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My Day at Sanguis

PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 9:55 pm
by Phil_Carpenter
A couple weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Jessica Gasca. Jessica is the Assistant Winemaker at Sanguis WInes and all-around fun person to hangout with. Jessica asked if I would be available to help them with bottling. When I receive invitations like this, I don't take them for granted. It's almost like that Seinfeld episode where Keith Hernandez (ex-Mets first baseman) asked Jerry to help him move. It's a major step in a friendship! A combo of my strict schedule being open and a loving wife allowed me to take advantage of the opportunity.

When it comes to helping a winemaker/assistant winemaker, I take the opportunity seriously. I try to eat a meal beforehand and get myself ready to do some serious work. Let the fun times happen at lunch or at the end of the day. I almost approach it as a job interview. I know...I know...I'm a bit nutty. But I know the winemakers are going to be focused, and so should I. So when Jessica said Matthias wants to start precisely at 8:30am, I made sure to wake up at 4:00am and hit the road with plenty of time. Got some coffee and breakfast on the way and was really always.

Sanguis is located in downtown Santa Barbara and is an absolutely beautiful winery. I wish I had Matthias' eye for decoration and artistry. Everything is organized perfectly. Even the hoses, brooms, utensils all match the Sanguis motif. I could come here just to look at the art...on the walls and on the barrels. Matthias and Jessica name every barrel and put piece of art under the name. Just a beautiful place and vibe.

When I haven't really hung out or worked with a winemaker, I usually mind my P's & Q's and speak when appropriate. Again...I know...I'm a bit freaky but I don't like to assume things! I also know I was here for BOTTLING! This is perhaps the most nerve-wracking point of the winemaking process! Everything a winemaker has worked for is in a tank...that could tip...that could fall...that could leak out of a faulty hose...get knocked over by a wary forklift. And we haven't even talked about the bottling machine, label placement, level of wine on the shoulders...the list goes on. Which is why my grill and chatty mouth might not be healthy right off the bat. Matthias came out to the front and we had a great conversation. But I think both of us wanted to get to work.

Our mission for the day was to get "The Ballad of John Henry" into bottles. The breakdown:

59% Syrah
27% Grenache
14% Cabernet
40 months in barrel

From the following vineyards:

Bien Nacido
Watch Hill
Tres burros

Great sites. All I wanted to do was smell and taste...but I could wait. Matthias had the blend in tank, and gravity fed to his snazzy bottling machine. Three pallets...and some large formats. I've done a lot more in the past. Granted, this time around, it was going to be all done by hand. Matthias set up the stations. The wooden table with wheels was where the bottles are dropped out, shot with argon, then wiped. The bottling machine...left side of the machine (my position for the day) would place the spigot in the empty bottle and rest in the bottle holder as the table rotated around and filled the bottles. Right hand side of the machine put the cork in it. Then there was the box and pallet guy.

Again, I took my job seriously...don't drop the bottles I kept repeating in my head! Make sure the table is clean before the bottles are placed on it...and don't drop any bottles. My job was simple, but I didn't want to mess it up. I attacked it with a serious focus. Although, I kept realizing I was smiling the whole day. As Matthias said, "It can be a zen moment". How can putting empty bottles under a spigot and on a clean rotating table make me so relaxed and happy?! Oh yeah, it related to wine!!

As I said before, I haven't had the opportunity to really talk with Matthias. I've heard he is a really focused guy. It is true, Matthias is focused. Matthias is deliberate and has a routine and method. He wanted things done a certain way at every station. All qualities I think I would have as a winemaker! Matthias' approach with us was more of a teacher. He took his time in showing us how he would like something done, explain why, and usually back it up with a story of how it had gone wrong in the past. When we messed up, and let me tell you, we did...he was patient and never showed a sign of anxiety. I really enjoyed the mood and feel of the work.

We hit our groove. Conversations with Jessica and Matthias were super interesting. Talking about the label, past experiences, stuff outside wine, etc...all great. Just so fun and relaxing. Before we knew it...lunch time!

Matthias' wife Jamie set up the most beautiful lunch. All from the farmers market. We finally had the opportunity to taste, "The Ballad". I smelled it during bottling and it was making my mouth water. Full disclosure...I've had some syrah/cab blends from Australia and other areas in the past and they have kind of tainted my perspective on the blend. This wine...integration was seamless. The cab added a luxurious level to the weight. Sexy stuff...just wait!

We finished the day on the same high note we started with. We were all focused and got things done with some minor gaffes. I can't thank Matthias and Jessica enough for teaching me new techniques and methods. Every detail counts in every step. I think this is Sanguis in a nutshell. Every detail is accounted for and Matthias is already two steps ahead of what is going to happen next.

It was great to get to know Matthias and Jessica more. Really cool to pick their brains and just learn new things. Jessica hosted a tasting towards the end of the day and I was able to get a sip or two of the wines. Truthfully, I was beat...I didn't take notes. But they are coming out with a single vineyard pinot (their first!) and chard (Bien Nacido fruit!!). These were stellar!! We will hear more.

Jessica and Matthias hooked me up with some bottles and thanked me. I told them, "No thank you". Just a really cool day.

If you are interested in trying Sanguis, they are not open to the public but do take visitors by appointment. Send an e-mail to or call 805-845-0920. I strongly suggest you do!

Re: My Day at Sanguis

PostPosted: Wed Feb 29, 2012 12:32 am
by Steve Anderson

Sounds like a loooong day, but a great one. Nice write up! Have a few "older" Sanguis Syrahs (04 Wedding, 04 Last Dance and 05 Optimist). We'll have to crack one together soon.

I noticed they are doing a Sanguis Wine Dinner at 3rd Corner Palm Desert tomorrow (29th). Wish it had been at Encinitas or OB. Would have been all over that!