Malibu Wine Country…no more jokes

schtrPNsign.jpg“You have to significantly exceed expectations” said the Malibu winemaker without showing the slightest sign he was jumping verticals; going from the world of C-level business consulting to the world of wine in all its perplexing wierdness.
“Every year we will eliminate error.” For example? He planted his vines with the guidance of a very capable viticulturist. When the grapes came in at alcohol levels he considered too high he realized he needed a combination viticulturist-slash-enologist. Now he is working with someone who fits that job description.
The winemaker and vintner is Charles Schetter. He makes a Pinot Noir named Malibu Sanity with grapes grown on his sloping one acre vineyard in his backyard at 650 feet elevation above Paradise Cove. chas2-12-09.jpgThe wine is remarkable. At least so said IGTY and tBoW however Dotoré was skeptical, as is his job. So we carried 3 bottles of what we consider to be premium Pinot Noir up to the vineyard and surprised Mr. Schetter with an impromptu blind tasting, bags and all.
dotoresanity12-09.jpgFirst we had some conversation. There is only one other vintner growing Pinot Noir in the Bu but Mr. Estevez does not sell it. There are several vintners who are serious about their winemaking although one can only pray they are as serious about it as Schetter. He took a 3 day “intensive” UC Davis course to learn the chemistry and other basics about planting, growing harvesting, making wine, selecting and managing barrels. He studied up on “degree days” which is a power index for the growability of vinifera. His vineyard has an excellent degree days quotient.
Perhaps even more importantly, Schetter has a point of view when it comes to Pinot Noir. He has collected Pinot Noir for decades, beginning under the tutelage of Kermit Lynch and staff when he lived and worked in Berkeley. If he could drink one Burgundy commune it would be Chambolle. He manages 98% of all vineyard chores from grafting to pruning to canopy philosophy coddling every cordon. His guiding thought on pricing his wine? “Check your ego and bullshit at the door.”
The following four wines were tasted blind in order.
WSRRV06.jpg2006 Williams Selyem Russian River Valley: Sweet, perfumed. Luscious. Has to be the Burgundy! Unbagged, this is the typical W-S flavor profile. Immediately seductive, always delicious. A blend of six vineyards including two from RR! 14.3%
malibusanityPN08.jpg2008 Malibu Sanity Schetter VIneyard: Very different nose than the first wine. Similar color to the others, light red, young. More bacon bits and stuffing. Unbagged it is very impressive and also a popular pour. 14.8%
latoduende07.jpg2006 Paul Lato Gold Coast Duende Pinot Noir: Stinky nose, flat flavors, doughy nose. Finishes nice. Mistaken for the Williams Selyem. Was the least favored of the first three wines when bagged. Unbagged and with time this wine grew quite lovely. 14.5%
croixlesbressandes06.jpg2006 Domaine des Croix Beaune Les Bressandess: Minty nose, little darker in color. Most tannic of bagged wines. Long finish, alcohol flavor but balanced. Unbagged it falls behind the other three as those wines seemed to improve more noticeably. 13%
schtrhillside.jpgWe toured the vineyards in the rain and mud. Loved that. Really. I returned a couple days later in the new year to take the photos. However, on Dec 30 we could have been in the Cote d’Or.
When we returned, Schetter opened a 1990 Chambolle-Musigny by Berthaud. The wine was stupendous. At 19 years it still shows lots of promise. Barnyard and fruit aromas and flavors. A mouthful of wildly diverse, sophisticated, enchanting Pinot Noir.
schtrtop1.jpgHe and a crew harvested the 2008 fruit in early October before dawn, packed it in dry ice, then drove it straight to the Terravant facility in Camarillo. Local winemakers who are “upshifting” their game favor this facility. The 2009 vintage will top the 2008, he believes in part because he used a different pruning technique. Eliminating error.
We discuss the differences between inland versus coastal sites which now seem so obvious. He shares that the New York Times recently visited Malibu looking into this new Malibu Wine Country thang. sanityLONG2.jpgThey took pictures and plan to publish a report in the Spring Travel section. Makes you wonder what all the fuss is about? Now you know. Look for Malibu Sanity wines. He makes a steel fermented Chardonnay, as well. [ed. view south from Kanan Dume Road puts the Schetter hillside vineyard in perspective]

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