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Nov 2021

Satellite Wine Club, November 2021

Literal Cult Wines… Deserve a Cult Following


Frenchtown Farms - ‘The Pearl Thief’ White Blend - Yuba County, CA - 2020

$55 Retail, $660/Case $528/Case ($44/Bottle)


Frenchtown Farms - ‘Suba Rosa’ Syrah - Yuba County, CA - 2018

$52 Retail, $624/Case $500/Case ($42/Bottle)


Winestronauts,

We’re doing something really special this month… We don’t do this often, but I could not help myself when I found out these were available. 


These are wines. Wines from a single winery, located in Oregon House, Yuba County - in the Sierra Foothills of California. These wines are special. They’re grown in a special vineyard. There is a cult involved in the story. It’s all natural from root to cork. The wines are perfect. It’s just 10/10 epic. I’m proud to share them with you.


Aaron and Cara Mockrish own Frenchtown Farms and founded it around 2008with the intention to farm and create a new life for themselves in the Sierras. A chance tasting of an old bottle of Clos Saron (a legendary old-school local producer) opened their minds to focusing on grapes. They sought out the winemaker, a local named Gideon Beinstock, and the dominos began falling all the way down to the Renaissance Vineyard at Apollo (HQ of the Fellowship of Friends… Cult). Before I get much more into the Mockrish’s here’s a little yammering on the cult that’s the reason for this cult winery being so amazing!


The winery was founded by a cult. It was farmed by a cult, and enjoyed by a cult for most of the the past 52 years. The Fellowship of Friends, founded in 1970, is a fatalistic cult (or practical spiritual organization, based on The Fourth Way) founded on principals of self-development through art & creativity, expression, self-awareness… and a whole lot of other esoteric knowledge. Today there are about 1500 active members, most of whom live at their settlement “Apollo” near the vineyard in Oregon House, CA. It’s a property filled with fine art, sculpture, fountains, and a whole lot of elderly members (the group does not actively recruit aggressively).  


While not the kookiest cult out there, they definitely check the boxes: Flamboyant Leader with questionable morals? CHECK - Extravagant Headquarters built with the labor and money of thousands of members: CHECK! Predicted apocalypse date that did not happen!?: DING DING DING THAT’S A TRIFECTA!!!


Any cult-like organization is a little bit questionable but I will say that at least these guys are cult-light. Fairly few scary stories or police run-ins, salvation and self-realization through art and expression, and natural winemaking for 50 years. Today the impressive property is largely occupied and managed by the slowly dwindling elderly members and has a retirement community vibe. I like it. I cannot wait to visit. 


A little bit about the vineyard: The Renaissance Vineyard is incredible. Planted in 1970, the vineyard was originally 365 acres grand… that is HUGE. It has always been dry farmed, own-rooted, and farmed naturally - biodynamically for a majority of its life. Today only 18 acres remain (much was torn out or left abandoned as membership has dwindled and farming it nearly bankrupted the fellowship!). What remains is roughly 10,000 incredibly healthy, hearty vines that need for little - with roots searching for water deep in the endlessly deep volcanic granite and quartz of the Sierra’s. It could not be more heroic, this vineyard. We are so fortunate that it exists.


Today Cara and Aaron are the stewards of this vineyard along with the help of some friends (See Dani Rozman of La Onda wines, we love them). They honor the heritage of the natural vineyard farming jut they way they always dreamed: naturally. They exclusively use organic-certified elemental sulphur to spray, when needed to deal with mold. Aside from that they work by hand on the steep granite terraces. They use sheep in the spring to covert the cover crops, drop excess fruit to focus the vines’ production, and generally work long days by hand fussing over their special spot in the world. Biodynamic agriculture is practiced, but not religiously adhered to… hey, it’s not like these guys are cultists!


In the winery everything is done the same for all wines. Harvest lasts from August to October, where whole clusters are brought into the winery, foot stomped and spontaneously fermented - whites are pressed, reds are left to macerate. There are no subtractions via filter or fining agents, and only sulphur is added from 15-25ppm if needed at bottling. Only neutral vessels for fermentation and aging here - This is purity. 


I love this quote from their harvest notes: “We don't poison, kill, or fight our way through the season. We grow…” This is why Aaron and Cara are such a treasure. 


It’s Cult Wine month at Satellite. Join the Cult!


Frenchtown Farms - ‘The Pearl Thief’ White Blend - Yuba County, CA - 2020

$55 Retail, $660/Case $528/Case ($44/Bottle)


Here’s a quick (actually quite extensive) note on the Pearl Thief from Aaron and Cara. This wine is incredible. 


“70% Sauvignon 20% Roussanne 10% Semillon

Grown by us here in North Yuba on a single sloped knoll with exposures sweeping from Northeast to Southwest on a metamorphic mix of volcanic rock.

All of the nearly 50 year-old vines are own-rooted Sauvignon Blanc. In the mid-90s, many of the vines higher up the slope were grafted over to Semillon and Roussanne. We have been dry-farming all of our vines since we started farming the site in 2015.

2020 was an enjoyable vintage with almost no mildew or rot anywhere and we allowed the Sauvingon Blanc to ripen almost a week longer than normal. This affected not only the flavor profile but also the texture in interesting ways that taught us a lot about the vines and moved the alcohol percentage from the mid to high 12's in past years to 13.2% this vintage.

Each of the varietals in this wine ripen about 10-12 days apart so they are not initially co-fermented. However, they all undergo the same process each vintage, and get combined in tank after harvest where they spend the winter together barreled down in neutral French oak.

We prune, tie, tuck, sickle, shoot-thin and sucker the vines from January to July (no big deal) and then some time in the first or second week of August we begin to pick the Sauvignon Blanc in several passes over the course of 10 days, foot-stomping whatever we bring home each day and pressing off the skins before primary fermentation begins. The first batch can often take 7-8 days to start fermenting, but once the winery is buzzing with ambient yeast, things can often start bubbling away in as little as 24 hours. Whenever it starts, we press. Our goal is to spend as much time on the skins as we can before they are in the presence of a solvent.

When we finish picking the Sauvignon Blanc the Semillon is usually about ready to pick and the Roussanne ripens last, around the first week of September.

After pressing, the juice is collected into 500 gal stainless steel tanks until they are fermented dry and then put into neutral oak barrels on fine lees.

That's it. No additions or subtractions, manipulations or poking and prodding of any kind at this point.

After 10 months in barrel with regular topping and a final 6 weeks of assemblage in tank to introduce the barrels to each other, we added 30ppm of SO2 before bottling by hand.

A note on Sulfur

We usually add small amounts of sulfur to our finished wines just before bottling to protect them on their journey from our cellar to your glass. We want you to experience all of the hard work, joys, sorrow, sun, wind, and roots that our special terroir went through in a particular year, rather than for you to experience something that happened after we bottled the wine.”

 


Frenchtown Farms - ‘Suba Rosa’ Syrah - Yuba County, CA - 2018

$52 Retail, $624/Case $500/Case ($42/Bottle)


This wine really gets it. Old school California Syrah - with all the hearty, western, density of fruit and bramble, and leather, and adventure… tannin and texture too - BUT IN A DRINK-NOW FORMAT! Do not age this wine a lifetime like your great grandaddy’s 1970’s Cali Syrah. Drop by and catch this naughty dog by the glass at Satellite towards the end of the month/early December! It’s the best Syrah we’ve ever poured by the glass ;)


We’ve been begging for a bit more detail on this wine but it’s very possible Aaron and Cara are hot tubbing in a fermenting vat right now… not a whole lot of cell or internet connection in Oregon House! We’ll update this space when we get more info but for now know that this wine is from the same vineyard, made using the same principals, and is absolutely something to pair with big, meaty, rich, holiday parties. I shared a bottle with a friend in front of a fireplace just the other day… what a holiday treat!


Wild Wild Wine Country! 🤘

This is November at Satellite.



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