“Many are the shapes that fortune takes and oft the Gods bring things beyond our expectations”
– verse from Greek play “Alcestis” by Euripides
The 43-acres planted to Rhone varietals at Demetria Estate paint a fog-kissed hilly landscape on the high elevation property overlooking the Santa Ynez Valley. The awe-inspiring real estate was purchased from Andrew Murray’s parents, and Murray has since relocated his winery to another section of the Valley, which is located about 45 miles north of Santa Barbara.
Demetria Winemaker Mike Roth with winery proprietor John Zahoudanis
John and Sandra Zahoudanis now occupy the space, and renamed and re-established as Demetria Estate, continue to grow the varietals that have become strongly attached to this region that we have once before claimed as Chateauneuf D’Ynez.
Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne thrive here, and barrel tasting Demetria’s 2005 Syrah left us heartened to tell the tale of the winery’s bright future.
Land in Santa Rita Hills
In addition to the estate fruit which claims its talent with the Rhone reds and whites, Zahoudanis also bought the 220-acre Ashley’s Vineyard from Fess Parker, a vineyard which can produce stunning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the celebratory Santa Rita Hills – the coolest region figuratively and literally – in the Santa Ynez Valley for growing Burgundian grapes.
They renamed the stellar vineyard “Gaia,” the Greek goddess of the earth. “We added another 80 acres and it is now the largest Pinot Noir vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills,” Zahoudanis pointed out.
A truckload of Pinot Noir comes in from the newly named “Gaia” Vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills.
Demetria’s First Harvest
This month will proclaim Demetria’s first harvest, an expected case production of about 3,500 cases. Zahoudanis was born in Greece and worked with his father in the vineyards. “My dream was to go back to the land,” and the successful Los Angeles-based real estate developer (“I’m a nuts and bolts shopping center guy”) has fulfilled that wish, occupying the property with his wife Sandra last January.
“We looked in Napa and even found an ideal location – an old bastide in the south of France,” he noted, “but Santa Ynez was closer to family.
While a lot of this prime fruit is sold to many top California wineries such as Brewer Clifton, Domaine Chandon, Wild Horse, Fess Parker and David Bruce, Zahoudanis and Winemaker Mike Roth want to keep more for Demetria Estate, where they are farming biodynamically and will switch to that ancient practice at Gaia once they complete their winery facility on that property in the near future.
Winemaker Mike Roth
With winemaking jobs at Koehler in Santa Ynez and Rutz in northern California, Demetria’s Winemaker Mike Roth’s first yearnings were centered on becoming a chef. “My love for great food pushed me into wine,” he offered. “The two complement one another and I find it important to create varietally correct, delicate styles of wine that match well with cuisines.”
Making his own footprint at Demetria is a challenge Roth accepts wholeheartedly. “I’m not re-inventing the wheel here,” he admits, “but I do read a lot and network with winemaker friends. We’re doing it a bit differently here: a combination of technology and old world ways (gravity flow, native fermentation, the use of a spectrophotometer to measure nitrogen content in the must). Chemistry helps the checks and balances, especially when you’re fermenting with native yeast. Technology stabilizes the process in preventing spoilage or when not filtering.”
Comparing it to digital art, Roth says, “A designer can be creative and draw on the computer, but he is not using a traditional canvas.”
Demetria Estate Wines
Demetria 2005 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Gaia Vineyards, Santa Rita Hills
The prettiest prom dress pink color is inviting enough: but the soft raspberry and mineral notes are testament to class and finesse.
Demetria 2005 “Papou” is a blend of Viognier and Roussanne off the Estate in Santa Ynez, a vibrantly floral and intriguing white with notes of pear and herbal tea. “Papou” means grandfather in Greek, but this is not your grandfather’s wine…
Demetria 2005 Pinot Blanc from the Gaia Vineyards in Santa Rita Hills is a sommelier-inspired wine with that “licking the stone” quality that incorporates lemon grass and a slight creaminess: but also a startling acidity.
We tasted the 2005 Pommard-clone Demetria Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir (not yet bottled) with its soft velvety pillow-like texture, a wafting of dried rose petals, cinnamon and exotic spice on a bed of mouth-filling elegance.
Sandra Zahoudanis in front of the newly remodeled winery in Santa Ynez with Standard Poodle “Matia”
Demetria Estate Syrah – also to soon be bottled, blends about 2% Viognier; gamey and grilled notes are set against a backdrop of solid acid structure and tannic grip. A purebred winner.
PHOTO C: Sandra Zahoudanis in front of the newly remodeled winery in Santa Ynez with Standard Poodle “Matia”
Demetria Estate Wines are not yet represented by a distributor. Suggested retail prices range from $35-$50.