Wine Industry’s Odd Couple

August 16, 2014 – another fantastic wine and food tasting at the lovely La Purisima Mission in Lompoc for Wine & Fire. 

The setting is ideal.  Arranged under the shade trees of the Mission were the 40+ wineries who feature fruit from the Santa Rita Hills.  Some of the California heavy hitters poured.  Wineries such as Foxen, Sea Smoke, Brewer-Clifton, Clos Pepe, Babcock and Fiddlehead, serving mainly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Along with these delightful samples were tastes from several local restaurants and caterers.  Memorable were Hitching Post’s scrumptious sliders, Central Coast Specialty Foods’ sausages (including a Spanish chorizo that reminded me of Madrid), Sweet Creations’ savory and spicy jalapeno chocolates, and Los Amigos’ ribs, both pork and beef – delicious.

During the tasting I flashed on the symbiotic relationship between some of the wineries who also grow their own fruit. 

For instance, Pete Cargasacchi both makes his own wine and sells his grapes to many notable producers.  Producers such as Babcock, Brewer-Clifton, Loring, Pali, Hitching Post, Dragonette, and Bonaccorsi, with ratings as high as 97 from Robert Parker for what Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton do with Pete’s fruit or Wine Spectator’s 94 for Siduri’s rendition of Cargasacchi.  Ratings have also been as low as 85 or 79 for fruit from the same vineyard.

Cargasacchi’s version of his own fruit has also achieved respectable ratings. 

So, why does someone labor over vines only to sell those grapes to another winemaker, which will then be compared with the vineyard owner’s own creation?  It’s like Coke making their beverage but also selling their cola nuts to Pepsi.  Crazy, huh?

But this odd partnership works well in the wine industry.  It’s another example of how there’s friendly competition between the wineries, not cutthroat.

The genesis for it in Cargasacchi’s case is that a few years ago a winery that had been leasing a portion of Pete’s vineyard gave up the lease.  Pete decided to see what he could create.

Enter Adam Lee from Siduri, who has been making wine from Pete’s fruit since at least 2001.  Adam, who continues to buy grapes from Pete, works with his good friend so that Pete can make tasty wine from the same vineyard as Adam.  Adam is a valuable resource for Pete on how to handle unforeseen circumstances.  Maybe that’s why Adam’s nickname is Uncle Sid.  He’s happy to help any well-intentioned winemaker.

And, comparing Adam’s 2012 Cargasacchi vs. Pete’s 2012 Cargasacchi, results in both wines being well liked.  In a small sampling on that Saturday, Pete scored between 90 and 94 and Adam received 92’s and 93’s.  Pete’s wine focused more on raspberry flavors and bouquet, whereas Adam’s had aromas of lavender and lilacs, with tastes ranging from cherry to apple.

Conclusion?  Two great wines together at a great event.  Be sure to make it next year.

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