Scott Sampler of CCGP on White Hawk Syrah

Scott Sampler

Syrah Seminar 2016 Santa Barbara Vintners

Our Syrah Seminar Series continues with Scott Sampler of the Central Coast Group Project speaking on his “Names” 2012 White Hawk Syrah.  This is another Syrah from the Los Alamos Valley in Santa Barbara County.  This Valley lies at the mid point, North and South of the Santa Barbara Region.

The Central Coast Group Project

Scott Sampler, Central Coast Group Project

The first thing that strikes you about Scott Sampler is his humbleness. He is quiet and almost a little shy. Even the name of his winery “The Central Coast Group Project”, is not all about him, it’s meant to be inclusive of all the people that helped him along the way to bring this wine to fruition.  Of course once you get him speaking on wine…And today he was speaking on his White Hawk Syrah.

We met Scott at the beginning of the Spring Weekend at the Big Bottle Bash. We happened to be sitting with a friend of his, Eric, who helps him in the winery (again…another in the Group). Scott came by to pour some of his wine, and Eric had already prepared us for tasting something different. Scott is playing with maceration times. Typical extended maceration times are from 7 to 44 days, but Scott poured us a Grenache that had a 100-day maceration period and a GSM that had been 120 days in maceration.

We had an opportunity to have a more in-depth conversation with Scott at the Larner Fête, and there will be more on that to come!

Wendy Thies Sell shared one of my favorite quotes from Scott with us, and you will find it in the transcript below. Wendy said “The first time I met Scott…I was crazy enough to ask him ‘Are you like a mad scientist…?’ and without even blinking he said ‘No I prefer to think of myself as more of an alchemist.’”

Extended Maceration

Okay, so let’s delve into a little on this extended maceration thing.

First off, what is maceration? It’s the time during fermentation when the grape skins and colors are left in the juice. Dr. Vinny likens it to steeping tea. http://www.winespectator.com/drvinny/show/id/42983

You also sometimes hear about “cold soak” or “cold maceration”.  That is when you leave the grapes on the skins in a cold temperature, this keeps them from going into fermentation.  Cold soaks pull color and flavor typically without pulling so much in the way of tannins.

Extending the maceration during fermentation you get more color and flavor from the grape skin and seeds. This can also change the wines texture. You can add complexity, but you can also overdo tannins, which can make the wine astringent where it will overly dry your mouth out. I did read about Polymerization, where the mouth feel is rounded because the tannins form a chain. (This is way sciency and I will do more research and speak more with Scott, because this kind of thing fascinates me).

So Scott, in April, still had grapes macerating from the 2015 harvest. I look forward to tasting these!

The Central Coast Group Project 2012 “Names”  White Hawk Syrah

At the seminar we tasted Scott’s 2012 “Names” White Hawk Syrah from White Hawk Vineyard in Los Alamos. This was his first vintage. He picked all of the grapes on the same day, but separated them into lots according to block and clone. This had a 43-day maceration time, and then aged 20 months in neutral French oak with 18 months on the gross lees and he produced 150 cases.

The Central Coast Group Project has a website at http://www.ccgpwines.com/

They are a working winery and do not have a tasting room, but…they can occasionally do a tasting by appointment. You can reach them at (805) 874-2316.

Be sure to try to get to the next seminar! The Santa Barbara Vintners will have one during the Celebration of Harvest Festival, which happens October 7-10. Here’s a link to more information. http://www.celebrationofharvest.com/

And check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on our visit to Santa Barbara.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Syrah Panel Santa Barbara Vintners April 2016 Episode 5: Scott Sampler – Central Coast Group Project on White Hawk Syrah

We broke the video of Scott’s portion of the Panel discussion into two parts and the Transcript holds extra information not included in the footage.

The Transcript (with extras)

Wendy Thies Sell: Next up is another wine sourced from White Hawk Vineyard in Los Alamos, Central Coast Group Project’s 2012 “Names” Syrah.

The first time that I met winemaker Scott Sampler was February 8th, 2014. Michael Larner had invited me to come to the Buellton Bodegas, where he and several others make wine. And he said, “You should go meet Scott, you should go taste his wines.” And the door had a big sign, “DO NOT ENTER and or Knock”, and I was afraid of what we were going to find in there. But it was February, and Scott still had Syrah cold soaking in bins in his winery that had not been pressed yet. His 2013 harvest, still wasn’t over in February. He pulled back the plastic covers and I was intoxicated by the aromas. And then we tasted from the barrels and I realized that he was on to something. That wine in the barrel is what we are tasting today. He believes that he is probably the only winemaker, anywhere doing this. 2012 was Scott’s first vintage with this wine label and this is his first time on a wine panel. So thank you so much Scott for debuting your wines with us.

Scott, tell us about this unique, labor-intensive way of making wine.

Scott Sampler: Well I wouldn’t say I’m the only person doing long maceration, skin post fermentation macerations, but now I’m doing 6 month, 7 month macerations and those are a little bit unusual, a lot unusual for red Rhone varietals or just about any varietals. It’s pretty unique in California. There are some crazy Italian wine makers that I’ve liked over the years and that’s kind of where I started, where I got the idea to experiment with this. I kind of like to say that my grandmother taught me how to make wine, ‘cause it’s like cooking sauce. It’s like something that you can understand after fermentation, you stir and taste and as the flavors develop over time then you develop structure and depth and balance and then you press.

Two weeks before the harvest in 2012, I didn’t have a project. The first project that I was in just fell apart and I didn’t have any grape sources and I didn’t have anyplace to make the wines. And so, I started telling people. People like Michael Larner, who I was getting fruit from previously, actually stepped in and figured out a way for me to get fruit. At White Hawk, fortunately it was a bumper crop in 2012. Some of the vineyard managers were able to sculpt areas out of sold out vineyards, where I could get my fruit. White Hawk was definitely one of my favorite vineyards. I’m kind of a younger, …well not in age, but in experience, wine maker and I’d been going to Silver Lake Wines when it opened, and there’s this cool guy, George, he used to be the sommelier at Campanile, the classic restaurant in LA, and he had this dead vintage White Hawk Wines, I mean, it was a dead label. They had made an estate wine and stopped making it. So he had these old vintages, 2002, 2001, and I was tasting these in 2010. I thought the fruit was amazing. It kind of had the structure and the spice and some of the more savory qualities that I like from the Northern Rhone, but it also had the California sunshine beaming through it. So when I came up here, I sought out this fruit. It’s really hard to find, because at that time I guess Mesa Vineyard Care didn’t even have a website. I finally found it and was just lucky that someone was just coming off the vineyard when I made the phone call and got on. The reason why I called it the Group Project was because of the generosity of all these people. I was in a different industry before this and what really struck me, was just how generous the wine culture is in this area, how generous winemakers are with each other in terms of the knowledge of making wine. I just feel greatly honored to be up here with my comrades.

WTS: Scott makes many, many different Syrahs and you’re really focused on Syrah, while you do make other varieties. Tell us about the other wines that you make. There are quite a few.

Scott Sampler: I do mostly red Rhones, so Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, some skin fermented Viognier and a have Merlot, Cabernet, Sangiovese, but this is all coming out later. The 2012 vintage, because I was just scrambling for fruit 2 weeks before harvest, is just all Syrah, Grenache & Mourvedre. I essentially made 4 Syrahs from White Hawk. I picked all the fruit on the same day, and then vinified it separately. So different clonal selections, different blocks, all vinified separately, all native ambient yeast, meaning that I don’t inoculate, but you know there’s a lot of yeast floating around in the air. I used to joke that I used the PSA 246 (laughter from the room), Pea Soup Andersens 246 yeast strain, because where I was making the wine that year was very close to Pea Soup Andersens. It was really hot, that fermentation was really hot, and the 2012 ferments were really hot they got into the 90’s. Now I’m making wine at the Buellton Bodegas. I was making wine with Michael Larner at his first spot and then moved with him to the Buellton Bodegas so now my fermentations are a little cooler. This had a 3-day cold soak, it was 43 days on the skin pomace stirring every day and then pressing. Neutral oak 20 months, racked once at 18 and then bottled at 20. Sulfured twice, I don’t use any sulfur through these long extended macerations, I try to keep things alive for as long as possible.

WTS: Scott your 2015 Harvest isn’t over yet is it? (This is April of 2016 keep in mind)

Scott Sampler: No.

WTS: He hasn’t pressed the fruit that was picked yet in 2015.

Scott Sampler: No I’m still totally all in the 2015 harvest, just pushing (Chris Hammell “summer is coming”). I know. At first you start out with a lot of fear that your wine might turn, there’s a lot of risk of oxidation and other bacterial and microbial things that can happen. As I’ve been doing it, I’ve just been able to do it longer and longer and the wine goes through different cycles and so I’m trying to see how far I can go. I like where it’s going, it goes kind of deeper and deeper into the grape. We’ll see, maybe, I don’t know. I’m pushing it to the edge this year. We’ll see what happens.

WTS: The first time I met Scott I said, I was crazy enough to ask him “Are you like a mad scientist in here?” and without even blinking he said “No I prefer to think of myself as more of an alchemist.” So Scott does not have a tasting room but you’ll take people by appointment.

Scott Sampler: I’m happy to show people around if they give me a call and I’m around, I’m happy to introduce people to the winery.

WTS: Thank you Scott.

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Syrah Seminar 2016 SB Vintners – Episode 4 Larry Schaffer of tercero on White Hawk Vineyard

Syrah Panel Santa Barbara Vintners April 2016 Episode 4

Larry Schaffer – tercero on White Hawk Vineyard

This episode of the Syrah Seminar in Santa Barbara includes the conversation with Larry Schaffer of tercero.  He speaks on White Hawk Vineyard in the Los Alamos Valley and his 2011 White Hawk Vineyard Syrah.

Larry is the President of the Santa Barbara Rhone Rangers Chapter, so he is obviously into Rhones. He is passionate about his wines and if you catch him in the tasting room or at an event, you are in for a Great conversation.  We had a chance to speak with Larry last year at the tercero tasting room, here’s a snippet of our conversation about Rhones. https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/terceros-larry-schaffer-love-rhones/

larry schaffer tercero

larry schaffer tercero

Larry sources from Vineyards all over the Santa Barbara area but today he spoke specifically about the Syrah he gets from White Hawk Vineyard.  He tells us about the vineyard and it’s soil, the 2011 vintage, how he makes this wine, as well as giving us insights on why Syrah is currently such a great value.  Below you will find the video and transcript from the Syrah Seminar.

White Hawk Vineyard

White Hawk is located in the Los Alamos Valley on the East side of Highway 101. It is in Cat Canyon in the Northern part of the valley East of Cat Canyon Vineyard. The vines here work extra hard because the soil is so sandy, cuasing low yields and intense berries. It sits at around 900 feet elevation, and the south facing slope gets lots of morning fog.

White Hawk Vineyard on the Santa Barbara Vintners Viticultural Map.

White Hawk Vineyard on the Santa Barbara Vintners Viticultural Map.

This 75 acre vineyard is mostly planted in Syrah with a little Chardonnay. The vines here are custom farmed for the many wineries who source fruit here, including: Herman Story, Longoria, Silver Winery, Wild Horse, Sea Smoke, Sine Qua Non and Andrew Murray, in addition of course to the two wineries pouring Syrah here today, tercero and Central Coast Group Project.

For more on Larry and tercero visit http://www.tercerowines.com/

His tasting room is in Los Olivos where you can find Mae Apple pouring his wines Thursdays through Monday 12 to 5 ish or by appointment.

You won’t find tasting notes here. They encourage guests to discover the flavors without being “lead”.

They are located at 2445 Alamo Pintado Ave, Suite 104, Los Olivos, CA 93441, (the entrance is actually located on San Marcos).

tercero Wines Tasting Room

tercero Wines Tasting Room

Be sure to try to get to the next seminar! The Santa Barbara Vintners will have one during the Celebration of Harvest Festival, which happens October 7-10. Here’s a link to more information. http://www.celebrationofharvest.com/

And check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on our visit to Santa Barbara.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Syrah Panel Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend 2016

Episode 4: Larry Schaffer, Winemaker tercero

 

The Transcript

 

Wendy Thies Sell (WTS): Alright, our next area to visit is Los Alamos, home to White Hawk vineyard. We will taste 2 wines from Whitehawk. First up is tercero’s 2011 White Hawk Syrah.   Wine maker Larry Schaffer studied viticulture and enology at UC Davis. He began his career as the enologist at Fess Parker Winery, before starting his own winery tercero. Larry’s focus is Rhone variety wines and he told me that his goal with every wine is to have it be a transparent look at that vineyard, that vintage, that variety or blend. Larry, thanks for being here and tell us about this wine and working with White Hawk Vineyard fruit.

Larry Schaffer:  Well, thank you Wendy, and I want to thank all the other panelists, and thank all of you guys. It’s always a pleasure to have a number of people in a room talking about Rhone varieties. It doesn’t happen often enough. Before I get into this specific wine, I do think it’s important to give a nod to those that came before us and have really created the ability for us to be sitting up here, talking about these; definitely Bob Lindquist. I think, when you make wine you kind of think “I’ve arrived. I’m able to do what I want to do because I’m here” but really the only reason we’re here making Syrah is by the fact that people before us worked with this variety through thick and thin and have continued to work with this variety. People like Craig Jaffurs, people like Joey Tensley, Doug Margerum, Bob Lindquist and all the folks at Zaca Mesa. So I just kinda want to give a nod to all of them.

So my wine is my 2011 White Hawk Syrah. This is actually a future release. I kinda share the same, some of the same ideologies as Michael Larner in the fact that I like my wines to stay in oak for a long time. So 2011 was a really special vintage. I remember talking to winemakers up north, and by mid October they had picked everything. They got hit with massive rains. It was also a frost year so crop levels were quite low. But as the panelists before me were saying, when it rains in Paso and north, if it rains two inches, we might get a half an inch. We don’t get a lot of rain and one of the great things about Syrah, the clusters tend to be long, they tend to be relatively loose and any wind after a rain as long as its not humid, they’ll dry out, we’ll continue moving forward. So in 2011, I picked these grapes on October 28th, which was relatively late for this vineyard. I started working with this vineyard in 2010. In the one-acre block that I was working with, I got two and a half tons in 2010, in 2011 I got less than one. So I did not have to go through the vineyard like Chris and Trey and knock all the grapes off, there just wasn’t a lot of grapes there for me to work with. I brought the grapes in, partial whole cluster in the bottom of my fermenting bin and then crushed on top of that, cold soaked for a couple of days. I made this wine at Andrew Murray Vineyards production facility and it was a very cold year so the ambient temperature in there was really cold. I waited for about 4 or 5 days for it to kick off and then I inoculated. It was about a 2 week fermentation, manually punched down 2 to 3 times a day, pressed and settled and then barreled down to 3 to 7 year old French Oak barrels. Oak is not a bad thing and I agree with Chris. I personal don’t use new oak, I’ve never used new oak on any of my wines. The newest oak barrel I’ve ever used on my reds is 3 year old oak. I like everything else to shine through and the oak to be in the background. But that’s not to say that oak is a bad thing, I’m not saying that. So again, a cool vintage and what strikes me about this wine, is the acidity. There was great natural acidity in 2011, because of how cold the vintage was all the way though. And I think with Syrah especially, but with all red wines, I think acid is kind of the key to the longevity of it, the liveliness of it. One, more acid is going to mean a lower pH, it’s going to mean that that wine is going to stay fresher longer. The other thing, I don’t rack my wines, so this wine stayed in older French Oak for 30 months. So after it was put into barrel, it stayed in barrel. I topped it, I SO2ed it, but I did nothing else to it until right before bottling when it came out of barrel. By doing that theoretically I keep the wine tighter. You imagine if you take a wine out of barrel you’re decanting the wine. You’re going to move it into a different trajectory. It’s not a better or worse thing, it’s just different. I want to keep my wine as tightly wound as long as I can so that when it gets into bottle, it starts its aging process, because I will keep my wines in barrel for a couple of years and normally in bottle for a couple of years before releasing. Enjoy! Thank you.

WTS: Larry told me that for the price there is no better value in red wine, in California than Syrah. Tell me more about that.

Larry Schaffer: Without a doubt. I mean if you think of the fact, so a couple things. One, and Chris kind of alluded to this, Syrah is a relatively new variety in this country, compared to many other noble varieties that people drink. The first variety labeled Syrah in this country was in the mid 70’s. That’s not that long ago. A lot of the plantings that we’re tasting today were planted 20 years ago and less. And a lot of that is really…it stems from the fact that even in the Rhone, even in the Northern Rhone, the wineries we are talking about like Chave, those wineries were not known in this country very well until the 80’s and the 90’s, when reviewers like Robert Parker started really talking about that region. People had talked about Bordeaux, people had talked about Burgundy, had not really talked about the Rhone. So the Rhone region as a whole, Rhone varieties are still relatively new in this country. But in terms of value, you can certainly spend more than 35 or 40 dollars on a Syrah, you don’t really need to, to get a tremendous wine. And that’s throughout Santa Barbara County and really throughout the state of California and even into Washington. There are places where the prices are going higher than that, but Syrah, really both in Syrah and Syrah blends, offers great value in all different kinds of styles,not cooler climate or warmer climate per se, but everything in between. Because Syrah is a bit of a chameleon, it will grow well anywhere and it really comes down to site and winemaker in terms of determining style, in terms of how ripe they want to get those grapes and how ripe they want to make that wine.

WTS: Briefly tell us about White Hawk Vineyard. It’s very sandy, right?

Larry Schaffer: It is. I’m gonna let this guy next to me talk a little bit more about it, but it is sandy, it was planted in the 90’s. I believe Benjamin Silver of Silver Wines assisted in the planting of it. Similar to Larner, which I also get fruit from, it’s chalky sandy soil. If you drive up the vineyard, you better have a car that can get you through the sand and back down or else you’ll be stranded. It really is amazing, your feet kinda sink in. Because of that I tend to find the grapes have a lower pH higher acidity and lower yields naturally without them having to do too much to the vineyard. The vineyard was planted again in the mid 90’s, planted to a number of different clones of Syrah and that’s what Scott’s going to talk more about.

WTS: Thank you Larry. Larry has a tasting room in Los Olivos.

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