muddy spice and mixed-berry melatonin.


Time for a splash into summer. Rouge fruit flavors throttle the palate, though not without ample acidity coated by sassafras and graphite-tinged tannins. For all the fruit and tannin there’s a tension that really balances the wine. Rocky chamise = lift and nerve. But it’s so juicy too. Red lipstick smacks my lips like it’s Wendy Peffercorn and I’m Squints, instantly resuscitated from my cry for attention. And like Sandlot, and Wendy’s life-saving smooch, it lingers on the mouth and mind for minutes on end.


There’s really not much else to say. This wine is Kool-Aid thrown on your face at a marathon. The bottomless pool of cherry Jello we all dreamt of as kids. A heart-eyes emoji sent by someone who cares, not that wacko from high school who found your Instagram. Enjoy the heck out of it – and consider the other new wonderful bottlings from Alice’s Âmevive label that just hit the shop! Remember - albariño. Al the time.


“Now I got a girl and Ruby is her name/Ruby, Ruby, Ruby Baby”

Solminer x Satellite - 'Moon Wrangler Malbache' - Malbec, Grenache - Santa Barbara County, CA - 2021

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

And in the other corner of the galaxy, weighing in at another billion solar masses, is vintage #2 of the Moonwrangler Malbache! My personal favorite among Satellite’s 2020 collabs, last year’s cuvee was a purple party of wild berry Pop Tart and grape Mr. Sketch marker, harkening back to the best days of childhood. Still carefree and quaffable, this one is a little different. We’ll get to that. Another quick recap is in order.


As with Âmevive, last month we covered a lot of ground at Solminer. Ground covered in a plethora of pigmentation, from native plants to home-grown compost. Given their deLanda Vineyard is only a mile down the road from Ibarra-Young, the dirt is pretty similar – lots of loamy, complex chamise. It’s a beautiful sight to see, and it’s not the only site from which David & Anna deLaski are coaxing their sun-trained treasures.


Just a few blocks from deLanda, we’ll hop on the 154 East, which starts southbound, and cruise along the valley floor, with dramatic peaks in almost every direction (remember the pit of the >??) before crossing the Santa Ynez River. There, the road makes an eastward bend, following Lake Cachuma, RVs and oak-choked summer camps. The climb to San Marcos Pass begins. 

As temps drop and ears pop, sycamores and bay laurel blanket the foothills that steeply rise to the Santa Ynez Mountains. No, we’re not stopping for tri-tip, a beer and country blues at Cold Spring Tavern. But about a mile shy of the stagecoach-stop-turned-biker-bar is another special place nestled in idyllic folds of canyon. The Serena San Marcos Vineyard.


This vineyard is a mysterious one – tucked somewhere along Paradise Road between the river and the highway, it’s well outside the eastern boundary of the Santa Ynez Valley AVA, and at 2000-plus feet elevation towers over all of the appellation’s vineyards. I imagine it’s eerily quiet and cold at night,  especially in the shadow of stoic, sentinel-like summits above. It’s the perfect hideout for Wild West-era bandits and vagabonds. And who is Serena? Admittedly, my research yielded few answers. It appears some exploring is in store following my next Cold Spring stint, that is after two-stepping away the pints of blonde ale and fistful of smoky barbecue.


What lies beneath San Marcos’ spooky grounds? Given our elevation and proximity to the coast, these are likely predominantly sandstone soils, sprinkled with chert (AKA silex or flint). We had a word on chert back in February, but just to recap – long ago little prehistoric plankton skeletons settled on the ocean floor, hardened, and now resemble jagged shards of broken glass scattered across the California coast. From Sonoma to San Luis Obispo, chert lends brightness and poise to already-crisp coastal grapes. It’s earning sharp marks here in Santa Barbara as well.


We’re on a sandy, rocky mountainside. Chilly at night, and probably slow to warm during the day. Those who’ve done their homework may be wondering what the hell grenache, the heat-loving attention-seeker we profiled in March, is doing way up in these boonies? And doesn’t malbec want brow-beating warmth too?


This is where the mitigating factors of altitude and the region’s unique geography come into play. Yes, the higher in elevation, the thinner, and thus generally cooler the air becomes. Yet sunlight intensity increases. To re-use an analogy from months back, there’s always a nastier sunburn earned at the lake than the beach, and that difference in altitude is why. 

These grapes are blasted with Southern California sun during the daytime. But at night they quickly cool off, simultaneously retaining their acidity and lengthening their hang-time. Flavors accumulate while freshness remains. That trade-off yields lower-alcohol yet more complex fruit come harvest. It’s something many winemakers look for, and in chilly/lighter reds is particularly prized.  


There’s more. Earlier I hinted at the Sideways effect. That coastal cooling is much tamer here. Remember, these breezes originate on the Lompoc/Surf Beach-area West coast, not the Santa Barbara-proper South coast. We’re maybe just a few miles north of town, but the gargantuan Santa Ynez Mountains buffer most of that wind and fog… which itself is pretty chill, as we know. The real maelstrom is about 40 miles west, simply too low and far away to be felt here.


Lastly, it’s crucial to note that some of the world’s most revered malbec grows at stratospheric heights, practically brushing up against the ozone. Shaking and baking in the Uco Valley of Mendoza, Argentina are vineyards reaching well over 7,000 feet above sea level, at the edge of the Andes. Sure, their proximity to the equator means these vineyards rely heavily on elevation for heat moderation, but seriously, malbec just wants to touch the sky. We gotta let it. Yet another reason the long-gone French expat is an ideal grape to lasso la lune in this biodynamic delight.


Which it sure is. A similar hue to the clarete, aromas of blueberry compote and musky mulberry splash around in an enticing indigo-purple pool that goes deeper with each breaststroke. Sage and saddle leather sing of San Marcos Pass, while the palate explodes with blue raspberry Icee, menthol and more berries of every color. There may be a whisper of early-harvested viognier as well (recall the co-fermenting color/chaos theory referenced above), which contributes to wonderfully lifted aromatics. Tight acid and a smooth, even texture make the wine just unmistakably crunchy and fun. Go ahead, get your rocks off with this cherty flirt. Listen closely and you’ll hear Tom Ball blowin’ his harp while Los Alamos outlaw Salomon Pico snickers, counting his gold.


“And they/somehow someway/keep comin’ up with tasty ass wine like every single day” - Snoop Doggy Dogg, Gin & Juice, 1993


Chilly Red

It’s Cold Juice

A Salve 4 The Soul

We Want MO!

♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ 

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