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Nov 2018

Satellite Wine Club, November 2018

Amplify - Carignane - Camp 4 Vineyard - Santa Ynez Valley, CA 2017

Riding Monkey - Cinsault - Camp 4 Vineyard - Santa Ynez Valley, CA 2017


I present to you: “A Tale of Two Grapes: The Story of Carignane and Cinsault” Coming to a glass near your mouth: November 2018! While these two grapes are most often relegated to small portions of red blends in Southern France I implore you, winestronaut, do not forget these important, spunky grapes! Their potential is so underexplored, underappreciated, and untapped. I’ve chosen two brilliant examples of these sibling grapes to explain just why we should love these oft-forgotten treats. 

These wines are a perfect window to understanding Carignane and Cinsault. Almost the same through their whole production save the choice to destem or not. Hell, side-by-side their color is even identical. While they might be unconventional in the grand scheme of winemaking, their relationship alludes to their distinct traits and magic powers! We’re uncovering the truth here folks!

So take a walk on the wild side with me. Taste some wines that you will not recognize - Wines that bite the tongue with bracing acidity, fill the nostrils with exotic, intoxicating herbs. These are wines that love Turkey dinners, they adore hot sunny days and enjoy being splashed liberally into bistro cups filled with ice. These are not shy wines. They are powerful, individuals, hewn from the same savage landscape, the same basic natural winemaking principles, the same adventurous spirit. These wines speak a new language, a language only they share.


So dive into these bottles. They’re pure, they’re spunky, they’re siblings yet individuals through and through. 


Amplify - Carignane - Camp 4 Vineyard - Santa Ynez Valley, CA 2017

Cameron Porter is one of those winemakers who pushes winemaking into undiscovered places. His wines, while pure and totally clean, are equally entirely unexpected. I know of no other winemaker who so consistently produces the astonishing, the unconventional, and yet, the goods. From his soft and elegant “Duke and Ella” blend of Viognier and Riesling (!?!?)to his lean, mean “Subliminal” Cabernet Sauvignon, Cameron has a knack for finding the exceptional in the exceptions. 

All of Cam’s wines are low in sulphur (if they even need any at all), they’re all bright, crystal clear examples of grapes and place - not ego. They’re uplifting and cheerful wines, the type that stir conversation and inspire inquiry. Nothing in the Amplify cellar is hollow or lacking energy, least of all their year’s Carignane. 

‘This wine is insane’… one might think out loud on the first sniff. Brine, stems, herbal, ‘pickle juice’, and tart cranberries, and what’s that? The soft familiar gentle touch of oak faintly wafting through the background. The wine is the anti-classic; an electric guitar solo stage performance of some 17th century French Opera, with tesla coils zapping, and modern interpretive dancers descending from the ceilings on glow-in-the-dark sheets. All this insanity - and it works. 

Like I said, this is no classic. It’s an experiment, an iteration, a single permutation in the experimental algorithm of the possibilities of a grape: Carignane. A typical Southern French producer in the Languedoc might never believe this is Carignan, a grape they hold so dear, or perhaps they’d expect it’s been cut with some local chaparral-based potion in a sort-of vermouth style. In a sense, they wouldn’t be wrong, just that the rare herb isn’t an herb, it’s a guy named Cam, it’s a vineyard named Camp 4, it’s a decision to harvest early and to not destem the berries. This wine is not contrarian, it is boundless exploration of the possible. 

So now that I’ve gotten my emotions out, what is the actual deal with this wine. How do I drink it, enjoy it for what it is, what’s the insight? First things first: intensity and clarity. This wine erupts from the bottle with intensity. The first pop and it fills the immediate air-space with punchy, herbal, tart fruit. I ALWAYS RECOMMEND SERVING THIS WINE CHILLED. Why? - Because these high toned flavors and bright acidity are not as pleasurable when warm. This wine is fresh like a punchy white wine, herbal like a vermouth or a bitter… I literally serve this wine on the rocks and love it. Yes, on the rocks. Nothing in here is delicate, dilution actually lifts up and uncovers the more hidden, less volatile flavors. Let this wine be a lesson to you, it’s not always bad to put ice in your wine… this is not Yellow Tail Australian Chardonnay or Charles Shaw White Zinfandel. Drink it cold, drink it in the sun, serve it as an aperitif at a party. This wine is the party. 

This is the kind of wine I’d consider 3rd wave in terms of natural wine. It’s not from a classic producer making a clean natural wine with limited manipulation. Nor is it from a new-wave natural winemaker trying to fit into a classic category. Cameron Porter is cutting an entirely new path. It’s brave, it works. It’s new, unexpected, and completely eschews tradition (even if the winemaking practices are exactly traditional). It’s a new model, a sort of space-ship or time machine rather than a flying car. Come fly with me. 

A note from Cam:

“For the Carignane, the Jura inspiration comes from the Poulsards of Puffeney and Overnoy. Overnoy does semi-carbonic maceration on theirs, which is similar to what we do: foot-crush the bottoms of the tanks whole-cluster, then layer uncrushed whole cluster on top, seal, and gas once daily with CO2. We press after about a week (in ‘17 we pressed after about 11 days, so that’s a little deeper/darker) and generally I think the more Jurassic side comes from the relatively short maceration time. No SO2 until bottling, and even then only 10ppm (we actually don’t sulfur anything until bottling, aside from an occasional 5-10 ppm add in barrel if something is going a little oxidative or showing hints of VA). . . Amplify Carignane is a delicate, lithe, limpid red wine with just a hint of the savage“

Some cold hard truth:

  • Native Yeats Primary (Alcoholic) and Secondary (Malolactic) Fermentation
  • 100% neutral oak 
    • Barrel fermented and aged
    • 5 months in barrel
  • 13.6% alcohol
  • Finished pH: 3.5
  • Sulfur: None at crush none during elevage (aging), 10 ppm at bottling 
  • Unfined and unfiltered
  • 325 cases produced

$38 @ Satellite SB


Riding Monkey - Cinsault - Camp 4 Vineyard - Santa Ynez Valley, CA 2017

Dieter Cronje is a maniac. Boisterous, loud, eloquently crude, a collector of rare Soviet era sidecar motorcycles: This South African is pure character. I love hanging out with Dieter. His one-liners seem to pour forth unmitigated and it’s difficult not to crack up whether from his accent, mannerisms, or pure comical commentary. The sketch on the front of this bottle *might* be autobiographical. He’s a brilliant winemaker, proud dad, adoring husband, and pure savage. Dieter is my guy. 

Dieter is the head winemaker at Persqu’ile Wines in Santa Maria Valley where he focuses on ultra pleasurable, beautiful, palate pleasing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The wines of Presqu’ile are lovely and round, not so challenging but typical to their region and commendable in so many ways. The winery, his laboratory, is an incredible temple to modernity (it’s also where Amplify pumps out their wild wines). Why then, does Dieter make his Riding Monkey wines out of an old dusty barn down the road with compatriot South African and friend of Satellite: Ernst Storm? I think he does it because Dieter yearns for simplicity, funk, plain old honest handmade winemaking. Riding Monkey is as much a passion project as it is a tonic and rejuvenating response to the hermetically clean & modernized winery at Presqu’ile. 

Riding Monkey is a new venture. A project constituted by just two wines: A rosé of carignane from the same plot as this month’s Amplify, and a Cinsault from a neighboring block at Camp 4 in Santa Ynez. Clearly, Cameron and Dieter are on the same wavelength. Did I mention that Cameron works as Dieter’s Assistant Winemaker at Presqu’ile? He does, and these similarities are no lucky happenstance. This is family.

The wine is an homage. A memory of the Cinsault of South Africa which Dieter grew up with and which helped form a passion for wine. It’s a style we don’t often see here, so rarely imported from SA as to be a sort of ghost or legend. These cool climate, coastally influenced wines reflect the nearly exact possibilities of Santa Barbara County and the possibilities have haunted Dieter for years. Time to dive in!

This wine is a delight. Like the Amplify, it leaps from the bottle on the opening pop. The lack of added sulfur means every flavor flows, wafts, erupts from the glass relatively uninhibited. It’s less apparently herbal but every bit as punchy (like a punch of freshness to the schnozz) and all fresh blackberry, straight off the bush. On the palate it hits with a pop too, dissolved CO2 softly sizzles alongside the not-insignificant acidity, refreshing and brightening your day! (that CO2 helps to preserve the wine subtly without the addition of SO2) The pop partners with an herbal fresh blackberry bouquet, echoing the nose, as the cloudy purpley juice unveils its softly chalky texture, hardly tannic, not heavy, but present and enthusiastically so. Oh, and what’s that? A bit of bacon on the the finish… naughty. 

This wine, too, is a departure from Tradition. While perhaps not quite as far off the reservation as Amplify, the spirit of Riding Monkey is deliberate rebellion and a return to the basics of natural winemaking. This wine is certainly not meant to keep for days or even overnight (though it does fine in the fridge with a cork) and will change slowly but surely because it has no added SO2. That very choice, to go pure, is what also makes this wine so elegant and exciting to drink. Pair it with food, wild game, wild vegetables, it loves stews, barbecues, meaty smokey flavors. (Secret best pairing is with a classic south african sandwich called a ‘Braai broodjie’, and Dieter and his buddy Ernst make THE BEST)

These are not emotions, these are facts: 

  • Together with Pinot Noir, Cinsault is the parent of Pinotage, South Africa’s only native red varietal
  • De-stemmed and fermented for 2 weeks on the skins
    • Pressed straight to a single 600 L neutral french oak barrel
  • Wild primary (alcoholic) and secondary (malolactic) fermentation with no SO2 added at any point, hence the "Sans Soufre"
  • The wine is unfined and unfiltered which may cause a little sediment
  • Finished pH: 3.72
  • Alc: 13.8%
  • Total production 65 cases

$48 $ @ Satellite SB


Gobble Gobble

This is November at Satellite. 

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