I clearly have a passion for Italy and Italian wine, but as an American, I am pretty darn proud of our country too. In all my years in the wine industry, one major theme with most European wine estates is History. Established Chateaux. Royalty even. It’s common to meet a winemaker whose family dates back hundreds of years, whose property and winery are family heirlooms and whose vineyards were inherited by multiple generations. If you’re not born into this particular situation, it’s a lot more difficult to establish yourself in Europe as a winemaker- to be allowed to purchase the vineyards, to find the space or facility to make your wine.
This is one more reason to love the USA and it’s sense of Free Market Economy. You don’t need your own vines to make terroir-driven wine in California any more. You don’t even need your own winery. You can rent space in an “Urban Winery” in Lompoc. You can buy grapes from stellar growers like Stolpman Vineyards. And you can be proud of how you work, and which grapes you select, like Liquid Farm does on their website, happily listing “Vineyard Partners” as a seal of pedigree for their wines. Long Live California and the USA. Home of the Free and the Bravely-Making-Wine. If you dream of making wine, this is the place to be.
I love finding new projects started by young winemakers in California who, as Jon Bonne put it in his book The New California, “… are rewriting the rules of contemporary winemaking [in] their quest to express the uniqueness of California terroir.” People like my dear friends Patton Penhallegon and Michael Villas at Penville Projects.
These two crazy kids met while working at Pizzeria Mozza in Newport Beach (about a 2 hour drive from Santa Barbara wine country). They decided it was time make their dream a reality and they began researching grape growers, vinification methods, and concrete eggs.
Yes, Concrete Eggs. Concrete can handle cold and heat. It stabilizes temperature naturally. It’s porous, so it allows for the transfer of oxygen like wood, but without the transfer of unwanted flavor or aroma. It’s also highly re-useable and sustainable.
Patton and Michael chose the egg-shaped vessel because it harkens back to the ancient amphorae used to ferment wine thousands of years ago. With no corners, the wine is free to circulate naturally during fermentation. You can actually watch the wine move during this process of constant self-stirring. The egg shape also forces more of the cap to remain submerged during fermentation, reducing exposure to oxygen and the need for “punch down”.
I can’t wait to taste the first 2014 vintage of Penville Projects. I understand this will be a Grenache Rose- bright and happy and a celebration of all things wine lovers adore, just in time for the Spring rose season of 2015.
If you want to support Patton and Michael (and why wouldn’t you, really?!), click on THIS LINK and vote for them to win a grant from Wells Fargo to help them buy more concrete eggs, or a little more fruit for future vintages.