Tasting Cargasacchi with Peter Cargasacchi

TASTING CARGASACCHI WITH PETER CARGASACCHI – Cargasacchi Cellars, Lompoc, California (8/7/2010)

Peter, Traci and Richard

Peter is a great character and wit, and also extremely knowledgeable and articulate about winegrowing, so it’s always a treat to spend time with him. For our tasting, we sampled not only the current releases, and a couple of past vintages, of the Point Concepción wines he and his wife Julia make from purchased fruit, but also Cargasacchi Pinots from both of the estate vineyards, Cargasacchi and Cargasacchi-Jalama, and an older Siduri Cargasacchi Pinot that our buddy Gregory brought along for Peter to taste with us.

We met up with Peter in the Lompoc warehouse he used to share with Brian Loring and Andrew Vingiello before they built their own facilities nearby for Loring Wines and A.P. Vin. Peter refers to it as the “Pinot Prison” area, between the dog pound and the Lompoc Penitentiary, near the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. Peter was just in from the vineyard, where he said he’d been mowing (the ground cover, that helps insulate the ground in the vineyard when it’s hot) and spraying, in an effort to get the vines moving toward veraison, which is pretty late this year due to unusually cool and overcast weather throughout July and August, so far. A video clip of Peter explaining what the grapes at Cargasacchi Vineyard were doing as of that moment appears below in the section on Cargasacchi Vineyard Pinot.

For more details on the individual wines, and vineyards they come from, see below.

Chardonnays

These were both very tasty wines, and remarkably reasonably priced (the ’08 sells for $20), but I was most impressed with the just-bottled-and-not-yet-released ’09. Peter uses no new oak on these Chards, based on fruit that comes from the Sierra Madre Vineyard planted to a Wente clone of Chardonnay. The 2008 Caponera did not finish malolactic, which helped to give it freshness and refreshing acidity. For ’09, Peter used a Burgundian yeast, CY3079, that tends to heighten the aromatics, to ferment half the batch, in neutral oak, and employed a South African yeast, that tends to give a more fruity result, in the other half in chilled stainless steel. The result, I think, is quite awesome for a reasonably priced Cali Chard, with complexity and good acidity.

  • 2008 Point Concepción Chardonnay Caponera – USA, California
    Light golden yellow color; nice tart peach, tart apple nose; tasty, tart apple, green apple palate with a hint of vanilla; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Point Concepción Caponera – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Pre-release – bright light yellow color; complex, tart lemon, leesy, crystallized lemon peel nose; youthful, tart lemon, yellow apple palate; medium-plus finish (scheduled for Fall 2010 release; 1/2 fermented with Burgundian CY3079 yeast in neutral oak and 1/2 fermented in chilled stainless steel with South African yeast) (92 pts.)

Pinot Grigio

This wine is also based on grapes solely from the Sierra Madre Vineyard in Santa Barbara County. They de-stem and let the juice sit for a few days on the grape’s russet red skins, using dry ice to extend the cold soak. Italian winemakers call wines produced this way Ramato – the word for “copper.” According to the Point Concepción website, “The skins impart the salmon rosé color, soft tannins, and a complex minerality to the wine, and give it flavor and body that is rarely found in Pinot Grigio.” I tend to agree. Peter also told us that his aim with this wine was for something to pair with bitter greens, like arugula, and there is a green herb quality in this wine that, along with its relative sweetness and acidity, should play off well against bitter greens, including green vegetables like asparagus and artichoke.

  • 2009 Point Concepción Pinot Grigio Celestina – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Light medium yellow orange pink color; nice dried cherry, herbal, mint nose; rich, refreshing, ripe peach, cantaloupe palate with good acidity and sense of green herbs; medium-plus finish (3 days of skin contact with dry ice to extend cold soak and extract color) (91 pts.)

Cargasacchi Pinot Cargasacchi

The Cargasacchi Vineyard was planted in 1998 and now comprises 12 acres of Pinot Noir in the Santa Rita Hills appellation, all planted to Dijon clone 115, on two different rootstocks, 3309C and 420A. The 3309C rootstock tends to produce a deeper and well-branched root system. As a result of the deeper roots, it tends to take longer to warm up and induce bud break, usually running several days behind the 420A at bud break. According to Peter, it tends to emphasize the darker, blue-purple fruit and earthy character of the 115 clone. 420A is a shallow rooting, limestone tolerant rootstock, that begins the growing season relatively early due to its shallower roots. Peter feels it emphasizes the red fruit and brighter tones of the 115 clone.

I really like the silky texture of the ’06, which emphasizes the red fruit characteristics of fruit from this vineyard. The ’07 was showing much better than the bottle I sampled quickly at Pinot Days a few months earlier, and its structure suggests a lot of room for development yet.

Peter explaining what’s happening at the moment in the Cargasacchi and Cargasacchi-Jalama vineyards:

  • 2006 Cargasacchi Pinot Noir Estate – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills – Sta. Rita Hills
    Medium dark cranberry red color with pale meniscus; nice tart strawberry, currant, cranberry nose; silky textured, tart cranberry, currant, mineral palate with elegance; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Cargasacchi Pinot Noir Estate – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills – Sta. Rita Hills
    Dark cherry red color; nice cranberry, tart cherry, French oak nose with a touch of bacon fat; tight cranberry, tart cherry, raspberry palate with structure; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (showed much better than when I tried it in seminar at Pinot Days in June) (90 pts.)

Cargasacchi Pinot Cargasacchi-Jalama

The Cargasacchi-Jalama Vineyard is nearly five miles southwest of the Cargasacchi Vineyard, outside of the Santa Rita Hills appellation (i.e., in the larger Santa Barbara County appellation). Its 16 acres were planted beginning in 1999, with a single acre of Dijon 115 Pinot, and additional plantings in 2000 and 2002 that included Dijon 114, the Mt. Eden clone, more 115, a suitcase clone, and a small amount of an Alsatian Pinot Grigio selection.

Peter needed to leave to catch up with Adam Lee to show him what was happening at the vineyard, and we needed to get a bite of lunch before continuing over to the Palmina open house, so Peter gave us these two half bottles to sample later in the day. The ’08 is good, but the ’09, just bottled two weeks ago, is very impressive and shows wonderful structure.

Peter gave me the following interesting background information on the process and effect of bottling his Cargasacchi-Jalama Pinots in half bottles with a screw cap: “I switched Jalama to half bottle format because it was so confusing to have both vineyards under the same front label, even though the information was on the back label, (technically back label is front label.) Plus I wanted to offer a 375 format pinot. [T]he screw cap has less O2 permeability, you can’t pull a vacuum when applying the screw cap like with the cork. So the screwcap gets a full headspace of air rather than vacuum and what I notice happening is that it has an accelerated drinkability, but then the lower O2 permeability kicks in and it has a stable drinking trajectory and less O2 over time. Which was why I went with the screwcap on the 375 initially because the 375 with cork closure oxidizes/ages more quickly. I had not anticipated the earlier drinking because of the head space issue when I first made that wine. It was an ‘Oh, that’s surprising’ moment but makes perfect sense.”

  • 2009 Cargasacchi Pinot Noir Cargasacchi-Jalama Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    From 375 ml – dark red violet color; cranberry, tart cherry, pine nose; tight but layered, deep, cherry, cranberry, raspberry palate with great structure, needs 3-plus years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2008 Cargasacchi Pinot Noir Cargasacchi-Jalama Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    From 375 ml – dark cherry red color; nice cherry, spicy red fruit, vanilla nose; big, spicy, French oak, cherry, baked cherry, black raspberry palate, tight yet, and the oak needs to integrate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

Siduri Cargasacchi

This was the first vintage of Siduri’s Cargasacchi, and it was holding up beautifully. Complex on the palate, starting to show tertiary characteristics, this was a really lovely mature Cali Pinot, which is pretty amazing for fruit from such a then very young vineyard. My thanks to Gregory for sharing it with us. (Note: We did not sample the Babcock Cargisacchi pictured below with the Siduri. Gregory left that for Peter’s wine “library,” and Peter gave him a younger version of the Siduri in return.)

  • 2001 Siduri Pinot Noir Cargasacchi Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills – Sta. Rita Hills
    Cloudy, opaque cranberry red color; forest floor, cedar, iodine, mushroom nose; rich, creamy textured, mature, cherry, black raspberry palate with a sense of mint and peacock tail finish; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Point Concepción Syrah

The Cuvée Jalama is a blend of fruit from selected vineyards in the Central Coast. The name derives from the Purisemeno Chumash village once located in the area near Point Concepción, called “Xalam,” meaning bundle. These are also very well priced wines, at only $20 a bottle. The ’03 was showing a little reduction, due to the lack of oxygen under screwcap. The ’05 could use another year or two in bottle, or at least some decanting time, but is showing very well now, with a lot of depth for the price point.

  • 2003 Point Concepción Syrah Cuvée Jalama – USA, California, Central Coast
    From screwcap – showing a little reduction on nose of burnt rubber, black fruit and anise; black fruit, anise, black raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2005 Point Concepción Syrah Cuvée Jalama – USA, California, Central Coast
    Dark red violet color; nice black fruit, blackberry, berry nose; rich, poised, black fruit, blackberry palate with depth, needs another 1 to 2 years; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

later in the day at Palmina’s open house, Peter and Siduri’s Adam Lee

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