Hey Matt. Thanks for joining me. Would love to check in with you and get an update on what’s happening in the winery.
Absolutely. Well, as always there’s lots of action in the cellar and around the winery. I guess the first thing to talk about would be bottling. We were supposed to bottle at the end of January but had a crazy rainstorm that pushed us into the beginning of February.
We bottled a little bit earlier than we normally do in the year, but the reason for that is we had some 2019 wines still in barrel like all of our Chardonnay. There was a shift in the barrel aging program for Chardonnay across the board and even the Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay now is spending about 14 months in barrel. So we bottled some those 2019 wines last week in addition to a couple 2020 wines, all of which I’m really excited about.
We got the 2020 rosé in the bottle, which is really cool. We’re working with a new vineyard for the rosé, Shokrian Vineyard in Los Alamos, formerly named Verna’s Vineyard — so it’s a vineyard that SAMsARA has a lot of history with, and we were able to secure some really outstanding hillside fruit for our rosé program. So it’s really nice stuff and it’s all organically farmed. We bottled the rosé a touch earlier this year in hopes of maximizing freshness and getting it all in the bottle.
In addition to the rosé, we bottled our carbonic Syrah, which was a little earlier than we did it last year, but we bottled it a little earlier for that same reason of really trying to maximize freshness and just get all that pop in the bottle at an early stage.
Beyond what’s going on in the cellar, we’ve got some new stuff happening in the vineyards. All the vines are still dormant. But I was just out in the vineyards this week, and the cover crop is growing in a really strong, healthy way. I was also out looking at potential new vineyards for some Syrah. One of the exciting things for us is we’ve had a lot of success, particularly with our chardonnay program the last couple vintages. So what started as a relatively small piece of our production is now really right up there with pinot noir in terms of the tonnage that we’re bringing in.
This year, just like last year, we’re on the hunt for that next great vineyard that could be a source for more chardonnay, and even for pinot noir because we really like having both varietals at the same ranch, both for logistical reasons and really just to see what that site can produce and how that site expresses itself.
COVID-19 has put a wrench in the works for most businesses. How has it effected operations?
As they old saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention” and our tasting room team was able to pivot seamlessly to develop a virtual tasting program. The virtual tastings have been awesome because they’ve allowed us to stay engaged with our guests in a surprisingly cool way. Initially, I wasn’t really sure how effective they’d be at making and keeping connections with people, but they are really fun for guests and our staff alike.
From the bigger corporate tastings with 200 participants to the winemaker focus ones that allow me to geek out a bit more we’re really excited to make virtual sessions a part of our ongoing offerings.
Virtual tastings sound like a great way to connect with people who don’t necessarily live in Santa Barbara County or Southern California.
Yes, you hit the nail on the head. Virtual tastings are an awesome way to connect with people who don’t live in Santa Barbara and folks who aren’t traveling at the moment. We’ve done some great tastings with folks who can’t be here in person, and it’s been a great way to enjoy some wines with all the club members and all the SAMsARA lovers out there.
In other news, we are very grateful for being able to open in person tasting operations in an outdoor, socially distanced capacity. We’re slowly starting to see a few familiar faces return, which is a nice feeling.
So, the good news is there are now fewer barriers to trying, enjoying, and learning about new wines these days, which is awesome. We hope we get to see all of our friends this spring either virtually or at one of the tasting rooms!
Thanks for sitting down this morning to give us an update on all of the winemaking and winery activities!