Oh what a treat! I forgot how entertaining winemaker Mark Cargasacchi was! And of course, what a great winemaker he is! It had been a few years since I visited the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, aka the Lompoc Wine Trail, and when I found a photo in my Facebook memories of me at the ghetto, at Jalama wines, I re-shared it. That’s when I knew that I was way overdue for a visit. So overdue in fact that I had to learn that Mark had moved their tasting room to Palm Springs, though currently closed due to Covid. Mark often comes to Lompoc, as that is still where the winery is, so I got my foot in the door during one of his visits.
The move to the desert proved to be quite profitable for Mark, he said he had his best sales there in 2019. He sold out of all of his library wines, from 2004 through 2015, as well as his current 2016 vintages of both his Syrah and El Capitan “signature blend” and most of his 2017s! He did find a few wines to share with us, so there should be a few for you too, even better if you are a wine club member.
We caught up on some local gossip during our tasting, always fun, and heard all about his new spot in the desert. We were very happy to hear how well he is doing there and can’t wait to visit when the weather, and Covid, cools off. And by the time that happens we can try his wines again. Note: All of Mark’s wines have had no new oak since 2015. So if you use the word “oaky” as a descriptor in talking about any of his wines from 2015 on he will snort, or giggle, as it’s simply not there.
We started with a barrel sample of Mark’s Grenache/Roussanne Blanc. It had spent time in stainless steel and neutral oak barrels, with four to five more months to go before he bottles (what Mark refers to as “a second winter”) before he will release the wine. It is also unfiltered and unfined. We thought it was super fresh, good fruit.
Next up was his 2017 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills. We found it earthy as Mark had described, also with notes of dried black cherry and meaty plum. Then we sampled a 2016 Grenache with 13.5% alcohol, he had just released the wine six months before. We found it bright, smokey, rich and some of those earthy qualities again.
The 2016 Refugio blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah was very nice, with rich and spicy bold blue fruit. A “not so petite” 2016 Petite Sirah was a big wow for me, my favorite in the tasting. Wine Enthusiast awarded it as the Editor’s Choice and 91 points, I would give this wine with a bold 15% alcohol more. Plenty of big, dark and dry black fruit, peppery and balanced.
For a finisher Mark brought out his latest wines, 2018 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Both needed “another winter”, six to eight months or so, in bottle before he will release, but we could tell they would be worth the wait. The Merlot had outstanding blue to black fruit; rich, layered, spice, smokey and very aromatic. The Cab was bright now, but again, had that good fruit and earthy qualities we kept finding in the Jalama wines.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.