Time to Take a Deep Look at Santa Barbara’s World-Class Wines by Matt Kettman
On July 30th, wine industry professionals across Santa Barbara came to meet two winemakers hailing from Italy's southern volcanic wine regions during a trade seminar on volcanic soil expression. Giuseppe Russo-winemaker and founder of Girolamo Russo winery on the high elevation slopes of volcano Mt Etna- poured his sold-out, single vineyard Etna Rosso wines. Some showed Burgundian finesse, while others were more reminiscent of Barolo with a cinder-laced, iron rich characteristic.
Andrea Piccin- second generation winemaker of Grifalco Winery in Basilicata- proved why his wine-making family was right to leave the relative comfort of Tuscany for an under-appreciated wine region in Italy's far South. The vines are grown in an area previously inhabited by ancient volcanoes. The wines were powerful yet balanced and showed a similar iron-rich, dusty ash characteristic.
We are enamored by these volcanic wines and are featuring both the Girolamo Russo 'A' Rina' Etna Rosso, and the single vineyard 'San Lorenzo' Etna Rosso on our retail shelf. The Grifalco 'Gricos' Aglianico del Vulture will be available by the glass. Come try these and other volcanic wines from Southern Italy, Canary Islands, Napa, and Oregon to get your own take on volcanic expression in wine.
Girolamo Russo A' Rina Etna Rosso is made from Nerello Mascalese grapes planted on the northern slopes of Mt Etna at 2100-2600 ft elevation. It is the complete expression of the Girolamo Russo production- including fruit from all of the single vineyards the winery farms. It is fresh and balanced between cherry fruit and smokey undertones.
Girolamo Russo 'San Lorenzo' Etna Rosso 2015 is made from Nerello Mascalese grapes sourced from 60-100 yr old vines at an altitude of up to 2600ft. This vintage of San Lorenzo comes across as the most Burgundian in style of the Girolamo Russo single vineyards and expresses delicate fruit flavors nuanced with sanguine, iron flavor and cinder undertones. The single vineyard crus from Girolamo Russo show the Etna region's potential to compete with the finest wine regions of Italy.
Grifalco hails from the Aglianico del Vulture DOCG in the Basilicata region of Southern Italy. Aglianico shows its best on the volcanic soils of Basilicata and nearby Campania. The grape's tannic structure draws comparisons to nebbiolo in Barolo. However, Grifalco winery works to manage the tannic nature of the grape and makes wines that are approachable in their youth. The Gricos bottling is the most approachable, with vibrant red and black cherry aromas, dusty tannnins and an ashy undertone.
Section Wines produces original wines with stunning labels from original art. Italian winemaker Marco Lucchesi will be here to taste five wines that showcase the unique terroir of Santa Barbara County with you. All five wines will be released for the first time here at Wine + Beer! Read tasting notes below, along with notes about the original artwork featured on each label.
Vermentino, 2017, Santa Ynez Valley, 100% Sanger Vineyard
About the Wine: Nothing compares to the bright acidity and minerality of Vermentino, and this vintage is no different. This is the perfect Summer patio aperitif. Fresh citrus and stone fruit flavors come through without losing the balance or lightness of the wine.
About the Art: Paper Candy #3 by Giuliana Mottin Mitchum. Giuliana creates unconventional modern art. She has a great vision and is amazing at seeing the entire project, not just the individual piece. The colors used in Paper Candy #3 illustrate the colors of summer and the flavors of the wine.
il Bianco, 2017, Grenache Blanc / Arnis Blend, Santa Ynez Valley
About the Wine: The decision to blend 75% Grenache Blanc, 25% Arnis, was not handled lightly and took Marco dozens of blending attempts before he was satisfied with its perfection. On the palate and nose, tropical fruit, star fruit, white peaches and honeysuckle. You might find iL Bianco again on the wine list of Chef Morimoto’s famous restaurants. Fingers crossed he loves it as much and the 2016 vintage.
About the Art: 7 Feet from Freedom was created by Wallace Piatt, an ultra-talented artist who’s bold and colorful work has been seen around Santa Barbara for years.
La Luciana, Rosato di Sangiovese, 2017, Santa Ynez Valley
About the Wine: Named after Marco’s mama, Luciana. “Because of her, I am making wine.” In order to retain bright acidity and lower alcohol, the grapes were harvested 6 weeks before the Sangiovese that is destined to become red wine. Direct to press method. An explosion of passion fruit, cherry blossom and cotton candy on the nose, followed by tart strawberry and raspberry on the palette.
About the Art: Paper Candy #1 by Giuliana Mottin Mitchum, is once again a beautiful and thoughtful representation of the Rosato wine and its bright yet delicate flavors.
Pinot Noir, 2016, Santa Rita Hills, Zotovich Vineyard
About the Wine: A true Burgundian-style Pinot. Aged in 20% new French Oak puncheons (double the size of typical baroque), and 80% neutral oak which allowed the wine to keep its delicate finesse. Bouquet of fruit with a balance of savory earthiness. Elegant, light, fruity, with silky tannins. This wine is simple and pure enough to be enjoyed without food.
About the Art: Blue is a self-portrait by Giuliana Mottin Mitchum. There are three others in the series, one of which you may see on a future bottle.
Syrah, 2015, Santa Ynez Valley, Ballard Canyon, Happy Canyon
About the Wine: Made in an Old World, cool climate style and developed in a 32-month aging program. Blended with 25% Grenache and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, Marco wanted to add weight and texture while finding the perfect balance between being ready to drink upon release or ready to age. The result is a wine with structure, tannins, finesse and no astringency whatsoever.
About the Art: The Chieftain by Wallace Piatt. Marco knew from the moment he purchased the original piece in 2014 it would represent his high-end Syrah. This man is the local “Saggio”, (meaning a wise old man in Italian). It is a tribute to the land and the people who cared for it long before us.
Fun Facts about the Loire Valley:
Did You Know?
Cooperative Wineries in Italy have a long history and some are responsible for the best quality to price point wines in their regions.
They can also be a sustainable option for many small growers: often allowing the member vineyards to farm their own land as they do best, while relying on a common winemaker and shared resources for sales.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Produttori del Barbaresco - Piedmont
The Cooperative put Barbaresco on the map at a time where Barbaresco grapes were either sold to Barolo producers or were being bottled as "Nebbiolo." They work with 51 member growers in Barbaresco and 9 single vineyard 'crus.'
Cantina Terlan - Alto Adige
Founded in 1893 for the purpose of freeing small winemakers from the influence of the dominant landowners in the region. They are responsible for evolving the wine-style of the Alto Adige region and putting single varietal white wines in the spotlight.
Erste + Neue - Alto Adige
A merger of the original 1900 cooperative, Erste Kellerei (Erste meaning "first") with a new-at-the-time 1925 cooperative Neue Kellerei (Neue meaning "new") in 1986 created the cooperative Erste + Neue. They blend 100+ years of contribution to Alto Adige wine history with modern style.
I was recently asked a question regarding the Libertine Autumn Leaves Saison that I really couldn't explain exactly... What is a Saison? Well, it's kind of complicated I guess. Traditionally Saison designated a type of farmhouse ale brewed indoors during winter in the French speaking area of Wallonia, Belgium. These beers were low ABV and tended to be a refreshing drink for Summer while or after working in the fields.
But what does that mean? What does it taste like? What is the commonality that defines the modern style? All good questions that again were kind of hard to pin down.
Modern Saison's trace their roots to a few traditional Belgian brewers who took the rustic farmhouse ale and upped the ABV a little bit and made the beer mainstream. Most famously Brasserie DuPont from Tourpes, Belgium.
Cloudy pale gold with strong head retention, foamy almost cloud like. The nose is fruity with a barnyard funk and earthiness, finishing citrusy with lemon zest and sour orange hop notes. On the palate the beer is light and fizzy, refreshingly similar to a heifweizen without the banana and Bazooka Joe. Orange Peel, Coriander, and a hint of clove offer great complexity leading to a crisp bitter finish.
Modern beers began to emulate this style, but being the craft beer world, experimental exploration would create hundreds of other beers that really can't be defined, and no longer emulate the classic Saison as we know it. So what is a Saison? Well, it's different, each brewery tends to do it a little differently and it's usually pretty darn tasty. Generally though a Saison will always be...
An Ale (top fermented) that leans on it's yeast strains for complexity. Most will contain herbs and spices (commonly Coriander, Cloves, Orange Peel), and most will be close to dry with little residual sweetness, some may have a slightly tart component from wild bacteria. That is about as close as you can get to classifying the category.
To me, a saison is a fun beer when you're in a Belgian mood, but a sour is too tart and a Tripel or Quad might not be the best idea.....
In America it seems Champagne season comes only once a year. Although we firmly believe that Champagne should be enjoyed all year long, we get it: Staff parties, family celebrations, and of course New Years.
Knowing how much we love our Farmers' Markets here in Santa Barbara, our affection for Farmers' Fizz is only natural. The term Farmers' Fizz was coined by Champagne guru and wine importer, Terry Theise. Farmer Fizz is what we wineauxs call Grower Champagne. These winemakers unlike the mass produced sparklers we're familiar with devote their entire life to their vines, their blends consist of parcels and patches that are located only within their own villages.
In contrast, Maisons Champagne make up what America mostly drinks when it comes to fancy bubbles. These large and industrious houses buy their grapes from vineyards all over Champagne and are out for a formulated product. So where's the love in that? They negotiate with growers through cold handshakes throughout the difficult vintages, blend mega-lots, and have a perpetual stock of champagne to play and assemble with. This is why we love grower Champagne, its simply that idea of making the most with the least. This holiday season lets sow into our festivities the fun of tasting and appreciating the nuances from village to village and producer to producer!
So find a grower, support a farmer. Because we've only tilled the surface on this Farmer Fizz!!!
Join us on December 12th for our 2nd annual Champagne tasting where we'll feature both these style of wines and a good amount of what Terry Thiese has brought to america!
If you can't make it, we're sorry to hear that but let us make some recommendations for you on what to open for the holidays.
RM - NV Gaston Chiquet "Tradition" 45.99
RM - NV Robert Moncuit Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 47.99
RM - NV Pierre Peter Blanc de Blanc Cuvée Reserve 59.99
RM - NV Coutier Brut Cuvée Tradition 41.99
How to read a champagne label!
A little quick tip if a bottle says RM this means in french Récoltant manipulant AKA Grower, If it says NM this means négociant manipulant and this is a maison or house Champagne.
Rosé season is in full swing and this summer, Wine + Beer is excited to have one of the best selections in Santa Barbara. To highlight this seasonal favorite, we will be offering a selection of rosés to be purchased by the glass throughout the entire month of July! From local vintners to some great picks from France and beyond, we’ll keep you drinking pink all summer long. Cheers!
We love our locals! To celebrate the local Santa Barbara community, the Public Market is launching “Locals Night”, every Monday night, beginning on Monday, July 6! All Santa Barbara locals are invited to the Public Market to enjoy "locals only" food + drink specials from participating merchants, games, prizes and FUN! Locals Night specials include...
-Happy Hour ALL NIGHT at Wine + Beer
-Half Off BBQ Chicken Wings from Belcampo Inc. with beverage purchase from Wine + Beer
-10% off oils + vinegars after 5pm at il Fustino
-10% off a purchase of $10 or more at Flagstone Pantry, Inc.
-20% off your purchase at Green Star Coffee
-$1 off Draft Beer and Gassac rose wine at Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar
-15% off produce purchases at Forager's Pantry
-2 ice cream sandwiches for $8.05 from Rori's Artisanal Creamery
-$1 Oysters at I`a Fish Market & Cafe
So come eat, drink, shop and celebrate your LOCAL Santa Barbara status! Show your locals night receipts and you’ll be entered to win prizes!