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Sept 2018

Satellite Wine Club, September 2018

Leitmotif - 2016 Pinot Noir - Santa Barbara County, CA 

Swick - 2017 Pinot Noir - Willamette Valley, OR


It’s time for another Pinot Party. Not just any Pinot Party: this is special. 

Don’t ask me why, but for the second time I have decided to feature Oregon and Santa Barbara Pinot side by side. Is it fascination? Addiction? A sense of childlike wonder? What keeps drawing me back? Maybe it’s because I think Santa Barbara and Oregon’s Willamette Valley are two of the best Pinot Noir production zones on earth, and yet so sorely under appreciated. There’s juxtaposition between these regions; their soils, their weather, their ecosystems. There’s a scrappy yet self confident mentality brimming from both. There’s a sense that the best wines of today are part of an un-ending ascent of quality, geographical understanding, and local expression. There’s veritas, forza, huevos, good old fashioned fun in the pinot noir from these places. 

Last year around this time we explored Whitcraft and Teutonic (CHRONIC!) from SB and OR. This year it’s Leitmotif and Swick. The cavalcade of avant garde, highly skilled, simply nice people pumping out great Pinot Noir continues. 

So who are these Swick and Leitmotif characters. What makes their wine special? Why do I freak out when new bottlings are released? Well, they’re honest wines, with no makeup or embellishment, made clean and expressively by genuinely great people who work their asses off. And that, my friends turns me on… meow! These guys are special, small producers who fit somewhere right between garagiste micro-production, and established boutique producers. They don’t market or advertise, they don’t have tasting rooms, use fancy doohickeys to pour, nor do really anything else we associate with a typical commercial winery. They make great, elegant wines with all of their energy and none of the bullshit… They’re hard working, brave, and badass! 

Yes, Pinot Noir is the most highly revered grape in the world. It constitutes the most expensive wines in existence. It’s thin skinned, hard to do right, and rewards only careful, deliberate winemaking built on the same kind of winegrowing. This month we explore two brilliant examples in two brilliant styles. It’ a good time! 


Leitmotif - 2016 Pinot Noir - Santa Barbara County, CA 

Stephen Searle is a great winemaker, a great dude, and he really likes soccer. That’s Stephen. 

Stephen got his start in wine while waiting tables in Boston during college. He fell deeply in love with it and left his music studies to transfer into Cal Poly SLO’s Enology program. After school he spent a few years pursuing harvests around the world, picking up technique and style from many of the great regions of the world. 

Settling in Santa Barbara, Stephen was intent on exploring and mastering the cool climate corners of Santa Barbara’s diverse and wonderful wine region. Early on he took a job with Jaffurs wines, a local mainstay for Rhone Valley Varietals like Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier. He was recently named the head winemaker of Jaffurs and has been working his butt off on continuing their success… All while launching his own brand: Leitmotif

Leitmotif is defined as: n. a recurrent theme throughout a musical or literary composition, associated with a particular person, idea, or situation. Leitmotif’s Leitmotif is “cool climate, honest wines”.

I’ll let Stephen tell you about it:

“The 2016 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir comes from two of the most marginal, westerly planted vineyards in the region. The coastal influence on these sites is easily observed from the air to the ground. Morning and evening fog provide a cooling blanket for the vines, while intense ocean winds control vigor and limit fruit set. Sandy, ancient seabed soils, which are well-drained and nutrient poor further stress the vines, producing wines of both elegance and full expression of flavor. 40% stem-inclusion during fermentation enhances mouthfeel, while providing a savory complexity to balance out the floral and fruit qualities. This Pinot Noir was allowed to ferment spontaneously, with native yeasts indigenous to the vineyards, further showcasing its regional character”

This wine is sexy. Bright, spicy, black and red cherry fruit spout out of the glass. It’s super available instantly on opening and yet elegant: this is not a slutty, overly ripe kind of pinot. It’s got distinctly Santa Barbara County notes of the savory sea air, all layered into the wine by daily shrouds of cool ocean fog blanketing the vineyard. It’s a brilliant and pure kind of wine, with all the qualities of a world class Pinot. 

I remember tasting this wine right after bottling last summer. I was floored by this wonderful wine, with seemingly no bottle shock, speaking volumes about the place it’s from, and honestly blowing so many other local pinots out of the water - for less. This is Stephen’s first release from leitmotif and I couldn’t be prouder to carry it. He’s doing everything right, his way, and expressing all my favorite parts of Santa Barbara. It’s a brilliant wine with character, structure, and sex appeal. Look for more and more by Stephen… (We carry his single Vineyard Duvarita Pinot Noir & his White Blend “Cuvee Amiliana”!) More wines dropping soon!

Now for a little DATA:

  • 1800 Bottles Produced
  • Vineyards: Kick On Ranch & Duvarita Vineyard
  • Both vineyards have a Sandy Loam soil, low in nutrients and well-draining
  • Pinot Noir Clones: 115 (Kick On), 777 (Duvarita) 
  • Harvest Info: Kick On: August 20, 22.5 Brix, 3.28 pH, Duvarita: August 23, 22.8 Brix, 3.35 pH
  • Spontaneous fermentation with native yeast lasting 12-14 days, 40% whole-cluster foot-stomped
  • 10 months in neutral French oak barrels, unracked until bottling
  • 12.9% by volume

$36 @ Satellite SB


Swick - 2017 Pinot Noir - Willamette Valley, OR

Joe Swick: Natural Winemaker, Michael Bolton Super-Fan, Individual.  Joe’s wines are exuberant, ultra pure, and accessible. Somehow this man captures all of the fun of wine without any of the ego. His wines are ethereal, always seemingly alive and filled with the natural tones of their birthplaces. 

His wine all comes from all Organic vineyard sources in Washington and Oregon (where he’s based). He uses minimal sulphur in everything he does, just enough to safely get it to us. Low intervention is the name of the game and he does it right. He makes clean wines that are snapshots of great fruit from great places, no botox, no makeup. Everything is natural, the wood is neutral, but the man is magic. While I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Joe, I do know that he is absolutely masterful at translating the purity of his sources. 

Joe is the kind of guy who grinds. He makes it work. I’ve actually had to wait for his wine in the past while he scraped enough cash together to just label bottles of already finished wine. He hustles, does what he can, he runs a very tight little business and just makes it work. That’s Joe.

This Willamette Pinot Noir is something special. It drinks lighter than the Leitmotif due to its 100% whole cluster fermentation. Less extracted, softer, more airy. It’s a delicate flower (and you can taste the earth the flower was plucked from!) This wine is all hints. Hints of Oregon pines, of dried black cherry, a bit of damp earth, hints of a wet foggy morning in the hills. The wine drinks fresh and vibrant, telling a story about where it was born. 

Drink it with friends on a sweater kinda night this autumn. It rewards glugging as it’s low in alcohol and has just enough sulphur to hang for the evening, not the week. Day 3 isn’t an option for this wine, nor should it be. This is an example of a brilliant wine, with just the right amount of preservative to party all night, not tomorrow!

With all that said, here’s a little technical info for ya!: 

  • 4800 Bottles Produced
  • 54% Cancilla Vineyard (NW Willamette Valley) and 46% Silvershot Vineyard (Eola-Amity AVA)
  • Hand Picked grapes, both vineyards are fully own-rooted with no root stock
  • Mixed Basalt and Sedimentary Soils
  • 100% Pommard clone Pinot Noir
  • Both vineyards are organic and own rooted
  • 100% whole cluster fermentation using only native yeasts.
  • Gently stomped by foot twice a day during ferment
  • Aged in 228 liter and 500 liter used oak barrels
  • Bottled without fining or filtration
  • A small sulfur addition at bottling is the only additive to this wine - 15ppm (get low get low get low!)

$36 @ Satellite SB



Santa Barbara, 

Pinot Noir, 

And Michael Bolton

This is September at Satellite. 


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