Evolving the Central Coast: Santa Barbara County

Source:  Wine Folly

Source: Wine Folly

In the early years of Advintage, Tiger wouldn’t shut up about Talley. It was an obsession. We didn’t represent Talley, so Henri challenged her to sign the winery. An honest and loyal farmer, Brian graciously declined proposal after proposal to represent his winery. His distributor at the time had done nothing wrong to warrant a move. We respected his decision and crossed fingers that something would change. It didn’t take long and in 2008, Advintage signed Talley for South Carolina; a bud break for a love affair. Little did we know what was brewing just a little farther south in Santa Barbara County. A new wave of winemaking was taking over, consumers couldn’t get enough big rich Chardonnay and farmers were experimenting with planting and international varietals.

Fast forward 10 years. Santa Barbara County is now on its third wave, and what a wave it is. The Sideways hangover seems to have passed and the current generation is focused and fresh. Timing couldn’t be more opportune. Unlike the growing regions that have had to pivot to maintain or regain relevance, the majority of the central coast has been working towards this moment since inception. This frosty Winkler I region, with its transverse mountain range and remarkably long growing season is ideally suited to yield perfectly ripened grapes with vibrant acidity. Not without its challenges, this geographic oddity is now also equipped with a band of highly talented and trained technicians, seasoned with the knowledge and experience of their mentors, to combat the difficulties and guide its terroir into the future. This is one of, if not the most exciting growing regions in our world today.

Quietly, Advintage has been growing its ensemble of brilliant producers from Santa Barbara County. From the pioneering Bien Nacido Vineyards to the new school leaders A Tribute to Grace, Habit, Lo-Fi, Chanin and Lutum, the wines demand attention and a place at every table.

Here is a selection of a few of our favorite wines we represent from our Santa Barbara County producers:

A TRIBUTE TO GRACE GRENACHE | Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard 2015
The Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard is situated 33 miles east of Santa Barbara, in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Sitting at 3200 feet elevation, the setting is home to sand, brush, exposed rock, and the odd dingo-type wild dog. And grapes. On my first visit to the vineyard (as pictured in this photo), my mother and I were driving the 33-highway route north from Ojai and were beginning to wonder if we had indeed entered the famed Ojai vortex, so foreign was the setting. We hadn’t seen a single soul in over an hour – in fact nothing living save the odd Matilija mountain Poppy. Upwards we continued to climb, until finally we rounded yet another hairpin-bend and both gasped. Nestled below, amidst a vast sea of sand, were row upon row of vibrant vines.
And so is the setting for this incredible vineyard. Arid and blazing hot in the summertime, snow-laden and sleepy in the wintertime. Not that the summer months see an influx of people, I believe the permanent population of Ventucopa is 59…
I have an ongoing lease of three rows in this remarkable vineyard. The entire vineyard is managed sustainably, and planted according to particular site-specificity. Although there are a total of 12 varieties planted, the Grenache plantings represent only 4% of the total vineyard – with five different Grenache clones planted. I am one of five winemakers currently producing wine from this block, and the difference in the wines we each produce speaks volumes as to the part man plays in winemaking. ~Angela Osborne

CHANIN CHARDONNAY | Bien Nacido Vineyard 2015
This wine is pale straw in color with aromas of toasted hazelnuts, meyer lemon, and sea breeze. On the palate, there’s a striking acidity and crispness, laced with textural richness and a power that leads to a juicy finish.
The grapes were harvested on two separate days to achieve ideal ripeness—August 21, September 8th. Each lot was pressed and directly put into French oak barrels (10% new) to ferment. The wine stayed there for 15 months on its lees and was then racked and lightly fined before being bottled unfiltered in March 2017. 642 cases produced. 12.5% abv
[Adapted from WSJ]

HABIT CABERNET FRANC | Coquelicot Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley 2015
Certified CCOF Organic. 80% whole cluster fermentation with 20% crush, fermented in a tall steel open top fermenter,foot stomped, free run gravity fed daily, then gravity fed back over the top for a very long slow fermentation over three weeks. Aged in a large Puncheon on the lees until bottling.  This wine is a stunner! Bright fruit, earth and spice. 250 cases produced 12.5% abv

LO-FI CHENIN | Jurassic Park Vineyard 2016
Growing season: Typical Santa Barbara season outside of an early bloom and fruit set. The lingering draught has affected “normal” years in that regard. September typically being our warmest month, our grapes were not effected by late season heat due to the crop load and early harvest date. Total degree days just over 2000 and annual rainfall of 11.79”(77% of historical average).
Hand harvested and sustainably grown on own rooted vines; Whole cluster pressed to tank. Settled 48 hours prior to racking to barrel. Fermented on the native yeasts, followed by full malolactic by naturally occurring bacteria. No sulfur used at pressing.  Aged in neutral French oak barrels for 8 months. Racked once prior to hand bottling. Total of 41 ppm so2 added without filtration in keeping with our minimalist (lo-fi) philosophy.

LUTUM PINOT NOIR | Sanford and Benedict Vineyard
Sanford & Benedict Vineyard is one of the oldest vineyards in Santa Barbara County (planted in 1971), located in the famed Sta. Rita Hills. The grapes were harvested on August 15th, 19th. At the winery, the grapes were destemmed and underwent a four-day cold-soak prior to fermentation. The wine was then gently pressed and put into French oak barrels where it stayed for 18 months before being bottled in March 2017.
2015 Sanford & Benedict Pinot is a concentrated wine. As I sat down to write tasting notes about this wine I couldn’t decide whether the wine was powerful or elegant – and after a couple of glasses I think it’s a balance of both. The nose is bramble with raspberries and blackberries being most apparent. There are touches of rose and white pepper that give this wine stunning complexity and push it more towards old world complexities that I’m used to seeing in Burgundy. The same power and elegance is echoed on the palate with fine tannin and fantastic concentration. This wine is a perfect example of the complexities of old vines (planted 1971) from one of the best vineyard sites in Santa Barbara County.

Continuing Minimalism: Raventos + Can Sumoi

Source: Raventos i Blanc

The combination of minimalism and great wine is learned through the generations; over 20 generations to be exact. Pepe Raventos celebrates a legacy that first began in the late 1400's. Raventos' passion for natural wines goes a step further which brings us to Can Sumoi, a 600m above sea level estate that's been around since 1645.  Can Sumoi has a distinct landscape with 400 hectares of land planted with Parellada, Xarel-lo and Sumoll.

Raventos i Blanc purchased the estate, which holds a 17th century farmhouse, where wine was previously made. Josep Mateu, resident of this historic farmhouse, is excited to see Pepe's vision for Can Sumoi come to fruition.

"Pepe stays true to his values continuing the work on this farm that has lasted generations. And he manages to lead a project that respects the environment, natural vinifications and biodynamics."
Pepe Raventos Can Sumoi.jpg


“Natural wine is not a trend, it is the way you feel as a small winegrower  when creating wine.”

Reflections & Top Wine Picks from 2017

As we close the books on 2017, postulate the projections and determine our resolve for 2018, it is easy to jump headlong into our new routine. Sometimes we get so excited about what is to come, or bogged down in fixing what we could have done better, that we do not take the time to reflect on our progress. 2017 was an exciting year for Advintage. We like to use the expression that obstacles are launch ramps. Last year we launched. Our teams in the office, warehouse and on the streets came together unified by the mission of making Advintage a place where all can thrive; employees, supplier partners and customers alike. 

From the jump, the dynamics of Advintage and the portfolio have mirrored our rapidly changing markets. We analyze market trends and have responded with alternative packaging, cans and kegs, watched the maturity of the natural wine movement, dug deeper into the estate and domaine producers, expanded our grower bubbles and introduced an array of value-priced wines second to none.

Recently,  I reached out to a handful of our sales people and asked them to select a wine from last year that aroused them, provoked excitement or discovery. I tried to pick a wine myself and realized what a challenge this was. After all, in 2017 we introduced the remarkably pure champagne of Vadin-Plateau, the astounding chenin and cab franc of Guiberteau and the mind-bending Mas del Serral. We got zapped by the electricity of Miani. Cristiano Garella thrilled us with the alpine world of nebbiolo in the Alto Piemonte. Cristom went to another level that I didn't know was possible. Eric Sussman chiseled Radio-Coteau's terroirs to their glowing essence. Benjamin Leroux's soul shown through in even his Bourgogne level wines. Zev Rovine demonstrated that natural wine, while natty, doesn't have to mean dirty. In 2017, we forged deeper relationships with Fish from Habit and Barnaby from Teutonic. We introduced leaders of the new chool in Mike Roth's Lo-Fi and Sam Bilbro's Idlewild. That is just a scratch. Ask me to pick one wine...please no! But then a magestic neigh reverberated and in my minds eye, a unicorn emerged from a dank 16th century cave, prancing through a rainbow. I'm sorry, I know this is a tease, a rare bird that I hope you get an opportunity to experience...Telmo Rodriguez's pinnacle of tradition, Las Beatas. . (James Suckling Telmo Rodriguiz las Beatas Vyrd)  So I guess if I had to pick one wine that evoked the same “ah ha” moment that brought most of us to this industry, that would be mine from last year.

Yeah, we bum rushed the show in 2017. Just wait till you see what we have in store for 2018!

Check out the selections and comments from some of our team:

Sandro Fay Tei, Valtellina DOC, Italy 2015
Sandro Fay Tei was a bell ringer for me. The wine is simply delicious. It has such a naked natural beauty about it. Zero make up needed here. I love wines that are naturally sexy without make up. Chiavennasca is the local clone of Nebbiolo grown in Valtellina. This cold high attitude mountain appellation is ideal for preserving the freshness and aromatics of Chiavennasca. The soils are sandy and this allows heat retention to help achieve phenolic ripeness despite the cold mountain weather. Nose smells like wild flowers and fresh herbs. Tastes like wild mountain strawberries. So easy to drink make sure you have a second bottle close or you will be left salivating from the acidity when the first bottles disappears before you finish your chicken parm! –Henri Gabriel, Chief Juice Pusher

Kanzler PN.JPG

Kanzler Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California 2015
Kanzler Pinot Noir,  I tasted it after an early morning drive from Napa to Sonoma. It was everything I want in a PInot Noir, really pretty red fruit, followed by a layer of minerality  with a really beautiful finish. -Tiger, Hilton Head Sales Manager

Boniperti ‘Favolalunga’, Colline Novaresi Vespolina DOC, Italy 2015 (NC Only)
Lots of great ones for me, some already mentioned. Will go with Gilberto Boniperti's Vespolina ’15. New grape, region and producer for me. Seems to be related to Nebbiolo and apparently the name, Vespolina, is a reference to the wasps that come and start to feed off the grapes when they are ready for harvest. Cinnamon, black pepper, cedar, pomegranate, blood orange, mid-weight, really fresh and crushable. Grown up in the hills of the Piedmont by a small producer that does everything by hand from his own vineyards. –Ian Spotz, RDU Sales Manager

Tissot Trousseau en Amphore , Jura France 2015 (SC Only)
I’ve had 4 bottles of this wine in 2017. I remember almost every sip of every bottle. It’s haunting. 100% BioD certified Trousseau vinified in clay amphora from the Jura’s leading man, Stephane Tissot. Dried cherries and red currants smashed over the head by notes of cloves, cinnamon, and rose petals. With an alluring texture that won’t quit. It’s Barolo on HGH. It’s Burgundy on acid. Ahhh. It doesn’t make sense and I always want more. –Damian Valvo, Charleston Sales Manager

Vadin Plateau Renaissance.JPG

I have a lot of picks for various reasons but narrowed it down to this Champagne that just caught me by surprise and was my “wow” wine of 2017. Champagne Vadin-Plateau, Champagne 1er Cru Extra Brut Cuvée Renaissance - This was a wine I tasted with the 828 team at a lunch meeting. I did not know a lot of background  prior to tasting and was blown away with its complexity, brightness and minerality. In addition to it being straight up delicious, it is one of the oldest estates in Champagne now led by Yann Vadin, the ninth generation .  It’s very unique in that it is a 100% Pinot Meunier, farmed organically/biodynamically (which seems rare in Champagne), minimal intervention in winemaking, and the vineyards are horse plowed! This is a beautiful Champagne at a very affordable price. –Anne Kaufman, Asheville Sales Manager

Julien Sunier Morgon, Beaujolais France 2016
My first taste of Julien's wines was only a year(+) ago with the ‘15 vintage. I remember being so excited for the ‘16’s to arrive and once they did, they did not disappoint. Gamay, in general, is a grape that I can drink year round - slightly chilled in the summer or let the spices warm you in the winter. They are wonderful to drink young or can be held onto for a number of years. Julien’s passion for the grape, where it’s grown and how it’s made really translates in the bottle. He believes in organic viticulture and natural winemaking so that one can taste the unique terroir of Morgon. Bright and bold, this wine has soul. Limited in production, so we are lucky he makes one from Fleurie & Regnie as well! –Parris Benight, Charleston Sales

Berioles St Pourcain Tresaille.JPG

One of my favorite new discoveries of 2017 is the Berioles St Pourcain Tresaille, Loire France 2016. I had never tried the lesser-known, ancient varietal of Tressaillier and then to learn of Odile and Olivier Teissedre’s quest to “save the grape” by purchasing the “Clos des Berioles” vineyard, a vineyard originally planted in 1809, just to keep the vines from being replanted to more mainstream varietals, I thought, well, this must be worth checking out!  And it is lovely!  Mineral-driven, notes of citrus, but with enough weight to have it be a white that is enjoyable in the cooler months as well as the warmer ones.  The biggest surprise, however, has been how well consumers have responded.  I’ve watched every bottle walk out the door any time I’ve done a tasting with it and have been impressed by fans of the wine returning to their local shops for more.  Odile and Oliver knew what they were doing, to step up and save these grapes, and I am not alone being grateful that they did! – Ariel Tetterton, NC Sales Manager

Wine of Year

Sylvain Pataille’s Marsannay Blanc, France 2016
There’s a popular axiom among fine wine enthusiasts that ‘all roads lead to Burgundy’. While I tend to agree, great Burgundy has grown prohibitively expensive. That said, every now and then, I’ll stumble across something (relatively) affordable that blows me away. Sylvain Pataille’s Marsannay Blanc was one of those somethings...

The Pataille family’s history of winemaking gradually ceased in the 1930’s, when World War I made it near unimaginable to tend the vines. Neither Sylvain’s father nor grandfather were vignerons, though they never surrendered the family’s modest 0.2 hectares of Aligoté, Gamay, and Chardonnay. After three generations, the free-spirited Sylvain began his viticultural studies in Beaune at the age of 14, followed by oenology courses at the University of Bordeaux. After years of post-graduate consultation for several of France’s most distinguished Estates (in both Burgundy and Bordeaux), he felt the need to create. Since his first vintage in 1999, he’s maintained a steadfast biodynamic position.

There are no Grand Cru or Premier Cru vineyards in Marsannay, and it wasn’t until 1987 that Marsannay’s vineyards were even granted AOC status. The visionary Sylvain and several of his contemporaries are leading an arduous, prolonged charge for multiple lieu-dit Premier Cru designations. This wine represents what I love about great Burgundy; quirky characters making brilliant wines that occasionally fall under-the-radar. Lucky us. That’s why Sylvain Pataille’s Marsannay Blanc was the most compelling wine I tasted last year. Believe the hype...- Drew Summers, Asheville Sales

Bedrock ‘Old Vine’ Zinfandel
Domaine De La Begude Rouge
Artadi Viñas de Laguardia
Teutonic ‘Bergspitze’ Whole Cluster
P. Piuze ‘Découverte’
M. Deiss Alsace Blanc
J. Sunier ‘Fleurie’

Hey bro-
Thought really hard on this and certainly considered many wines but there is one wine this year that didn’t just WOW me once, nor twice but 3 times!

Dunn Howell Mtn.JPG

Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa California 2013

Day One: The wine showed extremely well and was everything a Classic Howell Mountain Cabernet should and can be. An incredibly well-structured wine with beautiful dark fruit, both robust and pure with Old World charm. We poured a Magnum at the Columbia Seminar which was Straight Baller Status... Had to sneak the bottle out the back door to secure some juice to treat a few other customers that couldn’t make it.
Day Two: The wine just continued to develop so extremely well and the purity of the fruit was ridiculous. Was tough to keep one more day but I just had a feeling there was still more to be discovered with a little more time.
Day Three: JACKPOT BABY! Brought the last few ounces of the wine to Sage Valley, which turned out to be one of my best Sales Moves of the year. Was able to meet with both my buyers , as well as the President of the Club and the wine was absolutely SINGING! Definitely one of the purest Cabernets I have ever tasted and I thought the wine showed best on Day 3. Not too many Napa Cabernets could do that.

The 2013 Dunn Howell Mountain Cab took me to a place a Napa Cab hadn’t in some time and I’m so grateful to represent such an amazing producer as Dunn Family Vineyards. – Judah Cannon, Westside SC Sales Manager

Cheers to 2018!

Alto Piemonte Revival

Years ago, before the popularity of Barolo and Barbaresco, the area known as the Alto Piemonte was the most important viticultural region in Italy. The beloved Nebbiolo grape flourishes in these high altitude foothills of the Alps. Prior to the end of the 19th century, there was as much as 40,000 hectares planted. Due to the result of phylloxera, two World Wars, and the industrial age many vineyards were abandoned and overrun by forest. Today, there are less than 2,000 hectares planted.  That's the bad news. 

Source: Tenute Sella

Source: Tenute Sella

The good news, there is major investment and attention being drawn to this amazing region. Climate change has brought people's focus to higher altitude and cooler climate regions. We are fascinated and have been working diligently for the last few years to forge direct relationships with producers in this region.

We are proud to work with Francesca Castaldi, whose family historically sold all their wine to the local cooperative, purchased vineyards in Fara and recently renovated her fatehr's original cantina! Tenuta Sella remained steadfast during the region's difficult times, and continues to make wines of exceptional quality from their vineyards in Lessona and Bramaterra. Cristiano Garella is one of the rising stars responsible for this revitalization. He was the winemaker at Tenuta Sella for ten years until 2012. Cristiano is now the winemaker at Boniperti* and Le Pianella.

*NC Only