Loners

Like musicians, there are grape varieties that do their best when playing with others, and then there are soloists who need the spotlight – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are among these.  These two varietals are also among the best interpreters of their places of origin.  The Loners are single vineyard, single varietal wines made from Pinot Noir and/or Chardonnay, which see minimal influence in the winemaking process and thus tell their story of place and time.

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Vintage Notes

  • 2016 "Backseat Freestyle"

    The clarity, color, and captivating perfume of this 2016 Pinot Noir conjures an image of a favorite whimsical line from Italo Calvino, which served as inspiration for the making of this charmingly mysterious elixir: “in an aluminum crystal, where chance has scattered some chrome atoms, the transparency is colored a dark red, as the rubies that flowered beneath our footsteps”.

    100% Pinot Noir from the savage Sta. Rita Hills’ John Sebastiano vineyard, natively fermented and aged 2+ years in large seasoned oak vessels.

    Food: high-strung Pinot wants something greasy…so, a pastrami sandwich or a bacon avocado burger (things I rarely eat but know would work here) or a grilled cheese sandwich of Gruyere and serious bread; or just rich cheeses with strong personalities – like La Tur, good Stilton – and serious bread …and a little herb salad

    Music: all your Yves Montand and Tom Jones favorites, and of course Backseat Freestyle, Kendrick Lamar

    100 cases were made by caring hands in our humble bodega on the east side of Santa Barbara proper.

  • 2016 "Wellwellwell"

    This – last of the many Chardonnays we’ve made from the Bien Nacido vineyard – is an appropriate swan song: intensity meets refinement – it is a precise expression of the 10-year collaboration we enjoyed with Chris, Amparo, and the team. Sad as this may be, the silver lining is that this wine is likely to outlive many of us and promises a thrilling journey of development as time marches on (which it doesn’t actually do, but that’s how we nonetheless perceive it.) 100% Chardonnay raised in large neutral French oak…

    Food: Black cod or Chilean Seabass (or other fatty, not-so-fishy-fish) on a bed of slowly roasted shallots and cherry tomatoes, on top of another bed of mustard greens and dandelion, slowly roasted in olive oil, white wine and chicken or fish stock

    Music: Don The Struggle, Andrew Bird; Edgar & At Forest Edge, Vetiver; I Just Haven’t Laid Down Yet, Steven Yerkey; Alle Prese Con Una Verde Milonga, Paolo Conte (both versions are great, but start with the one from Paris Milonga); The Train That Stole My Man, Two Gallants

  • 2015 "Le Dauphine"

    Some history: Le Dauphine was the name given to the heir-apparent to the throne of France and was on the coat of arms of the Count of Vienne, who ruled over this area full of anarchists who fought for independence from the mothership. An heir-to-the-throne promises authority and sophistication; dolphins and anarchists feistily challenge the establishment, they need to be clever, and like to have fun. All of these characteristics perfectly describe the 2015 Loner Chardonnay, which, however, tops all of them with its lovely aromatics…like opening a cloud of flowers.

    100% Chardonnay from Bien Nacido Vineyard brought up on their lees in seasoned French oak and stainless steel for 26 months.

    Food: Moules Frites would be great, and a great Hamburger or Steak Frites (so long as there are fries involved)…great cheese, sourdough and sliced apple or pear would also work

    Music: Sweet Pea, Iris & E.S.P. – Miles Davis; Complexion – Kendrick Lamar; Stark’s Reality – BadBadNotGood & Ghostface Killa; The Summerwind – Sinatra; Babylon Sisters – Steely Dan

  • 2014 "Whale Song"

    Has the character of the giant redwoods that call northern-northern California their home, and for whose presence we are grateful – the quiet calm nature of an old soul, offering herself in the stern but comforting manner of a sage. The John Sebastiano vineyard has never been a pleasure to work with – windy, dusty, steep, salty, cold in the morning and evening, and hot during the day. But the resulting wines always exude this peaceful confidence. Hard-Easy.

    100% Pinot Noir, fermented on native yeasts with 50-some% whole clusters, raised in seasoned French oak barrels for a long while.

    Food: Boeuf Bourguignon or something like it.

    Music: Any one of the Tezeta versions that can be found on the Ethiopiques collections (especially Mulatu Astatake); Everybody is free (to wear sunscreen) (from a Baz Luhrmann soundtrack). “Ingrata – en vivo” La Santa Cecilia. (tongue and cheek nod to the vineyard).

     

  • 2014 "Las Orillas"

    The (only) 2014 Pinot Noir bottling, Las Orillas, probably has the highest loveliness factor and purity of heart of all the Pinot Noirs we have bottled since 2010. It’s aromatic delicacy and finesse betray the savage place from whence it hails (John Sebastiano vineyard in Santa Rita Hills), but its well toned body and winsome core confirm that it had to stand up for itself growing up, not unlike Johnny Cash’s boy named Sue – though, Las Orillas is a more like a woman of extraordinary character. The loveliest bones are the structure that support the body’s athletic energy, enveloped in skin smoother than a whale gliding elegantly through the Pacific (and with the quality of a siren that resides in that dark body of water).

    Las Orillas means the edges – owing to the fact that the vineyard guys took to calling me “El Hombre De Las Orillas” because it is composed of fruit grown at the very small edges of four different vineyard blocks, all of which wanted annoyingly special treatment. After clones 4, 667, and Swan fermented on their native yeasts with 50+% whole cluster, this wine spent about 12 months in seasoned barriques, followed by 14 months in 500L seasoned oak casks, followed by a year in the bottle. While fully ready for your enjoyment, expect Las Orillas to evolve for 7-12 years.

    Food: Seared hanger steak (or similar lean, juicy cut), Roasted leeks (best cooked following the Franny cookbook recipe), young potatoes or small sweet potatoes, boiled and then tossed in butter, olive oil, salt & pepper and whatever herbs you might like to add (chimichurri optional)

    Music: Albatross, Fleetwood Mac; Equinox, Jon Coltrane; I Won’t Hurt You, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band; Waterloo Sunset, The Kinks; The Lemon Song, Led Zeppelin; I Feel Free, Cream

  • 2014 "Favonius"

    Favonius means “favorable” and is the Roman wind-god’s name who held dominion over plants and flowers. His return from the West every February signaled the coming of Spring in Rome. A favorable Westwind gently fans the rows of vines at the Bien Nacido vineyard where we grew the grapes for this 2014 Loner Chardonnay. It is a quintessential representation of this site and everything I love about it – purity, ripeness, elegance, style, and racy acidity make up it’s unmistakable character.

    Food: Bold enough for substantial dishes (like steak frites or grilled sausages), delicate enough for raw bar / seafood crudo and chilled summer soups, and so friendly that a grilled cheese sandwich will work just as well.

    Music: Sifters – Andrew Bird; Weather Systems – Andrew Bird; Rio, Part VIII – Keith Jarrett; Turtles – Flying Lotus; Tortoises (from Carnival of the Animals – Barry Wordsworth & London).

    Details: The 2014 Chardonnay was culled from tiny yields and raised in neutral large oak and stainless steel barrels; it has the kind of nervous energy I love, and which seemed to want a year in bottle following the 18-month journey in barrel, before being allowed to leave the winery. It is now in a perfect state, ready to be received and enjoyed. [about 120 cases produced]

  • 2013 Pinot Noir R13-c

    The last of the 2013s to leave the house, I love this wine because it was a test of patience and because it rewarded my “Geduld” like that of a parent who straddled the fine balance of carrot and stick with their troubled offspring. The process of making this wine was like getting on one of those outdated terminal transfer buses at the Charles de Gaulle airport: first one in, last one out, and taking the long way around: R13-c was our first pick of the 2013 vintage and its youthful feistiness wanted an extra year in the bottle before starting its journey to the dinner table. Now it is ready for take-off, exploding with freshness, all cherries and damp earth, and with the charming flair of Maria Cucinotta in something like a classic Air France stewardess getup from days that are never coming back.

    Following a 5-day cold-soak, this wine was fermented on native yeasts with 55% whole clusters at moderate temperatures with gentle “pigeage” and punch downs for 13 days, followed by a 6-day maceration on the skins, lees stirring throughout malo-lactic conversion, one year in neutral barriques and then another in neutral 500L puncheons.

    Food: I like middle eastern food with this kind of wine. It can take a bit of spice, and plays well with freshly chopped herbs. A hearty mushroom stew, or risotto with a side of sauteed swiss chard and topped with a runny egg and lots of shredded Pecorino or Parmesan will work great here too.

    Music: Django Reinhardt, Édith Piaf, or if something more exotic, select Anouar Brahèm’s ‘Barzakh’

    Download Tasting Notes

  • 2013 Pinot Noir R13-b

    This bottle is like those helicopter images from sunny days of “Le Tour” (de France) in the Pyrenees with narrow mountain roads slicing through stately forests; we can smell the moss on the trees and their damp leaves, the freshness of the streams, and the aromas of the fields as the peloton hits the valley floor mixing with savory aromas from the charcuterie shop, and berry cobbler as they race past the bakery, Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin’s soothing voices deliver French history lessons along with the blow-by-blow.

    Food: Vive La France! Boeuf Bourguignon (did I spell that right?) …something made from a cow, not grilled nor seared (or the closest stand-in if you don’t eat cows) …OK, go ahead, grill it, what do the French know anyway, they didn’t even invent fries!

    Music: Charles Trenet’s “La Mer” or Jacques Brel, or Plastic Bertrand’s “Ca Plan Pour Moi” Vive Le Tour!

    Download Tasting Notes

  • 2013 Pinot Noir R13-a

    The loner in this selection of composed wines, as usual, this is a single varietal, single vineyard, mostly-left-to-its-own-devices beverage. It is both soft as the breeze and fierce as the breeze. Either way, the breeze whistles a light and playful tune in the night, like the boy walking through the dark forest alone, pretending that he’s not afraid, thought it seems that he’s walking at a swift pace and in a pretty straight line toward the clearing on the far side.

    Food: Barbecued Ribs, or the best burger you can find, or anything else that will give the lively acidity an opportunity to do its work…you can even skip the salad (because “that ain’t food, that’s what food eats” as I learned once when eating a salad in one of the great steakhouses in the great state of Texas).

    Music: This being a sort of cowboy style of Pinot, better bust out some Terry Allen, old Hank Williams and/or Johnny Cash; Elvis’ “A Little Less Conversation”, alternately maybe Alexis Weissenberg’s Suite Bergamesque 3: Claire De Lune, and old Velvet Underground (that’s if you’re are more the New York or California type, and are having the salad). [Pinot Noir – about 130 cases produced].

  • 2013 Chardonnay W13-a

    Composed of the 5 purest Chardonnay barrels, W13-a is the only Loner Chardonnay from the 2013 vintage. Right now it is displaying the feistiness of a filly during a full moon, but this wine is like an old soul with the deep and thoughtful character of a Zen swordfighter – strength disguised in an elegant body and subtle but decisive movements. “A swordfight is like a game of chess; you must think first before you move!” (borrowed from Wu-Tang’s 36 Chambers). Unlike either a swordfighter or a filly, however, W13-a smells like a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers, all manner of citrus and stone fruit, a cool meadow, and wet stones.

    Food: Salad of coarsely torn butter lettuce, thinly chopped Treviso or radicchio, a bit of dill (trust me on this) coated well with good extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon, good salt and fresh pepper. Top that with your favorite hard cheese or a poached or soft boiled egg with a runny yolk. OR: Little gems, sauteed over medium-low heat in a bit of olive oil until just brown as the center piece; cured meats, like Speck or Serano ham, smoked duck or Bresaola. Or just good old salami, cheese, good toasted bread (not opening a second bottle might be a challenge.

    Music: Well, 36 Chambers might work, but if hip hop’s not your game, Andrew Bird would be a great choice, as would more traditional classical stuff like the legendary 1965 Martha Argerich recordings of Chopin’s Nocturnes or Friedrich Gulda’s Beethoven Piano Concertos from about the same time period.

    Download Tasting Notes

  • 2012 Pinot Noir R12-b

    There are (for the first time) two Loner Pinots Noir from the 2012 vintage; both of them made from the John Sebastiano Vineyard, located in the Sta. Rita Hill appellation near Santa Barbara, and both made in identical fashion as far as winemaking goes: natural yeast fermentations, raised in neutral oak barrels, never racked, etc. However, they’re made from different vineyard blocks and clone selections and most importantly, fermented with substantially different percentages of whole cluster inclusion. As is the point of the Loner project, these wines tell the story of where they’re from (on a very granular level, down to the specific vineyard block), and what those qualities suggested as far as winemaking goes (in this case, the choice of what degree of whole clusters to use).

    R12-b – Equal parts animal and purity of fruit, there is a nervy quality to this one and the freshness of a crisp ocean breeze. In coming years, more elegance will take the place of the current spry youthfulness (read: drink R12-a early, and give this one a bit of time. I love it now, but I will love it even more later). Vibrant red currant and dark blueberry ride on the brooding darkness of a Northern Montana pine forest in the fading afternoon light after a mixed day and no certain indication of what the night holds.

    General direction for Food to serve with this bottle: Lamb or beef, or pizza.

    Music: “Sunshine Raga” from Davy Graham and “My Man’s Gone Now” from the 1970’s Miles Davis ‘We Want Miles’ album.

    Ideal Temperature: Just above cellar temp – low 60’s to start.

    Decanting: Yes, always a good idea if possible. Several hours would be best, but even 20 minutes does wonders.

    Recommended Stemware: Large Burgundy bowl.

    Download Tasting Notes

  • 2012 Pinot Noir R12-a

    There are (for the first time) two Loner Pinots Noir from the 2012 vintage; both of them made from the John Sebastiano Vineyard, located in the Sta. Rita Hill appellation near Santa Barbara, and both made in identical fashion as far as winemaking goes: natural yeast fermentations, raised in neutral oak barrels, never racked, etc. However, they’re made from different vineyard blocks and clone selections and most importantly, fermented with substantially different percentages of whole cluster inclusion. As is the point of the Loner project, these wines tell the story of where they’re from (on a very granular level, down to the specific vineyard block), and what those qualities suggested as far as winemaking goes (in this case, the choice of what degree of whole clusters to use).

    R12-a – Abundantly charming and seductive, this wine is Bill Withers’ original version of ‘Use Me’ (I’m not entirely sure, but it seems that the song is about desire and sex. Sultry and dark with a combination of blackberry and plum jam, black pepper, dry sage and Lapsang Souchong. Even when served on the cool side, R12-a exudes a warmth and easy confidence as it enters your body.

    General direction for Food to serve with this bottle: a stew, a roast of lamb, something with earthy qualities to play with the fruit in the wine.

    Music: well, good ol’ Bill Withers would work, or another piece from the Necks, called ‘Sex’.

    Ideal Temperature: Just above cellar temp – low 60’s to start.

    Decanting: Yes, always a good idea if possible. Several hours would be best, but even 20 minutes does wonders.

    Recommended Stemware: Large Burgundy bowl.

    Download Tasting Notes

  • 2012 Chardonnay W12-b

    We made two Loner Chardonnays in 2012, in identical fashion: raised in very similar vessels, and like twins, delivered from those vessels within hours of each other. However, they find their places on somewhat opposite ends of the very broad spectrum that this noble grape is capable of producing (it seems the rumors are true that where grapes are grown has a noticeable impact on what the wines that are produced from them turn out to be). And of course that’s much the point of the Loner project – let the wine tell a story about its place of origin (which, in this case is the Sta. Rita Hills appellation near Santa Barbara), and who cared for the vines (in this case, Ruben Solorzano and Matthias Pippig).

    W12-b – A vacation; the sun is out early, but the air is cool and there is that breeze; a few dark clouds overhead and a few of their brothers a little further off over the mountains by the sea. This is like Abdullah Ibrahim’s ‘Bra Joe from Kilimanjaro’ with its rowdy playfulness. Aromas of “secret-recipe-apricot-glaze” that Parisian pastry shops put on delicious butter pastries are complicated by grapefruit zest, smoky black tea and Oolong tea steeped at the right temperature, and further complicated by faint memories of iodine that your mom slathers all over your bloody scrapes (like apricot glaze on a pastry) after crashing your bike.

    Direction for Food to serve with this bottle: All manner of fish of course, but something like a Wiener Schnitzel would be on too.

    Music: African Piano, Abdullah Ibrahim.

    Ideal Temperature: Just above refrigeration temperature.

    Decanting: Yes, always a good idea if possible (yes, even though it’s white wine).

    Recommended Stemware: Large Burgundy or Bordeaux bowl (large though, this one needs room).

    Download Tasting Notes

  • 2012 Chardonnay W12-a

    We made two Loner Chardonnays in 2012, in identical fashion: raised in very similar vessels, and like twins, delivered from those vessels within hours of each other. However, they find their places on somewhat opposite ends of the very broad spectrum that this noble grape is capable of producing (it seems the rumors are true that where grapes are grown has a noticeable impact on what the wines that are produced from them turn out to be). And of course that’s much the point of the Loner project – let the wine tell a story about its place of origin (which, in this case is the Sta. Rita Hills appellation near Santa Barbara), and who cared for the vines (in this case, Ruben Solorzano and Matthias Pippig).

    W12-a is a feisty girl, a bit impatient with a healthy dose of confidence and daring, and right now full of nervous energy and on the move at a racy pace on the day’s hot asphalt with her fresh-cut white flowers stolen from the field next door, leaving behind a trail of the rich and vibrant oils that come off a lemon skin when the lemon was just recently picked off the tree when you squeeze it in your palm, getting home just as the downpour starts…

    Direction for Food to serve with this bottle: A salad composed of assertive greens, thinly cut stone fruit or fresh figs, some thinly sliced ricotta salata, a few slices of smoky speck, and some fresh toasted bread with a slightly burnt crust and high quality olive oil (the greener, the better).

    Music: “Mosquito” from The Necks.

    Ideal Temperature: Just above refrigeration temperature.

    Decanting: Yes, always a good idea if possible (yes, even though it’s white wine).

    Recommended Stemware: Large Burgundy bowl

    Download Tasting Notes

  • 2011 Chardonnay W11-b

    Different place, different animal. It’s always sunny and cool here, with a gentle caressing breeze. Consequently, W11-b is settled and sure of itself, with a bright and generous personality, clean cut, lovely with an air of sophistication.

    I wouldn’t drink this too cold, I would also give it some time if you can and when finally pulling that cork, I’d serve up something that abounds with freshness. Food: there is a cookbook called ‘Plenty’ by famous London chef Yotam Ottolenghi; it’s not a vegetarian cookbook, it’s a vegetable cookbook. Take it from someone who makes his own Ramen broth from all manner of pork, chicken, and fish parts – this is awesome food! Chickpea, chard and tomato stew with a bunch of spices on buttered rice – mmhmm!

    Music: I recently downloaded all this great old stuff from The Band and from Van Morrison – ‘Ophelia’ and ‘The Weight’, and ‘Come Running’ and Street Choir’, all good choices here! [there are also less than 100 cases of this golden liquid]

    Download Tasting Notes

  • 2011 Chardonnay W11-a

    First go that these young vines had at showing their stuff. They did. Everybody should come out to visit this site sometime. 24.5 out of 25 days are fresh and cool if not almost cold with a fierce breeze that will wake you, no matter how tired you may be. The place makes this wine: On its’ guard, nervous and tense, and with a freshness that will wake you (no matter how tired you are). Food: raw shellfish, fresh uni and some toasted rye bread with butter and salt would be best; but this may just be in its’ proper place with a cheese course at the end of a meal. Music: Ahmad Jamal’s live version of Pionciana (I’m pretty sure I’ve made that recommendation with a previous wine – I guess that makes me one-dimensional – but it works). [we made less than 100 cases of this racy beverage]

    Download Tasting Notes

  • 2011 Pinot Noir R11-a

    Frost decimated the first crop in sections of the vineyard, while only stunting other sections. The result in the ‘stunned sections’ were yields of 0.4-0.6 tons per acre; the result in the ones that got hit the hardest was that we dropped any remaining first crop as soon as feasible, allowing a second crop to emerge in its place (in equally spare fashion).

    What came of this combination is totally unique to 2011: the blocks that survived the frost developed into ripe, dark, super concentrated fruit that is fairly characteristic for the vineyard. We didn’t harvest the second crop until mid-October when it had developed with lighter color and less intensity, more nervousness and balance, and the prettiest aromatics that we’ve seen from this ranch. Two crops that are probably on opposite ends of the spectrum that this ranch is capable of producing, almost like two different vintages.

    As with the Syrahs from 2011, we used a higher percentage of whole clusters (about 35%), lending mysterious aromatic layers. There is a sort of extreme tension here that I love, and that seems to be inherent in the John Sebastiano vineyard.

    Download Tasting Notes

  • 2010 Pinot Noir R10-a

    If Sanguis is my playground where anything goes (the ‘maximalist project’), the wines bottled under the new ‘Loner’ designation are as stripped down and minimalist as it gets – from how they are made right down to the labels. ‘The Loners’ are varietal and vineyard-specific wines fermented on their indigenous yeasts with ample inclusion of whole clusters; there is no use of new oak, no racking, and of course no fining or filtration – oh, and they are Burgundian by lineage. Had someone suggested that I’d take this direction when I started making wine, I would have probably raised an eyebrow and shaken the head in dismissal – what can one say: ‘frequently wrong but never in doubt’ – but there are hundreds of different ways to arrive at the same end-result: Great Wine!  So what these two share with the rest of the Sanguis wines is that they aim to be singular, expressive and beautiful.

    Unlike Rhone or Bordeaux varietals, Pinot Noir wants to be a stand-alone entity – both beautiful and fickle, it does not like to mingle with others.  More than any other red varietal, Pinot Noir also lives up to the somewhat romanticized idea of terroir wine (in my book that simply means wine that is made from varietals that are particularly impressionable and thus most heavily marked by their place of birth and upbringing).  We had a chance to plant a few acres of pinot Noir at the stunning John Sebastiano Vineyard in Santa Rita Hills – one of those magical-marginal places where Pinot seems to perform at its best. It is a pure expression of this savage place – strong yet delicate, expressive yet subtle, mysterious and charming – singular and beautiful. [110 six-pack cases produced from 3.7 acres]

    Download Tasting Notes

  • 2010 Chardonnay W10-a

    If Sanguis is my playground where anything goes (the ‘maximalist project’), the wines bottled under the new ‘Loner’ designation are as stripped down and minimalist as it gets – from how they are made right down to the labels. ‘The Loners’ are varietal and vineyard-specific wines fermented on their indigenous yeasts with ample inclusion of whole clusters; there is no use of new oak, no racking, and of course no fining or filtration – oh, and they are Burgundian by lineage. Had someone suggested that I’d take this direction when I started making wine, I would have probably raised an eyebrow and shaken the head in dismissal – what can one say: ‘frequently wrong but never in doubt’ – but there are hundreds of different ways to arrive at the same end-result: Great Wine! So what these two share with the rest of the Sanguis wines is that they aim to be singular, expressive and beautiful.

    While Chardonnay can be a welcome component in some of the white Rhone varietal blends that we make under the Sanguis label, it can rather obviously be a stunning thing onto itself when grown in the right place (and tended to with the same respect that seems strangely reserved for the red varieties). In recognition of this potential, this minimalist Chardonnay is made within the same parameters – ‘brought up’ in stainless steel and neutral oak barrels, whole cluster, etc., etc. From yet another young block, this one at the famous Bien Nacido vineyard in the cool foothills east of Santa Maria – also a marginal-magical place where Chardonnay retains searing high acidity while achieving stunning ripeness – delicate yet strong, subtle yet expressive, bright and vibrant –singular/beautiful. [250 sixBpack cases produced from 2.5 acres]

    Download Tasting Notes