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Jan 2021

Satellite Wine Club, January 2021

Scar of the Sea - What Pinot Can Be!

Scar of the Sea - Sparkling Rosé of Pinot Noir - Topotero Vineyard, Avila Beach, San Luis Obispo County, CA - 2020

$52/Bottle,  $499/Case

Scar of the Sea - Vino de Los Ranchos - Pinot Noir - Santa Maria Valley, CA 2019 

$35/Bottle, $336/Case


Mikey Giugni of Scar of the Sea is an amazing winemaker. 

And that’s a wrap! January 2021 wine club write-up message delivered! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

I kid! I kid! Let’s look at some Scar of the Sea Pinot Noir! 

This month is a special month. Two wines from the same local winery. We rarely do this but for some truly special occasions. Hey - after getting through last year I think we all deserve something a little special. 

That’s why this January we’re pursuing everything there is to know about Scar of the Sea Winery in San Luis Obispo. Home of Bear - The Labradoodle, Gina - The Lady of the Sunshine, and her husband Mikey - The Scar of the Sea himself. 

A note on this beautiful family: Well, they’re… beautiful. Hovering somewhere around 30, maybe eternally, both Mikey and Gina are dedicated people of the vine. Gina grew up on her father’s biodynamic vineyard, Narrow Gate, in the Sierra Foothills and just recently certified the vineyard she farms in SLO’s Edna Valley - Chêne Vineyard. Mikey on the other hand, well you can think of Mikey as the Chardonnay guy, Gina as the Sauvignon Blanc Lady... but they’re both Pinot Noir FREAKS.

“Who the heck?” 

“Why this wine?”

“Pinot Noir?”

“Sounds BASIC…”

...Winestronaut - take my hand as we tiptoe through the salt-dusted vines of the central coast. We’re off, north from SB, to the Santa Maria Valley and Avila Beach. In those two precious micro-climates we’ll find organically farmed Pinot Noir, amongst the oldest vines in our region. We’ll see that Pinot made two vastly different ways, hard to imagine they’re by the same hand, and the same varietal from only miles apart. 

Let’s hang out with Pinot for a moment, shall we? This unassuming, thin skinned and temperamental varietal is arguably the most important in the world. Its finest representations call for the highest prices ever in the wine trade - new vintages of Romanee Conti regularly call for over $13,000/bottle and a whole slough of Grand Cru Burgundies follow behind. How could this fragile little bugger be so precious?

Terroir. Pinot Noir has a knack for expressing a place in the purest way. In the right hands it’s like a picturesque into the rocks & soil, the climate, the wild herbs & nearby flowers. It’s a kind-of kismet of evolution that allows well-made Pinot Noir to act more like a fine lens into the vineyard rather than an opaque and blocky place-depriving grape. Pinot Noir is oenologically perfect in its delicacy, its deficiencies, and most-importantly, its amazing structure. 

Thin skinned, lightly colored, susceptible to rot, birds, mites, you-name-it. Pinot Noir seeds are highly likely to be genetic mutations… this grape is FRAGILE… and you’d think that with all of these issues it would like hot dry warm weather - WRONG - Pinot loves a moderate, cool, long growing period - Burgundy is WET, Champagne is COLD & WET. You’d think Pinot Growers would have long given up on this little beautiful nightmare. 

I’m definitely not the only one out there raving about Santa Barbara Pinot Noir. The climate here in the central coast is, debatably & quite possibly, the ultimate Pinot Noir zone on the planet. When one thinks of the western central coast what do we think? Cool westerly winds rolling ceaselessly in, foggy cool nights replaced warm dry days - every day, as if by clockwork. That sun and constant wind alleviates disease pressure and subtly deposits much needed moisture on the plant and soil. A little goes a long way in the marginal winegrowing regions of the world!

Pinot is not for the faint of heart but the fruit here in our region is just right and it’s the perfect tool in the right hands. My dude Mikey… well he’s got the touch.

Let us taste!  

Scar of the Sea - Sparkling Rosé of Pinot Noir - Topotero Vineyard, Avila Beach, San Luis Obispo County, CA - 2020

$52/Bottle,  $499/Case

Have you been to Avila Beach?

It is an archetype. A living portrait of idyllic California Coast living. A tiny spit of homes and piers sheltered behind the protective arm of Point San Luis. 

It feels remote more in time than space, and a cool foggy air only deepens the detachment. It’s beautiful. It’s California forever. Defined by it’s coastal minimalism this place is actually everything. 

As you hit the coast highway - north -  passing Pismo to your left, the Avila Coast materializes. The massive Shell Beach Bluff rises, obscuring a picturesque valley from the ocean spray. Huge piers and moored boats seem alive in their protected bay.

It’s the kind of thing tourists… and I… freak out over. You don’t forget seeing a place like Avila. 

Ok, I’m breathing again… Back behind that Bluff lies a super idyllic valley with a very special vineyard. The Topotero vineyard. 

Topotero is a remarkable place and especially for pinot noir destined for sparkling wine - The vineyard, planted in 1998 and organically farmed since 1998, sits low in at the foot of See Valley. All gravelly loamy alluvial deposits from the steep coastal canyon behind, the soil is perfect for happy pinot. The air is too - with a cool coastal breeze running up and down the canyon each day the air is fresh and salty. That soft rich soil may not be what we generally look for (you know we like our vines to suffer a little ;) in a vineyard, but we’re not making general wine here! 

Like the vineyards of Champagne, where sweater weather is the only weather, Topotero’s cool site is held in the push and pull of frigid Avila Bay air every day. Soil isn’t the torturer of these vines. Devigorating temperatures and dense fog make for an ideal place to slowly develop complexity while maintaining bright puckering acidity so desired and essential in fine sparkling wine.  

The vineyard is farmed lovingly by Ben Taylor who lives amongst the vines with his wife, and Satellite’s Alcohol Attorney!, Courtney Taylor! There they raise 5 acres of Pinot Noir and a little gamay we’re hoping to see in our mouths soon

The vines are chonky, huge mamajamas trained with thick cordons making a ‘T’ thick as your leg. These 25 year old vines are just hitting their prime and are loving every minute of it. They produce a ton of fruit, which is awesome for sparkling wine. Mikey says this vineyard is his favorite because the fruit is perfect for the sparkling he wants to make and because it produces so much fruit the cost is lower so he can make more of it… more affordably! It might not be cheap but I would say it’s a damn fine deal considering the quality! 

How’s it made?

GOOD QUESTION! This is not a traditional method wine so put your comparisons to Champagne back in that brain! This is also not a Pétnat! We’re somewhere in between with this one! 

This wine is a Méthode Ancestrale. Before I dive too deep it’s just a Pétnat that’s been disgorged… 😳 - don’t worry winestronaut!! All this means is that - like a petnat - all of the fruit comes from a single vintage and a single continuous fermentation (Traditional method, alternatively, is a still finished wine refermented!). However, unlike pétnat and like a traditional method wine this has had the yeasty, cruddy sediment ejected after settling in the neck of the bottle. This messy process relieves the wine of its cloudiness, helps to focus the flavors and gosh it makes it pretty in the glass. 

This wine is 100% natural. Organically farmed, naturally fermented, hand disgorged, hand corked, no sulphur added! At 10.9% abv I recommend 1 bottle per drinker!

Let’s taste it! 

Salmon pink, crystal clear, and delightfully active with generous bubbles popping off like crazy! I love the color of this wine… shades of orange play off the pink. It’s rad

On the nose it’s blossoming with intense beautiful fruit, white strawberries and orange zest, a salty air. It’s delicate yet direct in the way that a high powered surgical laser beam is… pew pew! I love the power & zestiness of this thing! 

On the palate, yes. Yes to everything. It’s so lean and light and crisp - refreshing. This wine is high fidelity with super bright clear flavors - ripe zest lifting amazing strawberry fruit and salty undertones. It’s the kind of thing that attacks the palate in the best way, fully activating every flavor receptor, sending your saliva into full production mode, and yet it doesn’t linger or cloy. 

It’s like a cool ocean breeze that refreshes, passes, and lets the sunshine in more clearly :) I recommend it as an apéritif. Whether it’s welcome drinks on a sunny afternoon at home or welcoming guests to your beach blanket on a warm seaside afternoon: the sunshine is up to you ♡

Scar of the Sea - Vino de Los Ranchos - Pinot Noir - Santa Maria Valley, CA 2019 

$35/Bottle, $336/Case

Oh, Hello! 

Good old fashioned pinot noir like your grandpappi likes! Familiar, friendly, the kind of thing that brings old school and new school together! This wine, Scar of the Sea ‘Vino de los Ranchos’ is just that - new meets old. It’s Santa Barbara’s history revisited and I think it’s both genuinely damn good as it is important. 

This wine is a HOOT! A blend of three old-vine vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley: Rancho Sisquoc, Rancho Contreras, and Bien Nacido Vineyard - All of which were part of the Rancho Tepusquet Land Grant of 1837. Today the original 175 year old Adobe home still sits at the center of the Bien Nacido Vineyard. For reference here… these land grants were established some 52 years before the first village, Ballard, was established in the valley. This is foundational Santa Barbara history!

Mikey makes this wine from a blend of barrels not designated for the single vineyard wines. Because it’s his largest production Pinot Noir, it’s his most popular and something meant to represent both the winery and the county. I think it’s an exceptional taste of the coastal Santa Maria valley. Like Santa Ynez to the south, the Valley is transverse meaning oriented east-west, allowing for constant push/pull climactic conditions as the air mass flows up the valley and back out to sea depending on the time of day. What that means is constant breeze, protecting the grapes from mildew, cool foggy mornings to retain acidity and develop complexity slowly, while warm sunny afternoons limit rot and allow the grapes to ripen. It’s an ideal environment for Pinot Noir.

The most important point about this wine is it’s Old Vines sourcing. Most of the vines here were planted as far back as 1973. Almost entirely ungrafted and on their own roots, they offer some of the deepest and purest expressions of fruit available in the county. 

These grapes are grown on largely sandy soils though significant sections of chalk, marine limestone, and loamy mountainous gravel are all present here. The vines are also farmed completely organically at all three sites, something Mikey requires of all his vineyards. 

He harvests early, to retain acidity which helps with ageability, requiring less SO2 at bottling, and limits issues through the élevage or cellaring process. This wine is anything but flabby… it’s energetic with an ideal 13% abv. Like all of his Pinot, the grapes are fermented with just the ambient native yeast as a mix of whole clusters and destemmed fruit to find a balance of depth and extraction while retaining a fresh, brightness. In the cellar this wine requires pretty much nothing. Each vineyard is fermented independently and blended well before bottling to achieve the right balance. All aged in old neutral oak barriques for 10+ months before blending and bottling, the wine is rock-stable… not that any bottles are likely to last long open ;)

What’s this beautiful thing taste like?

It’s a spicy fruity joyous little masterpiece! Let’s start with the color: Ruby red infused with a kiss of purple, clear and see-through with the slightest haze alluding to its unfiltered status. On the nose HELLO! It’s tart but dark - like fresh picked black cherries, spicy and loaded with that clovey, inviting baking spice. It smells alive and bright, inviting, coastal! I get a sense of the big, cold, salty ocean fog that rolls into these vineyard daily… at just 10-15 miles from the shore it plays a huge role in the development of these grapes - bringing a delicate briney note, the kind of sunshine pouring down onto a cool windswept beach kinda smell that I love about Santa Barbara. Not so much kelp as sea spray!

On the palate, YES, this wine is so dangerously chuggable. It’s the perfect balance of vivid flavor intensity, refreshing acidity, light but textured persistent tannins. Lighter bodied for glugging but complex and layered for enjoyability. It’s all racy black cherry and plums, bubblegum sage, salty minerality, and the prettiest little floral cherry blossom note. 

Ugh. I love it. 

Take this wine everywhere. Introduce it to everyone. Make friends and share it with the world! Mikey’s wines are ambassadors for Santa Barbara. They contextualize our local history while leading to where wine is going - not where it's been. Scar of the Sea is a gift and I hope you think so too! 

That’s the story y’all! 

Before I sign off on January and dive in on February I really recommend you check out more of the Scar of the Sea and Lady of the Sunshine wines and Ciders. We carry most of what’s available and will continue! If you’re fast enough I’d really highly recommend copping a bottle of the Sparkling Solera Chardonnay from our shop… It’s among the most important sparkling wines in the country. Remarkable and singular - At least I sure think so! 

More information on Mikey and Gina here! www.scaroftheseawines.com

These are good wines. These are good people. 

This is January at Satellite. 

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