Pilgrim / The Modern

Composed of the selection of Syrah and Syrah-based barrels that seem destined for the longest journey of evolution.  In most vintages, made up of Syrah from the Sta. Rita Hills appellation with support from varying degrees of Grenache and Viognier from Alisos Canyon, Pilgrim / The Modern are a wines of transparent depth and gentle strength, balancing old world character with the sunny disposition typical of a Californian.

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Vintage Notes

  • 2014

    Naked and confidently proud of it. Legendary designer, Massimo Tamburini, is responsible for a motorcycle built by the Italian brand MV Agusta, called the “Brutale”. It is one of the most beautiful machines ever built and considered ‘the mother of all naked bikes’ – racing motorcycles without fairings, behind which imperfections of mechanical design are usually easily hidden – everything is exposed, no room for flaws. Syrah that isn’t raised in new oak is not wearing any clothes either. It is as pure of an expression as the statue of David is of the male body. I love Syrah in its purest form and we only bottle it as 100% un-oaked if it has the body you’d want to see in its birthday suit. Like slicing through a canyon road on the Brutale, taking the 2014 Pilgrim for a spin in a proper glass is as much fun as you can have without clothes on! There is depth, muscle, velvet texture, and bright notes like a Duke Ellington arrangement – I love this wine as much as I miss riding that motorbike on a warm day!

    Food: Something elegant and substantial of your choice.

    Music: Ry Cooder – Dark Is The Night, Paris Texas, Drive Like I never Been Hurt. Duke Ellington – Mood Indigo, Tenderly. Band Of Skulls – Close To Nowhere; BadBadNotGood – Velvet, To You, And That Too; Paul Heckel – Floating; Kamasi Washington – Isabelle; The Police (yes, the Police) – Shadows In The Rain; The Beatles – Within You Without You

    Details: All cool climate Syrah with the majority from Sebastiano vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills and a small contribution from Bien Nacido vineyard, along with contributions from Watch Hill Grenache and Roussanne, fermented on native yeasts with 40% whole cluster inclusion, and raised in a broad variety of seasoned French Oak barrels for a little over two years. Approachable now with a 24 hour decant, and likely to evolve 10-15 years.

  • 2013

    Bossman’s artistic brother, 2013 Pilgrim is full of a vibrant poetic energy, has the body of an old school Olympian, and is probably as close to true Northern Rhone Syrah as we will get in California. His effusive aromatics recall fields of dried flowers, cured meat, olive tapenade, and toasted bread holding up a sea of red cherries and blackberries. He moves swiftly with the elegant confidence of a middleweight prizefighter, never concerned of the win, accepting it as his responsibility, and with all his youthful heart, thanking the guy in the other corner for giving him a proper challenge.

    Food: Either give him a proper companion with something quite elegant, or else let him shine through a very simple meal. If the former: Maybe the Hanger Steak or the Braised Short Ribs recipes from The Café Boulud cookbook, or the Slow-Cooked Lamb Rack recipe from Sean Brock’s Heritage cookbook. If the latter, pizza or pasta: Fettucini “Alfredo”, simple Spaghetti with chick peas, garlic and herbs (Franny’s cookbook), or cauliflower, garlic and Kalamata olives roasted in the oven and tossed with Linguine and some fresh herbs – either served with grated or shaved parmesan and accompanied by a salad.

    Music: The What? (if you like old school hip-hop); otherwise Maria Callas singing Verdi, Puccini, or Donizetti Arias, or mid-60’s or early 80’s Miles – they’re all the same…modern poets!

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  • 2012

    The brown-eyed boy in Coelho’s book: playful, completely unfearful, naïve and passionate, but not the least bit foolish in his pursuit of both meaning in, and the love of his life. Determined but tender and full of a mighty, calm energy, he is equally at home as sheepherder, the shop apprentice serving his master loyally as he bides his time saving his money for the long journey ahead, and finally in the trade of alchemy as he works to understand that secret of life and earn his love’s love – a pure soul clad in a graceful body and sparkling eyes.

    Food: If you can get it, lamb cooked in a pit, like they traditionally do on Summer Sundays spent with family and friends on the Island of Gotland, Sweden, together with non-Swedish fixins: hummus, tzatziki, a salad of ripe tomatoes, and a salad of those extra large Italian white beans, and (mild !) chimi-churri.

    Music: “Evening Breeze” from Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou; “Satisfied Mind” the Justin Vernon version from Eau Claire Memorial Jazz Vol. 1; maybe some more Miles Davis…”Sanctuary”; much of Alan Lomax’s Southern Journey recordings, especially No.’s 5&6; Maria Callas’ “March of the Berbers” and “Bellini: La Sonnambula – Compagne, Teneri Amicic…Come Per sereno…Sovra Il Sen” (one of the most incredible performances ever, but careful: in the end of it, there’s one of those glass-breaking notes, and we can’t have any of that glass-breaking business); Bob Dylan’s “Highlands” …that’s a lot of music, but you’ll need it …it’s a long evening in the summer and you can sit out there the whole night eating and drinking this elixir, in Gotland Sweden, where it doesn’t get dark…and even if that’s not where you are, and it’s a different time of year, and you’re eating different food, you’ll want to make this last a while. [Syrah – about 120 cases produced]

  • 2011

    Give this searching man 10 or 20 minutes (in the glass) and he will tell you another story from the many that have filled his path. Determined and brooding, and bursting with a forceful energy at the core, he needs a patient audience to open and volunteer the depth of his character, which is cool and dark like that of an alpine lake that has been fed by the streams from the peaks above for ages.

    Food: If you’re feeling like a “man’s meal”, this is your friend, but that’s not a requirement. In a way, the wine comes before the food here and even a good slice, or just some charcuterie and hard cheeses, maybe a few toasted walnuts and good bread and olive oil will do.

    Music: Andrew Bird’s “Carrion Suite”, and Shankar’s (not Ravi, this is a different guy) “Ragam Tanam Pallavi Talam: Mahalakshmi Tala – 9 1/2 Beats”

    Ideal temperature: Just above cellar temp – low 60s to start

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

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  • 2010

    The last of the 2010’s – probably my favorite vintage to date, so this is bitter sweet.

    Pilgrim is essentially the third wine (following 2008 The Prophet, and 2009 Some Poets) made entirely from fruit grown in our Bien Nacido block, planted in 2006. However, we had to pick so late in 2010 that there was no Viognier to be had to co-ferment; so this is even more dark and brooding than the previous two. Instead, we were able to use a higher than normal percentage of stems in the fermentations, adding a different sort of complexity.

    Pilgrim is thoroughly representative of 2010 – open-knit, racy, sexy, and impeccably balanced, the way it came off the vine – there was nothing to be done as a winemaker to bring about improvement, other than patiently waiting for this wine to complete itself in the barrel (with only a single racking).

    While Pilgrim has that loose-knit structure of the 2010 vintage, I expect it to age as long or longer than its 2008 and ‘09 counterparts.

    Note that we have changed the appellation on all of our labels from the very generic ‘California’ to (the only somewhat generic) Santa Barbara County appellation – owing to the fact that since 2009/10 we grow the raw materials in custom-planted vineyards where we hold long-term leases, all of which are located in the county. And because we believe that Santa Barbara county is one of the world’s optimal growing regions, capable of consistently achieving greatness. 

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