Satellite Wine Club, November 2017
Lo Triolet - Gamay 2016 - Vallée d’Aoste, IT
Evening Land - ‘Seven Springs’ Gamay Noir 2015 - Eola-Amity Hills, OR
Let me be Frank. (My name is Drew, not Frank, but still let me be Frank for a moment) Gamay is a serious grape… “Why so serious”? You may ponder, “Why is this guy so into Gamay”? “Isn’t Gamay just second rate Pinot Noir”? “Isn’t that the super light and insignificant carbonic style wine released on the third Thursday in November”? … GAH! NO NO NO!!
Here is what's up with Gamay:
Gamay has been ostracized for centuries. It makes its first splash in written history in 1395 in the city of Dijon. There, Duc Philippe le Hardi decided that Gamay was the root of evil, a bitter scourge that caused sickness in men. In reality, it’s more likely that it was easy to make simple, delicious, ‘gluggable’ wine that had his contituents drunk off their horses. Duc Philippe wasn’t the only powerful Frenchman to push Gamay to the fringes, with subsequent rulings in 1567, 1725, and 1731.
Gamay, the fearful, the demonized, the ruinous! The ‘oh damn that’s really good’. This is a tender grape used in refreshing wines from across the french countryside, but especially in Beaujolais and Burgundy. Production in Beaujolais far outstrips that of Burgundy, but fantastic examples come from both traditional regions.
Gamay is made in a few styles, the lightest of which is Nouveau (fully carbonic) which is a light and refreshing with bubblegum, banana and kirsch (underripe cherry liqueur) dominating the palate.
More seriously, and oft-found in Burgundy is the Passetoutgrains style where at least 30% Pinot Noir is blended with Gamay to create a delicious, deep colored wine of ever-increasing quality, depth, and ageability. We have a few epic examples on the shelf at Satellite should curiousity drive you to explore!
Finally, I want to talk about serious Gamay. This is what we will share with you today in the wine club, and (I hope) what you will share with your loved ones. This is a world of wine in and of itself, with the most classic examples found in the villages of Beaujolais (listed below in ascending order of preciousness)
- Chiroubles, Saint-Amour, Fleurie, Régnié, Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Juliénas, Chénas, Morgon, Moulin-a-vent
These villages host the highest regarded gamay vineyards on earth and are the truly the demi-divinity of gamay production. They create wines reminiscent of fine Burgundy, capturing the distinct geographies of their homelands... But there are stirrings elsewhere!
Our Satellite focuses its critical, mechanical lenses on the Gamays of two disparate yet equally fascinating regions: Valeé d’Aoste, Italy and Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon. The former is a mountain-bound vineyard topping 2,500ft above sea level (that’s ridiculous!), the latter is a volcanic ash strewn hillside in Oregon’s favorite quality wine district. Both wines are made with a soft, careful hand. Hands with dirt under their nails, executing the dreams of their brilliant masters. These wines by Sashi Moorman & Raj Parr of Santa Barbara, and Marco Martin of Vallée d’Aoste will delight you.
Today we share with you the emissaries of Gamay from far afield. They represent the new wave of this quality varietal. They harken to the masters of Burgundy and Beaujolais, but cut a path forward - showing mastery of their own. These are the Gamay wines I will drink on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and most days in between. Join me!
Lo Triolet - Gamay 2016
Introd, Vallée d’Aoste, Italy
Welcome to Vallée d’Aoste, Italy’s autonomous extreme north western, alpine bound, French and Swiss bordered, Italian and French speaking, mountain dream land. It’s fascinating geography is formed by the river Dora Baltea cutting it’s winding path through the extreme alps. It is a region hardly the size of Rhode Island, populated by an elegant French speaking, Italian clothing clad group of hardy mountain folk closer in culture to those of Arbois and Geneva than Rome. At 126,000 people, fewer call Valle d’Aosta home than our very own Santa Barbara. This is an intimate region, self-made and self-controlled. It is an inspiration and a place we should all hope to visit and to fall in love with.
In the small town of Intron lives a special winemaker. Marco Martin was raised in the company of vignerons. A local Valle d’Aostan with a French-Italian name to boot. He founded his winery and agriturismo, Lo Triolet in 1993 at a startlingly high altitude of 760m or 2,500ft! The vineyard range from 600m-800m, competing with glaciers and the black mountain peaks of Italy’s Gran Paradiso national park.
Martin’s wines are delicate, they are expressive, floral and mineral driven, they are distinctly Vallée d’Aostan and totally organic. At altitudes like this even the pests get cold at night (not to mention the screeching winds through the valley). This is winemaking at the extreme limits and it is totally awesome!
This Gamay is purely elegant, with a floral nose that leaps from the glass, filling the air with lightly wafting tones of lavender, plum, and cherries. I get graham crackers and the essence of baked brown sugar on the palate. This wine is childlike, but like, the smartest child with the best stylist. Think of it as innocence embodied by wine. Drink enough and I can almost guarantee you’ll be driven to leave your innocence behind!!
This is Gamay from Vallée d’Aosta, across the hills and not so far away from Beaujolais. Every bit as important to the future of this brilliant grape.
$26 Retail @ Satellite SB
450 Cases Produced
Evening Land - ‘Seven Springs’ Gamay Noir 2015
Eola-Amity Hills, OR
You may notice a departure with our wine choices this month. “Where is Santa Barbara??” you may lament! “Drew said we would learn about Santa Barbara and the world!”. I haven’t forgotten, my brave winestronauts. This month we look at Gamay through the lens of Santa Barbara winemakers, arguably the best Santa Barbara winemakers in fact…
Rajat (Raj) Parr and Sashi Moorman are an unlikely and truly fantastic duo. These guys are the geniuses behind Domaine de la Cote, one of the most exciting projects in Santa Rita Hills. They are the masterminds of Sandhi, one of the more fabulous negoçiant projects in Santa Barbara. Sashi’s revolutionary project Piedrasassi is both bakery and winery. Sashi is the winemaker of Santa Rita’s new (and highly welcome) Pence Ranch. Raj has a series of upcoming private wine club-only releases from his secret stash. Evening Lands is their project in Oregon and dammit, it’s just as exciting as all the other wondrous things they do here, there, and everywhere.
Evening Land is a Biodynamically farmed project in the Eola-Amity hills outside Salem, Oregon. The vineyard is planted firmly in the middle of a iron-rich, volcanically loaded hillside. The smoke in this wine is undeniable beginning with just the first whiff. I love it. This wine is carbonic in part, fermented initially intracellularly and enzymatially (basically this means you leave whole clusters in a CO2 rich environment and they start making alcohol without yeast!)
The wine has incredible structure, acid and body for days. It is intense, with fruit and leafiness on the palate that just go and go. The mineral smokiness is to-die for.
I can go on and on about these guys, their wines, their passion, their incredible Pinot Noirs, Gamays, Syrah, Mourvedre, Chardonnay. SOMEONE STOP ME. These are some of my favorite people in Santa Barbara wine, they are mentors to us all. I am so proud to share Sashi and Raj with you. Their wines are brilliant, with no equal or exception.
Drink up Santa Barbaran, you have a home in Oregon now.
Evening Land is a project started by out
$38 Retail @ Satellite SB
1,300 Cases Produced
Serve these wines chilled, let’s say about 58º!
This is November at Satellite. Hip Hip Gamay!