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Oct 2019

Satellite Wine Club, October 2019

Joseph Swan - Valdiguie - Northern Sonoma, CA - 2017

Michael Cruse Wine Company - ‘Monkey Jacket’ Valdiguié Blend - North Coast, CA - 2018


This month we follow the advice of the inimitable Will Smith, Big Willy Styles, and “get diguié wit’ it”... or something like that. I’m so excited for this adventure into this grape, into its past, and back to its present… & I think you’re going to like what we find. 

“Ok Winestronaut guy, why in the world would I ever want to get diguié wit’ it?” 

Well, let’s begin at the beginning. Where the hell did this grape come from? We don’t actually know! It was only mentioned for the first time in literature around 1884 when it was documented as a grape deserving of ‘special attention’. It is theorized that it may have been propogated from a single seed in a walled garden in Bordeaux by a vine breeder named Valdiguié, nefariously stolen from a neighbors vineyard by Jean-Baptiste Valdiguié, or even discovered growing wild in the ancient ruins of the Templiers monastery in Lot, FR… by a construction worker named Guillaume Valdiguier. While there are plenty of theories to its naissance, we can tell from its genetics that it is part of the Cot or Malbec family. While it’s birthplace was in France, the grape became far more important in its adopted America. 

Valdiguié found love in Northern California before and during Prohibition. Known incorrectly as Gamay or Napa Gamay, the plant’s natural resistance to powdery mildew, vigorous, fertile, and productive life cycle, and big ol’ generous berries. During that sad, wine-short era of american history, the Valdiguié plant allowed for strong continuation of vine growing in California, and while many of the vines have since been uprooted, most of the few hundred existing acres of vine are approaching the end of their first century. What that means is that while this grape is in ridiculously short supply, almost all of the available fruit is of extremely dense, high quality production. Pair that up with its relative anonymity in the market and the results are a few very high quality examples. This month’s lot is a perfect reflection of that! 

Before we dive in on the wines let’s learn a bit about what we’re looking for in them. It’s pretty clear why the grape was initially mistaken for Gamay. It is relatively light in color, with bright, fresh available fruit. The best examples, though, can have more acidity, tart tart fruit, and astringent but structured tannins. The wine also tends to carry more of a piney, terpene rich vibe than your average Gamay from Beaujolais for example. From this magical fruit we taste the season, autumn is upon us and also, upon the glass. Tart cranberry/raspberry, red apple skins, and subtle seasonal spices emanate out… demanding Turkey, squash, and stuffing. It’s (Canadian) Thanksgiving in the woods! Refreshing, best served with a chill, and best for chilling with. 

Jeeze, I like this kind of wine. OK, on with the show! 

Joseph Swan - Valdiguie - Northern Sonoma, CA - 2017

The back label of this wine says it all (honestly, the old school look of it reeks of history!): This wine is an homage to a beloved, long abandoned wine. Intending to recreate a legendary 1970’s experiment, the Joseph Swan winery sought out Valdiguié fruit from one of the last 20 acres growing in Sonoma County. Turns out the fruit they found is grown by the nephew of the original 1970’s wine! Please take note of the rarity of this special little wine… 2 barrels made in 2017, we bought roughly 10% of the whole production of this historic vintage… and we did it for you! 

Joseph Swan is a legend. It’s a winery that evokes old-timey memories of what northern California wines looked and felt like 50+ years ago. It’s a proper winery, one with all the classic connections, foundation stories, and classic archetypal wines that one would expect from the heart of Sonoma’s greats. But famous this winery is not. Since its founding in 1967 just outside of the Russian River’s Forestville, it has always maintained a low profile. Joseph wanted to be in touch with absolutely every aspect of the wines which would bear his name and absolutely never strayed from that path, never over committing, never allowing quality to waver. In studying the wines of the world which he loved, he realized that he needed to keep both vineyard yields and total production down to a level he could manage entirely on his own, focusing on optimum quality at the expense of all else!

While Old Joseph Swan passed in 1989, the winery has since been adopted by his daughter and son in-law, Lynn and Rod Burglund. They carry the torch for old Joe, maintaining somewhat painfully small production in order to see through Joe’s vision of an all-observable, quality winery with exceptional detail-oriented winemaking throughout. Rod was trained and encouraged to become a winemaker by Joe and has been core to the stylistic continuation and overall advancement of the winemaking. 

Rod and Lynn have pursued Joseph’s obsessive minimalism in the winery. Their wines are exceptions in the Sonoma Valley, always drinking with levitous freshness, bright acidity, and lower alcohols. It’s a majestic winery which understands that its wines are truly made in the vineyard and NOT in the winery. 

This wine is special. As I mentioned, the fruit is from the nephew of Joe Swan’s original valdiguié grower back in 1970, nearly 50 vintages ago! Think of this as an AMAZING time capsule into classic Sonoma. The wine is ethereal on the eyes, with the most compelling sparklingly clear rosey-ruby color, transparent but intense all the way through. The wine hops up out of the glass as if to say “hey, drink me, a lot of me”, with its nose of delicate red fruit and soooooo much florality and pininess. It is magical and incredibly inviting. There is a truly crisp, freshness here, but not at all sterile. It’s as though you’re standing in a rose garden on the edge of a Sonoma evergreen forest... At sunrise. It’s got all that good California character, but without the weight, the oak, the additions… This is pure naturrrrr. 

On the palate, brace yourself, it’s good. There is no where that the connection to Gamay can be more clear than on the palate. It truly is California Gamay, more intensity, more sunshine, more fruit, and a little less earth, even the pine forest vibe is conserved throughout. I love the way this refreshingly acidic wine cleanses the palate with a memorable *zip*. Each sip is a zip, and that’s just the tip. At 12.3% ABV the acidity should be that refreshing, and it’s also great news for aging this wine. I’m pretty sure it will drink fresh for another fifty years. 

Overall this wine is exactly what I want from a classically styled Sonoma wine. It leapfrogs us back in time to a simpler era, when red wines rarely crested 12.5% abv, new french oak was a rarity and considered unnecessary luxury, when we honestly just named wines after what we thought they tasted/looked like. This wine is a time capsule, and one I am so very happy to share with you all. 

Michael Cruse Wine Company - ‘Monkey Jacket’ Valdiguié Blend - North Coast, CA - 2018

Game time. This is the new new. This is Northern California in a bottle. Old meets new, pulling everything into the future. 

Michael Cruse is a legend. He is, without hesitation, the greatest sparkling winemaker in the USA. He is one of the most accomplished natural winemakers here and someone we just like. 

Michael is a natural winemaker who started his career at SUTTER HOME - THE LEAST NATURAL WINERY IN THE WORLD He’s a non-conformist, but a classicist. He’s a classically trained chemist with an addiction to natural fermentation. He’s an exceptional abnormality in the midst of California’s strong hold of normalcy. Michael is not your typical North Coast winemaker. He can certainly make Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but instead, he focuses on Valdiguié, Tannat, St. Laurent, Zinfandel, Carignan, and any other odds and ends he can manifest from old growth vineyards across the expanse of Sonoma, Napa, Lake, Mendocino, and Suisun Counties. 

My friend Raj Parr won’t make a sparkling wine without the opinions of Michael Cruse. He’s essential to California Natural Winemaking, particularly bubbles.. We have four brilliant proofs of that currently on our shelves at Satellite! 

This wine is the pride, joy, and the majority of production from the tiny Cruse Wine Co. It may only be 51% Valdiguié (with the balance being carignan, syrah, and a field blend of red grapes). The wine is in total conversation with our Joseph Swan Vadiguié and yet, something more modern, something more free. This is laissez faire winemaking by an obsessively naturalistic chemist. 

Monkey Jacket is immediately more purpleymurpley in the glass. The same amount of clarity and intensity in the glass, just more purps. While it maintains so many of the same flower and terpene resinous quality, its scent is more ripe, more blue, more purple. Think Blueberry and Blackberry rather than cranberry and raspberry (yep, that's Syrah and Carignan… and likely some Zinfandel). The wine is spicier, a bit more rough around the edges, and absolutely poppin’. 

The wine is truly more rough and tumble, in the most attractive way. On the palate there’s so much pretty florality, so much fresh purple fruit, a crazy backdrop of california pine forest, and a lovely, texture of tannin and unfiltered delight. On the breath out, I feel like I might have a bit of mint in my glass. This is refreshment. 

The finish is long, but lean, not unctuous. It’s like breathing in air off the Mayacamas Mountains late in the Autumn. Catch the sun, the dust, the trees, and the sea. It’s California. It’s North Coast. It’s ALIVE! 

This is a wine to share liberally, to drink liberally, to chugalugg! This is the Glou Glou to Swan’s crisp classic. The new kid with a mixed background and a different style who still looks up to the classic. Cruse’s Steph Curry to Swan’s Michael Jordan. Both are slam dunks? We’re working on metaphors here! 

Whatever metaphor ya want, just drink the wines and enjoy the most classic and underappreciated of California grapes! It’s our heritage! It’s freaking delicious. 

Valdiguié is fun to say, it’s harder to say with Valdiguié in you mouth.. But you should try it! 


Gettin diguié wit it

Na na na na na na na nana

Na na na na nana

Gettin diguié wit it

Na na na na na na na nana

Na na na na nana

Gettin diguié wit it

Na na na na na na na nana

October is Digguié-able at Satellite

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