2019 Galvanized Synergy
New Genre White
52% Rolle (known in Italy as Vermentino), 31% Viognier, 9% Clairette Blanche, 8% Picpoul
Santa Barbara County
This 2019 Galvanized Synergy is a dreamy blend of four white South-of-France varieties; Rolle, Viognier, Clairette Blanche and Picpoul. Due to the rarity in California of Rolle, Clairette and Picpoul, this is no doubt the only blend of its kind that was produced anywhere in California, and perhaps anywhere in the world in 2019. While there are those French producers who choose to bottle authentic blends of all of the whites on the classic Chateauneuf-du-Pape list (Clairette Blanche, Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Picardan, Picpoul, and Roussanne), they can’t use Viognier. While Viognier is a Rhone variety, it’s a northern Rhone variety. All the Chateauneuf-du-Pape grapes are in the south.
And then there is this enigmatic variety, Rolle, which grows in a number of places in Southern France and its island of Corsica. To be honest, Rolle is originally an Italian variety known as Vermentino. In fact, the legal name in the U.S. for the variety is Vermentino. Because I always trying to minimize spankings from the government, on my back label for this wine, it’s Vermentino, followed parenthetically by Rolle. (This is all in the wake of the scolding that I received for trying to identify the Clairette in this blend as Clairette. ‘Not so fast Mr. Babcock, it’s “Clairette Blanche.”
You must have Blanche!’ To which is asked, ‘Then why do let me call Picpoul Blanc just Picpoul?’, to which there was no answer. Go figure.)
Speaking of Picpoul, we crushed our first ever in 2019, just in time to make this Galvanized blend the most enigmatic as well as the most eclectic wine I have ever made. I really think this Picpoul grape has great potential, and, in fact, I will be bottling a varietal Picpoul later this year, probably with a Babcock label on it. So, stay tuned.
For a second year in a row, the Clairette Blanche in the blend came from the Santa Ynez vineyard which lies on the far eastern boundary of Happy Canyon, and most of the valley’s inland-most viticulture. It does look like this grape likes a little heat during the growing season, and I continue to like what this seems to bring to the variety in terms of flavors and especially its texture.
So, why go to all this trouble? Well, these varieties are new, and as such I consider them to be very exciting. I mean, I still love Chardonnay, but after 40 years of it, I just need something a little more refreshing and different. While the Viognier in the blend may not necessarily be new, it is an exotically flavored, aromatic variety that comes from somewhere in Southern France, and in the scheme of things, it’s lending itself to a spontaneous, no-holds-barred approach to winemaking, that in the end leads to something delicious and seductive. Last year’s white Galvanized Synergy is all I’m drinking right now. We’re all cooped up with this Covid-19 thing and I can’t keep the Synergy out of my glass. It’s like a Forrest Gump thing; delicious is as delicious does. While that wine leans
more toward its lead grape, Grenache Blanc, with flavors of pear and apple, this new release leans more toward its lead grape, Rolle!, with flavors of peach and lime. Both wines are like children that were cut from the same cloth, with characteristics that together provide for a refreshing, beautifully textured synergy. Both are different because they are different blends of characteristics that were born at different times.
2018 The Limit Chardonnay
Sta. Rita Hills
I have felt for some time now that Block 31 at Radian is the best block of Chardonnay in all of Santa Barbara County. This wine serves only to solidify this view. It’s California fruit bomb meets European minerality and acidity, all spun together seamlessly by what the French would call, a full “elevage”. When you work with this kind of fruit you can actually barrel ferment the juice in a big chunk of new Oak, go through malolactic, and then patiently infuse a creaminess from nine months of contact with the yeast sediments (lees) lying on the bottoms of the barrels. If you have a wine making team that is skilled enough to capture it all in the bottle without filtration, then all the layers are preserved, and the greatness of the vineyard can spring right out of the glass and into you nose. I could go on and on trying to describe all that I can pick out of a wine like this. Suffice it to say,
this one is simply beautiful.
2018 Galvanized Synergy
New Genre Red
30% Grenache 35% Syrah, 35% Carignan
Santa Barbara County
After our discovery in 2016 that there actually is some interesting Carignan over in the deep interior of the Santa Ynez Valley, this Grenache, Syrah, Carignan (GSC) blend has continued to evolve. That first year, the Carignan came from a grower that did not have a home for all his fruit at the end of the season. While I knew that Carignan was a Rhone varietal (It’s actual origin is Spain, where they call it Carinena) I had no other experience with it, and after reading what international wine guru Jancis Robinson had to say about it, it was definitely a proceed-with-caution proposition. Robinson is basically down on the grape, and considers it to be one of the culprits responsible for the decades long production of millions of gallons of bad, cheap wine out of what was described as the French Wine Lake. Indeed, after covering southern France with thousands of acres of the stuff, the French are now ripping out most of their Carignan in favor of more “ameliorating” varieties; translation, varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah that easily make robust wines, and sell fairly well in the international wine market.
Then, in 2017, we worked with the grower to improve the farming of his Carignan so that we could begin to understand what its full potential was. That Carignan turned out very nice, as did the entire 2017 Galvanized Synergy blend. For this wine’s vintage, 2018, I migrated to the new Santa Ynez Vineyard. By that time, my gut was telling me that Carignan was one of those grapes that loves the heat, and the Santa Ynez Vineyard is in the very warmest end of the valley. Also, I felt this new grower would be even more responsive to my input on the farming. Basically, Jancis Robinson is right if you don’t pay very strict attention to the farming. But if you do manage the crop, and if you do make the vines comfortable enough early in the season so that they can finish strong, ripening their crop in the 100+ degree days of September, then you can approach the true, elusive beauty of the grape.
The idea behind the Galvanized Synergy moniker is the thinking that the result of all the different grapes together is greater than the sum of the individual parts. The galvanizing agent is basically me, as I strive to find not only Santa Barbara County’s best Carignan, but also some of its best Syrah and Grenache. In keeping with this, the Syrah in this blend was sourced out of the Upper Crust. In other words, it came out of what I believe is one of the County’s best blocks of Syrah over at the Rancho Sisquoc Vineyard. Year after year, this Syrah is simply magical.
The Grenache has been in a bit more limbo. The challenge with this varietal is that it often makes a lighter wine, and with the dark, dense Carignan and Syrah that go into this blend, a lighter wine simply gets swallowed and becomes just a name on the label. You know, filler. Well, this is Galvanized Synergy. All the players need to be able to make their presence felt. If nothing else, the Grenache needs to be robust enough to coax the other two characters into cooperating with one another. In short, the Grenache needs to at least be a harmonizer. In 2018 I received just such an impeccably farmed crop of Grenache from the charming, little Lyons Vineyard just out of Los Olivos. The superior farming effort came from my buddy Ryan Carr, who is a winery owner himself, and who understands the difference between good Grenache and great Grenache.
This year’s cuvee is stunning. For those who like dark, concentrated red wines, it will be a show stopper. While the wine is very structured and should age forever, there is just something a little different about it as well. It has a demeanor that is flirtatious even though its core is so powerful. At first I thought this quality was strictly related to the Carignan. Now I am starting to think it’s more of a result of getting the blend right. It really is more about harmony and synergy.
2019 Rita’s Earth Pinot Noir
This wine is an homage to the strength and beauty of Saint Rita, the namesake of our vineyard’s appellation, the Sta. Rita Hills. The timeless rose on the label was drawn by my artistic daughter, Chloe. It represents the final, miraculous rose that was taken to Rita after being plucked out of her garden in the middle of winter, shortly before her passing.
The wine offers a richness and complexity that suggests a Pinot Noir that is more expensive than its $25 suggested retail. Its Central Coast earthiness is center stage in an aroma that is enveloped by cherries, herbs and a touch of rhubarb. On the palate, it has a nice fruit weight with fine tannins that are nicely placed but by no means over bearing. Yes, this Rita’s Earth Pinot should age well. While it’s a pleasure to drink now, it is still just a baby, and should continue to spread its wings over the next few years. Also, being a little more on the delicate side, it’s the perfect red wine for chilling down and drinking during the summer months.
2018 Radical Pinot Noir
Sta. Rita Hills
The Radian Vineyard is as close as you can get to the ocean and still be in the Sta. Rita Hills on Santa Rosa Road. The pinot blocks that I typically work out of, 42 and 33, are on steep hillsides that are extremely exposed to a cool wind (that we affectionately call the “breeze”) that arrives most every day like clockwork from the ocean. This breeze serves as a governor, slowing down the development of vines that are already planted in well drained, stress providing soils. The result at the vine level is a very long hang time for the fruit. The result at the wine level is power; color, tannin, and tremendous fruit weight. Thus, I think it’s fair to say, the edgy qualities of these vineyard blocks are essentially the causal factors behind consistently amazing wines. In a word, these terroirs are Radical.
This 2018 bottling has very amplified characteristics. But, while all of its constituents are big, they are also perfectly juxtaposed. Think of it as Slice Of Heaven on steroids. It’s fruit is darker and more herbal. I am not saying it’s a better wine. In fact, Slice is prettier. She’s sexier at this point. Radical is more chunky and brooding. He is the kind of Pinot that may very well be drinking beautifully long after I am gone. And while Slice may go the distance as well, she is the one I’m having a second glass of right now.
2018 Slice Of Heaven Pinot Noir
Sta. Rita Hills
This 2018 Slice is very pure; a beautiful amalgam of fruit and earth. At times, it almost feels a bit boring to describe yet another Pinot Noir’s fruit as cherry, but this wine’s cherry drop candy in the nose is just too definitive not to call a spade a spade. This, along with its sublime sense of earth, makes the cuvee absolutely archetypical, delivering in every whiff that which is the mystique of Sta. Rita Hills Pinot. It has perfect acidity which launches its youthful fruit across the palate, and its fabric has a soothing warmth laced into it from some of the best French oak barrels that money can buy.