Margerum Winery speaks the soul of Santa Barbara County wines, a growing region that allows Doug Margerum to pay homage to decades of affection for brilliantly dense and virtually varietally unlimited Chateauneuf-du-Papes or the mouth-filling edgy quality of a Northern Rhone.
But as reminiscent as they are to those produced in France, the final result is rather an interpretation of the climate and soils of the southern Central Coast of California, where Margerum wines speak in a language of softness, ripeness and fragrant aromatics.
“It’s made from fruit, it may as well taste like fruit,” muses Margerum, pouring a generous glass of his 2004 Colson Canyon Syrah. Taking a nosedive into a plum pool – perhaps it’s the cold soaking and fermentation, along with a constant winery temperature that won’t exceed 59 degrees - your mouth swims laps around that fruit.
Margerum’s first vintage was 2001, when he produced about 600 cases. Now tasting his fourth releases, the 2004’s total about 4200 cases. Whether or not there’s room to grow, Margerum prefers to stay small and has no trouble selling out a full vintage ahead. “When I decided to make wine, I made it for me. It’s the wine I love to drink.”
Well, we love it too. In fact, the ’04 Margerum M5, Santa Ynez Valley is his best yet. A blend of five Rhone Valley reds (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Counoise) from specially chosen vineyards, the wine is surprisingly weighty compared to the brilliance and brightness on the nose. Ripeness with oomph, deep and dark, it zings with black cherries and the sun itself. A great pairing with the Wine Cask’s ossobuco or housemade cassoulet.
We look to the future, tasting a barrel sample of his 2005 “überSyrah” a blend of all the best lots that are co-fermented in one super, long 60-day process to stretch the phenolics for softness and maturity.
“I’m a better Winemaker than I am a restaurant General Manager,” confessed Margerum, who spends most of his time holed up with his barrels and his Australian Shepherd Patches. A champion of the personal touch, Margerum is a Winesmith worthy of his trade.
Photo 1: Doug Margerum writes the book on hand-crafted wines. His yearly compilation is entitled “Santa Barbara County Futures Program” listing 40 small production individual producers.
Photo 2: Patches defends her terroir and a bottle of Margerum Syrah.
From the Garage to the Barrack
Doug Margerum’s Alter-Ego is Piocho
“Piocho” is made from hillside vineyards in Santa Ynez’s Happy Canyon and loosely translated means “Where the two rivers meet and go to heaven.” Only 625 cases were made for the Barrack 2003 Piocho “Happy Canyons Vineyards”- a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (68%), Cab Franc and Merlot – from one of the Valley’s warmest growing areas. Margerum makes the Bordeaux stylized wine for Tom and Laurel Barrack from their shared facility in Los Olivos.