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Oct 2020

Satellite Wine Club, October 2020

My Head is Fed by Mourvedre

Koehnen Wine Co. - Mourvedre - Love Ranch Vineyard, Madera County AVA, CA - 2019 

$26/Bottle,  $231/Case

Penville Wine - “True West” - Enz Vineyard - Lime Kiln Valley AVA, San Benito County, CA - 2017

$48/Bottle, $423/Case


Let me introduce you to a friend. You might not know Mourvedre, or perhaps you’ve crossed paths in a Rhône blend (the M in GSM). If you’re of the Spanish persuasion, you’ll know it as Monastrell or even Mataro

Regardless of what you call it, this heat loving red grape has character and a deep history, if primarily in a supporting role. Its thick skins, acidity retaining and very long-ripening metabolism make this the sweetheart of the hot southern reaches of Europe. Because it loves the heat and is grown in drought-prone environments it is an incredibly small production varietal with vines producing miniscule quantities. 

We think that Mourvedre originated on the Mediterranean Coast of Spain, near Valencia (in the region of Camp de Mourvedre, no less!). In that hot, dry climate it flourished from at least the 1300’s onward and eventually made its way to Provence, Rhone, and the Americas. To this day, the majority of Mourvedre is grown within 50km of the Mediterranean where the dry heat and established culture continues to pump out delicious, lively wines.

Rarely is this wine made on its own with much fanfare or distinction, though… save one VERY important exception… The legendary Bandol region within Provence. Like so many other lesser known French grapes, it’s finding the limelight and a whole new look in the new world. I highly recommend grabbing a bottle of classic Bandol from Chateau Tempier - considered broadly to be the greatest Mourvedre on earth. It’s not cheap, BUT it is cheaper than you’d think… and excellent with Thanksgiving flavors. Gobble Gobble y’all!

Who knew that a grape raised on the crystal clear waters of Provence’s coastline could have the soul of a cowboy? It’s a pleasant surprise that this bourgeois varietal, with its French vineyards so often in sight of the decks of billionaire’s mega yachts, can grow so at home in the rugged hills of San Benito and Madera Counties here in California. 

Like the open sky label of the Koehnen and the Tattoo art Horse of the Penville bottle: these Mourvedre wines reflect a sense of wild possibility in the American West. Without getting overly weepy and romantic (I know, I know, that is my resting state in these write-ups!), I like to think this mostly overlooked grape is getting a second chance at building both its fortune and home here in California. Heck, when you think about it, we’re a lot like Rhône and Provence… with enough mega yachts to make Mourvedre feel right at home. 

Giddy up!

Koehnen Wine Co. - Mourvedre - Love Ranch Vineyard, Madera County AVA, CA - 2019 

$26/Bottle,  $231/Case

This is not our first rodeo. 

Koehnen wines are always a surprise, a joy to drink. These wines have energy and a second bottle is almost always a good idea.. I know from experience. 

John Koehnen is a man of mystery. Hailing from Minnesota, John was drawn to California like so many midwesterners - lured by music, food, romance, and weather. Formerly an LA wine rep, John set out to make wine up to his high natural standards and, honestly, just some lower ABV ‘soif’ to enjoy inexpensively with friends. 

John started into production back in 2012 with a harvest in Sonoma. That experience set him on a career path in wine that I’m quite happy about! After that harvest he moved back to LA to sell wine professionally for the Revel Wine portfolio, from which Satellite carries a ton of wine :) His experiences with the Revel book perpetually exposed him to the lean & refreshing, quaffable, day-drinker-type wines that Koehnen Wine Co. is all about. 

His first attempt in 2015 failed spectacularly with his red blend being sold off for bulk juice, but it hardly dissuaded him. John came back ready for another round with a focus on orange wines - and we’ve carried almost every single one since we opened! Perpetually under 12% abv (check it - 10.5% on this little nugget!) and always wines with energy, the Koehnen Wine Co. puts out wines that are simply singular. The entire lineup is punchy and bright. Always unfiltered, unfined, and packaged with minimum or simply Ø SO2 - the wines are never flawed. 

John benefits from a long and ever expanding partnership with Love Ranch Vineyard in the Madera Foothills. Just 35 miles from Yosemite National Park and over 1,350 ft above sea level, the vineyard is farmed organically and meticulously. It’s a vineyard also sourced by one of our favorite CA wineries, Broc Cellars, and the owners are college buddies of our local natural wine stars - Lo-Fi wine!

The fruit is hand harvested early, just after the grapes turn fully purple from green (veraison for you viticulturally inclined friends!). Foot crushed and fermented with only native yeast, this little gem is made simply. Pressed, Settled, and Bottled after a brief stint in tank. That’s it! 

Oh, and she sure is lovely. 

A colour so light and lovely it’s hardly deeper than rosé. A scent of tart brambly fruit that arrives vividly at your schnoz the instant the bottle *pops*. A memory of hot childhood summers, tart Smartie candies, fresh squeezed juice… & koolaid. The nose is straight-up candy on a rugged california mountainside. Herb-laden kid candy! 

Best glugged chilled but plenty pleasant at cellar temp, the acidity is way out front on this one. Vibrantly stemmy, tart as can be, light and fresh: the kind of wine that forces a pucker. I’m right about that smarties sour candy right? (Rockets for all my canadian pals, eh?)

This is a red for the Apéritif hour. Vivid and vibrant, powerfully fresh, and happy tasting. No need for a food pairing, but if a canapé or a couple green olives roll by, I’d recommend them to really help set the vibe. This is wine to chill on a HOT day. With colors and flavors to consider while soaking in on a long, sexy sunset. 

Easy. Fresh. And simply poppin. That’s Koehnen Mourvedre. That’s Koehnen Wine Co!

Penville Wine - “True West” - Enz Vineyard - Lime Kiln Valley AVA, San Benito County, CA - 2017

$48/Bottle, $423/Case

Yes. Cool Wine. Cool Label. Cool Winemaker. 

Patton Penhallegon… COOL NAME. Patton is such a great guy. His winemaking career is the inevitable ‘next-step’ in a storied sommelier career that continues today! Patton met his winemaking partner, Michael Villas while working as Sommeliers at Mozza Pizzeria in Newport Beach, CA. These guys know wine. They love wine. In 2012 they decided to make it. 

The first harvest was all due friendship. Patton grew up with Peter Stolpman of the eponymous Stolpman Vineyards in Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon. IT’S ALL ABOUT WHO YOU KNOW! Best buds from High School, Peter happily leased a chunk of their grenache vineyard to these unproven upstarts, and thank goodness. The wine was goooood. 

Patton & Michael took their grapes to Santa Barbara’s own Dragonette Winery for the first few vintages. If you don’t know them, Dragonette is amazing. Like a Burgundy winery in Santa Barbara clothing… or some other smarter metaphor I’m not capable of making eloquently. They’re amazing, purists, and genuinely nice people. After a first harvest of hand holding and finding the project’s identity, Patton took over most of the operation. 

While inexperienced winemaking adolescents, the boys of Penville didn’t come to Dragonette empty handed. Along with some older neutral barrels, carboys, and general odds & ends, they invested in a 476 gallon concrete egg, the heart of their winemaking. The magic of the egg is two-fold: both as a massive thermal battery - evening out the peaks and valleys of fermentation temperature, and also, as a convection vessel - the shape of the egg promotes constant mixing of the juice and skins along with the CO2 and heat produced by fermentation. This magical piece of kit makes for wines with maximized texture, freshness, and minerality. For your viewing pleasure: a diagram by Wine Folly, the best!

This constant convection softly mixes the skins and juice without really any oxygen exposure. It’s a perfect vessel for natural wines (more oxygen means more SO2 means more problems!) which benefit from more delicate winemaking. This also negates the need for punchdowns or pumpovers, which can overly extract this already deep and tannic grape. I love Eggs! YUM

As the weight of this bottle suggests - it is, in fact, a serious wine. A light decanting before pouring is encouraged though not necessary! I also like the alternative strategy of little, tiny pours - often. Interact with your wine to find all the folds and creases!

Both deep and yet so bright. The kind of wine that’s equally at home on a bear skin rug by a raging fire, a windy mountain top after a long hike, or an elegant dinner of southern Mediterranean French Cuisine. Vibey and Vigorous, a wine that shifts shape and focuses flavor to meet the moment. It’s a wine you’d be just as happy to meet today as you would in 20+ years… and yes, this one will be fine opened on the counter or refrigerator for many, many days.  Time will only make her more inviting! (I recently had a delicious bottle open for 6 days accidentally! So. Good.)

Incredibly bright fresh cherry fruit brimming from the glass, a faint element of that Sour Smarties candy confirms: “yes, I am Mourvedre from California”. Oh, and what’s that? A bit of california chaparral? Bay and Sage up in here! There’s classicism and country-ism throughout. 

I’ll leave you with a note from the man himself: Patton Penhallagon

“The coveted Enz Vineyard was planted in the 1880's. As the hunt for gold intensified here in the foothills of the Gabilan Mountains small outposts were created by immigrants heading west. These outposts offered supplies, food (yes, there are 100+ year old table grape vines here), and most importantly, wine. We are reminded of this every time we visit the vineyard by the stone ruins of the old saloon and boarding house that sits just across the road from the vines. The Enz Vineyard is the lone vineyard in San Benito County's Lime Kiln Valley AVA. As the name suggests there are rich deposits of limestone along with granite just below the sandy topsoil. In-fact there is a bustling granite quarry on the opposite end of the property which is overseen by the dexterous Russel Enz. The vines are dry farmed and over 100 years old! Along with a select group of others we are incredibly fortunate work to with such a unique vineyard. The grapes were completely destemmed then added, whole-berry, into our 476 gallon concrete egg for fermentation using native yeast. After pressing the wine is aged for 20 months in neutral 500L puncheon and a few stainless steel carboys. The wine was bottled unfiltered and unfined.”

Bienvenue, a la Wild West, mon ami.

Cheers to you Winestronaut!


Keep movin', movin', movin'

Though they're disapprovin'

Keep them doggies movin'


This is October at Satellite.

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