Seven Percent is the movement celebrating and perpetuating varietal diversity in California. The lineup of winemakers we work with are top of their class, making some of the most interesting and sought-after wines in the US. These are the winemakers and growers who are working with grapes very familiar in the Old World but new to California, perpetuating varietal diversity, and redefining California wine. We are very lucky to live amongst and represent so many rebels. You can learn more about the movement HERE.
Arnot-Roberts Gamay 2018
Peppered, crunchy and ripping acidity the way Gamay is meant to be. Ample red fruit, blood orange and a skosh of whole cluster mint.
NoneSuch Mourvèdre 2017
Dusty dark cocoa and star anise, high toned like a light roast coffee. Blueberry jam spread on caraway packed pumpernickel toast.
Sébastien Carignan 2017
Tart Rainier cherries and spring redwoods tips. From fruit leather to shaved prosciutto, complex layers that linger deep and with perfection.
Welcome to our first installment of our Seven Percent California Wine Club, the new frontier for grape growers, winemakers and folks like us who just love to drink good juice. We bring you three grape varieties that, although rare here in California, are certainly not completely unheard of in our soils. They each have great histories in France and Spain, but their story is still young and chock full of potential here. We also are featuring three wineries/four incredibly talented winemakers that are not only very important pieces to this new category of wine but also our neighbors and dear friends.
The Seven Percent movement and the group of impassioned winemakers that make it a reality have been growing in strength for several years now and the time to take center stage seems just around the corner. We expect variation and quality in every aspect of our lives these days, why not demand more than wines made from only eight grape varieties? It represents the spirit of California winemaking – where exploration is the focus and discovery the glorious and delicious result.
Varietal Diversity is the California frontier only recently open for exploration. Each of these grape varieties from California’s varying climates and diverse terroir deserve recognition for making great wines: Gamay, Mourvèdre and Carignan.
Gamay has its own rabid fan base (clearly referring to the good stuff here, not the nouveau of nightmares) but has always seemed to play second fiddle to Pinot Noir. Its future here in California is bright as winemakers like Arnot-Roberts begin to unlock that potential greatness of the grape we know well from places like Morgon.
Mourvèdre and Carignan are two grapes we most often associate as French yet both originated in Spain. both have long played a vital role in lifting up their companion, Grenache. But on their own, these two varieties are beginning to truly turn heads and win hearts here in our sun drenched soils, offering a natural structure and complexity that sets them apart from the established pack.
Sébastien Carignan 2017
GRAPE: Carignan [kä-ree-nyän]
Likely Spanish in origin, where it is called Cariñena or Samsó, it is most heavily planted in the south of France. It was a highly favored grape for many years mainly due to its ability to produce very high yields, but fell short of becoming a great grape in France due to its tendency to ripen rather late. The Carignan story for California is similar as it was historically grown for quantity not quality in the hot Central Valley. But thankfully there were also growers early on that found that they could grow really fabulous fruit from Carignan in various sites peppered around Northern California – in places like this vineyard in Mendocino. The Seven Percent movement is certainly about rethinking what grapes we have planted, where and why, in California. But equally as important are the growers who have been tending to these beautiful and healthy old vines for years. They are the reason we are able to experience this re-discovery.
For Sébastien Pochan to be making this wine from these old Carignan vines just makes sense. He grew up in the Languedoc region in the South of France where Carignan is certainly abundant. Although he has had his hand in amazing wines in California since the mid nineties, this new namesake label marks the first time he’s actually bottled his own wine. His love for making wines that represent both his homeland and his current home shines through all of the wines he makes. Sebastien makes incredible wines for Front Porch Farms out of their stunning Organic vineyards of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah that are ‘must trys’ and he is also a big reason why Unti Vineyards enjoys the following they have for their wines from the same French Meditteranean grapes.
Tart Rainier cherries and fresh spring redwoods tips. The balance of ripe red fruit as well as dried fruit, think fruit leather, along with this sense (and scents) of a forest floor in spring is just delightful. Earthy flavor descriptions in wine can come in many forms, but ‘forest floor’ ranks as one of my favorites. Carignan can sometimes have a bitter iron-like quality that is thankfully not present here at all, but there is a slight meatiness that reminds me of some mouthwatering shaved prosciutto. Carginan is one of those grape varieties that can be hard to put your thumb on when looking for a ‘correct’ varietal expression, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable one with such purity and balance than this.
Tart Rainier cherries and fresh spring redwoods tips, ripe red fruit and dried fruit leather. Lovely forest floor in spring balanced with a slight meatiness that reminds us of mouthwatering shaved prosciutto
NoneSuch Mourvèdre 2017
Enz Vineyard, Lime Kiln Valley
GRAPE: Mourvèdre [mohr-VEH-drha]
In some ways, this is the unsung hero grape of the ever popular GSM blends. In the Southern Rhône, everything revolves around Grenache, and rightly so. In the Northern Rhône, Syrah is the shining star, and one that winemakers from all over the world try so hard to emulate, but often fall short. Bandol is where Mourvèdre is most cherished, not only for the base of the world’s most revered Rosé wines but also a small number of underknown but very age worthy reds. Perhaps we’re still awaiting to see the best expression of this grape – it has gained ground in California and producers are increasingly taking the chance to feature it as a single varietal.
Caitlin Quinn is no doubt a rising star in the winemaking world and certainly well entrenched in the Seven Percent crew of producers. She has worked with Sebastien at Unti Vineyards and is currently the Assistant Winemaker at Arnot-Roberts (yes… Seven Percent is a pretty tight knit crew.) Caitlin grew up around the SLO wine growing region, as well as in Santa Cruz, making her well versed in finding the potential in little pocket vineyards throughout California. She is an intense student of the trade as well, always quietly noting what needs to be learned while at the same time already more knowledgeable than so many peers with more years under their belts. This is her first vintage of her long anticipated own label, and she has turned heads immediately. Nothing more exciting than learning about a future rock star from the ground floor.
Dusty dark cocoa and star anise, blueberry jam spread on caraway packed pumpernickel toast. Crushed violets and some delightful high notes that recall a light roast coffee. A fabulous example of how delicate and nuanced this often brawny grape can be in the right hands. Similar to its aforementioned Rhône brethren, the expression of Mourvèdre in California tends to be pretty heavily extracted and big. But Caitlin has an approach that seems to coax all of the complex beauty from the fruit without resulting in the more common burly style wine overall. The tannin and acidic structure let you know immediately that this is still a pretty serious wine, not to be taken lightly, but perhaps it exudes a strength and confidence enough where it doesn’t need to carry a big stick.
Dusty dark cocoa and star anise, blueberry jam spread on caraway packed pumpernickel toast. Crushed violets and some delightful high notes that recall a light roast coffee. Delicate and nuanced.
Arnot-Roberts Gamay 2018
GRAPE: Gamay [GA-mei]
With all the Pinot Noir vines that have popped up throughout California, it’s a real wonder why Gamay hasn’t followed suit. Well, not really, perhaps. Although they share the famed Burgundy region in France together, no one can argue that even the finest of Cru Beaujolais to be had can stand up to the global attention that Burgundy (the name even assumes Pinot) has earned. And that’s ok. Great Gamay has long been, and continues to be, the darling of every Sommelier and über geek. Access to these small batch wines has gotten difficult. In California, it seems, access to buying Gamay grapes to make great wine is equally reserved – for those who truly treasure it’s value. There will be more plantings in the immediate future to be sure, but I for one am glad to know that it will most likely continue to be made by those who already hold it in high regard in the first place.
Duncan and Nathan have made their mark from their classic garagiste winemaking start to one of the most sought after labels in the category. Friends from childhood and surrounded by the call of the vines early in life in Napa Valley, they decided that there was still a path unforged in the California wine scene that had their names all over it. Turns out they were right. They started out on their journey to seek out small, and sometimes hidden, vineyard sites that had enormous potential based on their location, soils and microclimates. Often times the people growing the grapes didn’t quite know what they had, but Duncan and Nathan knew that they were discovering gems and started making the magic happen. In 2013 they were honored as the SF Chronicle Winemaker of the year – only eight years after starting the AR label.
Peppered, crunchy and ripping acidity; the way Gamay is meant to be. Cranberries and tart red currants for sure but there is also a strong blood orange quality which is oh-so-very reminiscent of great Beaujolais. Herbaceous, like wild mint, this wine is just bursting with uniquely enjoyable flavors – it is impossible to hold back a wicked grin. I would call this a highly expressive wine; in purity fruit, in brightness and nerve, and certainly with regards to a sense of terroir. But in the end, many California wine enthusiasts will think of a wine like this as “light.” That’s a hard thing to un-train in the brain. Years of drinking big Cabernets that are steeped in oak and, too often, residual sugar (dirty little secret) have formed an unfortunate model for other wines to be compared to. That’s the epic struggle in the modern California wine culture, yet Duncan and Nathan are two of the absolute best champions out there, fighting the good fight. Incidentally, if you are wanting to see behind the curtain and take the ‘Red Pill,’ try the Arnot-Roberts Cabernet when you get the chance and start to unweave the truth about how Cab might / should actually taste.
Peppered, crunchy and ripping acidity – the way Gamay is meant to be. Herbaceous, like wild mint. Cranberries, tart red currants and a strong blood orange quality reminiscent of great Beaujolais.