Satellite Wine Club, Novembre 2022
$51 Retail, $612/Case $490/Case for Members ($40.80/Bottle)
$41 Retail , $492/Case $394/Case for Members ($32.80/Bottle)
This month is EXPLOSIVE! (Quite Literally 😳)
YES. If there is one way to start this writeup it is this word of warning: PLEASE MAKE SURE THESE WINES ARE VERY COLD AND SETTLED BEFORE OPENING THEM!
Best to keep a glass ready to pour into right away to clear a bit of headspace. The Entity of Delight in particular - it has gumption.
This is the nature of Pétnat, or Pétillant Naturelle… the most natural way to make sparkling wine!
Long time Satellite members and regulars will be familiar with the category, so will the generally *hip & cool* crew who might have slurped back a couple of pétnats in various natural dives around the world. In a word: Pétnat is the cool kids sparkling wine.
What is it? Well it’s wine with bubbles. But how?? Easier and somehow much messier than you’d expect :) In short it’s a… well it’s a short process:
- Pick Grapes
- Stomp or press grapes to start fermentation
- Watch the fermentation constantly until…
- “The Moment” when the fermentable sugars are *just* right
- Bottle the almost fully fermented juice with a beer cap on top
- Wait for the fermentation to finish in the bottle!
- Voilá… Pétnat!
Okay, there might be a little more to it than that, but that’s the bare essentials!
How does this differ from Traditional Method sparkling wines like Champagne? Really in every way! Traditional wines are made from finished still wines added to a bottle with a dosage of sugar, often grape juice or beet sugar, then sealed and left to referment in the bottle. Generally, traditional method wines are also disgorged which is the act of blasting the spent yeast from that little second ferment RIGHT OUTTA THERE! Best to watch a legend of Champagne, Anselme Selosse, demonstrate in this very french video. It’s truly insane what humans will do for sparkling wine!
Friend, you can make anything you want sparkling using the traditional method, and that’s really a cool thing! It’s also a little bit predictable - and that’s where Pétnat comes in. Anything can happen with pétnat! It’s a little risky, it’s a little edgy, but the results can be spectacular when made by considerate producers like our friends featured this month!
Why is pétnat something we like? It’s a puristic expression of the grapes, completely lifting the fruit and minerality and projecting them out and into the nose. It’s a whole wine and yet a lean and energetic wine, containing everything that the fermentation produces. In a sense this is truly “RAW” wine… one might say “The Whole Hog”!
Well, Winestronaut, I say “It’s what I’m opening first on Thanksgiving!”. I hope you do too - because these wines, at their core, are universally fun to drink and experience with friends! Make sure you’ve got those bottles iced cold and settled and have a friend ready with an open glass!
Happy Thanksgiving my friends <3
Well, that escalated quickly. Peace out, cold foods, corn mazes and light; hello, soup and staying indoors. Winter took all of five seconds to drape itself over California like a soggy dark cloak slapped on our unsuspecting backs. Now to gear up the rest of the body from sopping head to toe. Parka? Dusted. Boots? Strapped. Roads? Avoided. It’s once again that crazy-calm time of year when raindrops peck the windows, cloud-sheathed sunsets detonate the sky, Californians are struck with amnesia the moment they get behind the wheel of a car and that damp sidewalk smell (there’s actually a name for it – petrichor) is back. Time to suit up – and stock up – for the next few months.
Featuring chilly reds in muggy August, Gamay in hot September and October’s Cabernet Franc, Satellite balanced decreasing temperatures with wines of increasing heft. Maybe November would continue this pattern with Syrah or Merlot? Inky Mourvèdre, perhaps? It’s cold; we want reds. Just as rosé purchases climb like fireworks in July, so too do sales of red wine take flight this time of year. And for good reason. Submitting to the seasons is a perfectly fine way to drink. Even Sancerre fans and Riesling geeks reach for hearty Bordeaux and GSM blends right now. They just feel good.
Yet submitting to the seasons does not exclude those favorite year-round bottles. The beauty of the holidays is the conviviality and shared experience, not the minutiae of wine. So, pair whatever you want, especially with a small table where details can be flushed out and debated. Analyze the wine to your heart’s content, or gulp down whatever sounds right. But we suggest adding something shimmery to brighten up the dark evenings and huge meals. As such, November at Satellite welcomes a splash of sparkling wines.
The timing is perfect. Yes, Gamay and Thanksgiving are a match made in heaven, and our bottle shop has you covered with plenty of choices there. Skin-contact wines present another fun route. But when it comes to salty, rich fare, bubbles are best. For one, they’re crowd-pleasers – all-day wines to ease the mood, and an ease they are to drink, low in alcohol with acidity and finesse. They’re undeniably food-friendly. And sure, in the past we’ve popped these bottles on New Year’s. But why wait? With rain, Republican losses and end of the year R&R there’s plenty to celebrate now – never mind these two wines that zip and refresh with lightning bolt electricity. Like winter storms we’re pouring water from the heavens. It’s bubbly made the way the monks once did it. Pét-nat month is here.
Méthode ancestrale, more commonly called pétillant naturel (naturally sparkling, or pét-nat for short) predates Galileo and exudes just as much star power thanks to its hands-off process and big, planetary bubbles. Brought back in the 1990s by Loire Valley winemaker Christian Chaussard, it’s seeing a renaissance rivaling the era in which it began.
Every winemaker born in the 90s seems to be making one. In places like Santa Barbara, the SLO Coast and the North Coast, fresh faces like fresh rain are flooding the market with better and better wines every year. We’ve been lucky to see many of these bottles (and the faces behind them) pass through Satellite’s doors. Quality is at an all-time high. There has simply never been a better time for drinkers of, and in, coastal California.
Among these ranks are Wavy Wine’s Eliot Kessler and Jude Zasadzki, and Entity of Delight’s Crosby Swinchatt. Their pét-nats are symbolic of this new era – crunchy, a little cloudy, bursting with color and quaffable as hell. December 2021 featured Entity of Delight’s first rosé pét-nat of Pinot Noir. Round two is here, and at just two months old, it’s as fresh as a daisy and pops like a bubbly cherry ICEE. Meanwhile, Wavy’s bottling fits right in with their trippy oeuvre. The wine looks like pulpy lemonade, tastes like boozy guava juice and speaks to the character of Palomino, a salty grape that produces gorgeous Sherry wines but is often derided as bland and uninspired.
Pop that cap with some mashed potatoes. Or crack it at noon and get a head-start on the good times. Pét-nat is neither worth, nor wants a fuss. It calls for enjoyment. Nothing more, nothing less.
$51 Retail, $612/Case $490/Case for Members ($40.80/Bottle)
Pét-nat seems to pair with those who share its laid-back vibe. As a force for low-ABV, chilled reds and skin-contact wines, including a series of “California Wine Coolers”, Wavy Wines is one such partner. Kessler and Zasadzki show wine through their own lens – with labels of kaleidoscopic eyeballs and little else, a website plastered with hazy, washed-out Polaroids and meme-like winemaking info, and environmentally-conscious (though environmentally-sensitive) clear glass bottles that invite one to ogle their gem-colored wines, all of which are topped with crown caps as if bottled beers. They also operate on a strict zero-zero approach, meaning nothing added or taken away from the grapes.
Most natural winemakers abide by the core tenets of zero-zero: fermenting the grapes with native yeasts that form on their skins, and following from there a simple process that yields an unfined and unfiltered wine come bottling time. Yet few outright refuse sulfur dioxide, or SO2. SO2 is a preservative that protects a wine from oxidation and bacterial spoilage. Often abused, rarely allergenic (it affects about 1% of the population), it’s the most contentious topic in natural wine today. Kind of silly when you consider the million other factors that go into a wine’s authenticity and healthfulness. Simply not using SO2 but mucking other important pieces around does not deserve praise or street cred. So, we like those who are meticulous and smart in their approach to withholding SO2. Going zero-zero is a huge challenge – a winemaker must be extra-vigilant when forgoing the use of preservatives. There is often a sigh of relief when the unsulfured wine not only holds steady, but sings. When that happens, it’s a thing of beauty.
During alcoholic fermentation, yeast consume sugar and expel alcohol, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. That last part is why somewhere, on every single legal bottle of wine on this planet reads the words “Contains Sulfites.” They’re part of the deal – wine cannot exist without them. We just prefer bottles with as little as possible added.
Pét-nats are almost always sealed with a crown cap. But no matter the style, the jagged-toothed top adorns each and every Wavy bottle, unapologetically casual and open to the world with crystal-clear packaging and a simple flick of the wrist. Inside the bottle is a drink that’s just as carefree. What began as a conversation between two natural wine geeks at one’s daughter’s birthday party evolved into a significant venture now celebrating its fourth vintage.
Their vineyard selection is serious. This pét-nat was sourced from three sites across California, including the first certified biodynamic American farm, Marian Farms in Fresno. More or less the bottom of the figurative and literal salad bowl that is California’s Central Valley, Fresno specializes in the conventionally-farmed, mass-produced grapes crammed into Two-Buck Chuck and its ilk of wines. Marian, on the other hand, is home to old-vine Palomino sought after by the likes of star winemakers Raj Parr and Abe Schoener. More turn-of-the-century (yes, early 1900s!) Palomino came in from a Sonoma vineyard so protected that I was not given its name. Some Mendocino County Chardonnay rounds out the one day skin-contact fermentation.
It’s all tropical Starburst, melon and guava on the nose, and the palate throws in citrus and leesy, beer-like notes as if a salty lime in a bottle of Corona. The cloudy lees and skin-contact also offer texture to these exclamation points of acidity shooting from the glass. Refreshing and incredibly gulpable, it’s already curing an oncoming cold.
$41 Retail , $492/Case $394/Case for Members ($32.80/Bottle)
As mentioned above, November marks Crosby’s second Bassi Vineyard pét-nat appearance in the Satellite Wine Club. So rather than rehash it all, we’ll revisit December 2021’s write-up, with a couple of updates.
Master of Delight Crosby Swinchatt’s Instagram (@entityofdelight) puts it best - “Making fun wines for fun folks!” headlines a purple smattering of fermentation art, playful labels and cotton-candy-sunset soif. But make no mistake. These are badass, intellectual wines. They just happen to be stupendously yummy too.
Let’s see where it happens. We’ll drive the hour and a half up the 101 to the San Luis Obispo coast, hopping out near Avila Beach. It’s an idyllic little census-designated place just ten miles south of SLO. Boasting lowkey luxury hotels and killer fish and chips, it’s also where this writer happened to land his first tasting room gig, cutting his teeth on extremely coastal, vineyard-designated wines from sites like Pismo Beach’s Spanish Springs, Squire Canyon, and Bassi Vineyard. These three all lie within just TWO MILES of the salty Pacific, and none tap into that ethereal power better than Bassi.
We’ve visited this vineyard before - last June, in the bed of Crosby’s ‘84 F-250 alongside purpley-pink grapes destined for skin contact Pinot Gris and chilled Pinot Noir. It’s home to a host of wines we know and love, attracting star producers like Scar of the Sea and Dunites with its sandstone slopes, moderate climate and fierce commitment to organic farming with biodynamic practices. Back in 2019 I was fortunate to work with Bassi Pinot Noir and Syrah under the property’s owner, local winemaker Mike Sinor… the place is just gorgeous.
Ok. Quick math. This is a 2022 wine. Harvest typically begins in August, but this summer California was on the cool side. So let’s go with early September. Here we are in November. As the grapes were PICKED ONLY ~100 days ago, this bottle is the paragon of FRESH. It’s teeming with the nouveau-like qualities we expect from carbonic maceration (refer to October’s writeup for a refresher, but [more or less] whole bunches + CO2 = a lively, variety-driven, hard candy-hued strawberry spice bonanza).
Not so fast. De-stemmed and skin-macerated for 24 hours before pressing to reveal an intoxicating cherry limeade color, these puppies then fermented for a little over two weeks. In classic pet-nat style, the wine was bottled before going fully dry to capture plenty of bubbles and juiciness. No wonder the monks have been doing it this way for five centuries.
There’s that classic Bassi tell. The saltiness. A mineral cut lends tension to juicy red fruits wrapped in mouthwatering acidity. The finish lingers on and on, feeling like a bonus round. Zero inputs. Fully coastal. Me gusta.
Crack this well-chilled fella over the sink (this is a FIESTA, some foamy goodness will be itching to join you in the outside world) and ENJOY!!
It’s November at Satellite!
♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡