During a recent trip to the Lompoc Ghetto (see story in the Oct/Nov issue of Elite magazine) the first ghetto room owner that I interviewed, with 30 years of experience in the wine business, was Antonio Moretti.
Moretti said that he “moved here for the wine that is produced here,” with a special nod to the western side as it’s more European in style. The “unique flavors that remind me of Europe, a little Burgundy. Each vineyard has its own flavor. It’s not the winemaker, it’s the grapes that are unique in flavor.”
Then I watched and listened as Moretti described each wine, winery, winemaker, appellation…etc., of every wine he poured. The attention to detail, and his obvious passion to the task, were forefront. I could not help but comment that I had not experienced such devotion – to other winemakers – from the people that have poured for me in other winery collective tasting rooms.
As I took diligent notes as Moretti spoke, my own tasting notes were lacking. If Moretti hadn’t been so interesting the case may have been opposite. But I believe you will gain more from his knowledge than my own meager one in comparison. But, as I couldn’t resist, I pulled out one descriptor for every wine I tasted that grabbed me – like an inkblot test and I wrote down the first thing that came to mind.
Tasting Sta. Rita Hills
Moretti Bianchetto, 2011: This is what Moretti drinks at home. He said it was light, dry, crisp and focused; and good with food. The grapes are picked earlier, which allows for the 12 percent alcohol. Moretti likes lower alcohol for two reasons: he can drink it throughout a meal and the wines have brighter acidity because the fruit was not overripe when picked. The bright acidity “keeps the palate clean.” All house wines are low alcohol in Europe, Moretti said, but as Americans want a glass of wine to stand alone there is traditionally more alcohol and less acidity in our wines here. My one descriptor: Lychee.
El Rey Pinot Noir 2011: Susan and Derek McLeish own the winery. It is a small production farm in a micro climate area about a mile from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA border. They only give their Garagiste wines to the tasting room to sell, according to Moretti, whatever they haven’t consumed themselves. They have full bodied fruit from their vineyards, and the cooler nights creates a thicker skinned grape and darker colored wine. My one descriptor: Cinnamon.
Seagrape Pinot Noir, Jump Up Vineyard, 2010: The winery has nothing to do with Buttonwood but Karen Steinwachs, the winemaker at Buttonwood, is the owner and sole winemaker at Seagrape. She used two to three year old barrels and blended grapes from two different vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills. Moretti said the wine was both drinkable and age-able, and a typical example of a Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir. He said that the east AVA area makes a unique Pinot Noir that stands alone, while the western AVA needs food. He added that this Pinot was a good pairing wine; and with duck or boar, the wine blooms. My one descriptor: Cherry.
Ken Brown Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills Cuvee 2010: Moretti said that this wine was good with food and could also stand alone as it was balanced, and grown from the warmer side of Sta. Rita Hills. Brown used 50% Rio Vista fruit (which gives the fruit-forward impact because it is warmer there), and the balance comes from two cooler weather spots – Rancho La Vina and Rita’s Crown. With 2012 Ken will be bottling a single vineyard Pinot Noir from Rita’s Crown,- and Moretti suggests we try that. My one descriptor: Cherry.
Kessler-Haak Syrah, Lafond Vineyard 2010: Moretti said that they purchased the fruit from Lafond. As this one had higher acidity Moretti sent his assistant out to bring us back some Italian salami to try with it. The salami “reduces acid and the flavor pops” Moretti said. It would be good with BBQ or steak. A north Rhone style grape grown in cooler weather, again producing thicker skin and more pigmentation. My one descriptor: Red fruit.
Cebada, Forbidden Fruit Libation: Cebada is a farm (Forbidden Fruit Orchards) in a unique micro-climate, and grows berries, bananas, guava, kiwi, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Moretti finds owner Sandra Newman’s port-style blueberry wine interesting winemaking – as it tastes like port. She aged the berries in French barrels, adds sugar and brandy (making it fortified) but no grapes. I thought this one required a longer one descriptor: needs-a-pancake.
Gypsy Canyon, Ancient Vine Angelica, Marcelina’s Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills: This is a fortified dessert wine, and according to Moretti it’s between a Madeira and a Sauterne. He suggested that we pair it with cheese. The Franciscans in the San Gabriel Mission began making this wine in 1771. My one descriptor: Intense.
Taste of Sta. Rita Hills* is a wine tasting room and retail store located in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto owned by Antonio Moretti and dedicated to representing local producers who do not have tasting rooms regularly open to the public: The current list of wineries they represent are: Clos Pepe, Seasmoke, Brewer-Clifton, Gypsy Canyon, El Rey, Thorne, Ken Brown, Walt, Seagrape, Ryan Cochrane, Cebada Forbidden Fruit, Dolina, Kessler-Haak, Rarus, Kita’ and Moretti.
And when you are there, make a point of visiting with Moretti’s wife, Jeni, at the Moretti Wines’ tasting room a ghetto-block away. “At Moretti, we are dedicated to producing well-balanced, food-friendly wines in a European tradition.”
(*Editor’s note: The abbreviation of Santa Rita Hills into Sta. Rita Hills is the accepted title of the AVA.)