When it comes to crafting a name of a wine, the process and thought behind it are not to be taken lightly. This is what identifies the winery, the wine, the land, and the persona of the brand. At Melville, the thoughtful actions we take throughout our winegrowing process don’t stop in the cellar—we place just as much importance on the naming of our wines. Our Pinot Noir – Sandy’s Block is named after my aunt, my favorite aunt, my only aunt, and my dad’s only sibling. She happens to be one of the greatest humans on Earth, and it’s an honor to grow our wine in this special, challenging, and highly rewarding patch of land that produces our distinct and compelling Sandy’s Pinot Noir.
This area of the vineyard was originally planted to Syrah in 1998, but in 2005 the decision was made to add more Pinot Noir to our portfolio. Instead of replanting, we grafted four clones of Pinot Noir. A clone is a 100% replica of its parent. Whether isolated for its aromas, structure, early-ripening, cold resistance, or other properties, it’s extremely predictable and allows for a tremendous amount of distinction and diversity in the expression of a varietal. Three of these clones were new to us; 459 which came from Seasmoke Vineyard, 828, which came from Merry Edwards’ Archery Summit vineyard in Oregon, and Calera, from Josh Jensen (former owner of Calera Winery), rumored to have been brought back by Josh in his suitcase from La Tȃche vineyard in Vosne-Romaneé. The fourth is 114, which is also found in Anna’s Block and Block M.
When working with many different clones and unique soils you’re bound to create a beautifully complex wine. Farming in sand is a complicated challenge, offering low nutrients and water holding abilities, but this dramatic setting ultimately yields healthy vines that produce small amounts of intense fruit. There is no shortage of aromas or textures in the Pinot Noir coming from this truly special block. On the nose, you can expect dried roses and white pepper, and once it hits your palate, you’ll experience an incredible variety of fruits ranging from pomegranate to delicious candied tangerine peel. The finish is complemented by fine tannins, a backbone of acid, and a lift of minerality to complete your experience. Ultimately, these clones work in harmony to make the wines dynamic and complete.
Much like the namesake of this portion of our estate, we believe in the beauty of the complexity that defines our small lot productions. We value our ability to honor the woman that has had such an impact on me, my family, and our winery. A name says a lot, and our wines have a lot to say.
Sandy’s Block continues to perform heroically year after year, producing an elegant and complex Pinot Noir despite its harsh conditions. It’s both humbling and gratifying when our wines receive noteworthy scores, and our newly released 2019 Estate Pinot Noir – Sandy’s Block was awarded 97 points from Wine Enthusiast. Be sure to snag this special bottling and share your thoughts with us!
On a spring day just over 50 years ago, people just like you and me took to the streets to fight for a healthy, sustainable environment. We now know this day in history, April 22nd, as Earth Day. Every year, millions of people across the globe take a moment out of the hustle and bustle of life to acknowledge the little things they can do to join in the fight for this future.
At Melville, our goal is to live every day like it’s Earth Day. One day just isn’t enough. There’s a lot of work to do but, luckily, we’re all in this together. Let us explain how we make all of our decisions to repay Mother Nature for the beauty she surrounds us with, the fruit she enables us to grow, and above all, leaving people and places better than we found them.
In the Vineyard
No one on this earth can go a single day without impacting the world around them. The good news is, we get to choose the type of impact we want to have. Nearly three decades ago, my dad and I made the decision to be a 100% estate winery, meaning we work exclusively with fruit from vineyards we own and tend to ourselves, in addition to controlling all aspects of making and selling our wine. Our ultimate goal is to nurture the land, vines, and fruit to maintain the purest forms of each possible. At the time of harvest, we consider the wine to already be made and strive not to interfere with its natural path. The entire team at Melville is committed to growing the highest quality fruit possible, and this notion is at the core of every decision we make. The Sta. Rita Hills appellation may give us the magical environment we use to grow our fruit, but the rest is up to us.
From Ground to Glass
I work closely with our full-time vineyard crew, who thankfully knows our land nearly as well as I do, to observe Mother Nature and care for the vineyard in a way that respects her cues. We are honored to lean on soil scientist Stan Kadota for his expertise in soil and plant nutrition. Since 2000, Stan has enlightened us on the benefits of focusing on soil fertility and plant health, with the goal of creating a healthy culture in the vineyard through a systematic approach. By viewing the soil as a living substance and taking careful consideration of what we put into the soil and how this impacts the soil-plant relationship, we are able to produce clean, nutritious fruit. As easy as this approach may sound, it’s an incredible responsibility as a farmer. In Stan’s words: “Saying we use a systematic approach sounds simple and speaks of an “of course” thinking, but the actual practice takes a lot of work on a daily basis and commitment of resources. We work on the schedule of Mother Nature, not the schedule we wish to make. Melville has made that commitment from Chad and Ron on down to the tractor driver on a seasonal as well as a continuing basis.” By ditching the conventional route and treating Mother Nature with the care and respect she deserves, we are rewarded with pure, high-quality fruit, which in turn allows us to make pure, high-quality wine.
For us, “living every day like Earth Day” isn’t just a vineyard or winery philosophy, it’s a life philosophy. We understand that every day we have a choice. A choice to make conscious moves in our vineyard and in our daily lives, to learn from our mistakes, and to strive to be better than we were yesterday. We can’t promise that we’ll be perfect, but we can promise that we’ll try, and we hope you will try too. I mean, look how Mother Nature repays us when we do our part? The evidence is all around us.
At the end of the day, we’re proud of the choices we make as farmers, so you, as consumers, can feel good about what’s in your glass. So drink up, friends!
-Chad Melville (Co-Founder & Head Winegrower)
The phrase “Rosé all day” may feel like a trend to some, but it’s a lifestyle to many. So much so that practically every winery in California feels compelled to produce Rosé with many different varietals, in diverse environments, and with a number of intentions. One would think it must be pretty hard to set yourself apart in a sea of California Rosés, and while we don’t disagree, we do know that ours is something special. More often than not, Rosé is an afterthought or a byproduct. Ours, on the other hand, is the result of a series of careful, thoughtful, and deliberate actions…it all starts with intent.
Intention From The Beginning
The French word saignée (translation “to bleed”) describes one of the most common methods that winemakers use to make Rosé. In this process, winemakers bleed off up to 8-12% of red wine juice after it’s been in contact with the pomace (skins, etc.). Considered a byproduct of red winemaking, saignée’s primary function is to increase the concentration of red wines by reducing liquid from solids (think reduction sauce) and the byproduct provides the opportunity to produce a Rosé. Roughly 90% of Rosé is made in this style. We prefer to do things differently.
Our Rosé production starts in the vineyard. By selecting specific clones (459 and Pommard), using specific pruning techniques and canopy management, our Rosé is grown before it’s made. Fast forward to harvest, we load whole clusters into the press, spin them, and then let soak on the skins for two hours (hello beautiful color!) before pressing to produce a Rosé that is wildly fresh, clean, complex, and beautiful. Nine years later, these continue to be the hallmarks of our Rosé, and we continue to produce extremely limited amounts with the same focused intention.
We will be releasing our 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir, on Saturday, April 3rd (4-3-2-1!) Whether you’ve enjoyed past vintages or if you have yet to experience our Rosé, this is the perfect opportunity! Just don’t think about it too long … this summer sipper will be gone before you know it! Don’t miss out on the ultimate wine to pair with sunshine and good times.
If you’re lucky enough to snag yourself a bottle (or six+ for $1 shipping/10% off a case) then be sure to share it on Facebook or Instagram with #melvillemoments. We would love to see what you’re getting yourself into with our Rosé in the coming seasons!
And remember, a lot of beautiful things can happen with time. All that has to be there is the intention.
-Chad Melville (Co-Founder & Head Wine Grower)
Most of us woke up to the world of chemistry in high school when our teachers introduced us to the periodic table. Whether we had a love or hate relationship with the subject, we cannot deny that chemistry, while combining mathematics, physics, biology, and environmental sciences, allows us to gain insight into some of the world’s most intriguing phenomena. The phenomena we’re particularly interested in? Winegrowing, of course. Beyond understanding that acidity and pH levels have an inverse relationship, chemistry teaches us meaningful lessons like how to be objective, how to reason, and how to problem-solve. These basic principles of science lay the structure for our winegrowing process, but what sets us apart is our ability to let our wine have its own voice. Science may advise us, but art and intuition guide us. Let us explain how we apply this to our Chardonnay…
Just 40 years ago, finding Chardonnay in a vineyard was extremely uncommon, especially in California. In the 80s, quite unexpectedly, there was a Chardonnay boom. This boom led us to where we are today – Chardonnay is the single most widely farmed varietal in the world. With such an abundance of this grape in California, we saw that Chardonnay became less exciting to wine lovers. Our relentless curiosity caused us to see this as an opportunity. We wanted to re-excite people about the varietal and awaken their senses by producing a Chardonnay that sets itself apart from the average flavors and textures. So with our magical climate and piece of land, that’s just what we did. Who would have thought that receiving the brunt of brutally cold ocean winds and growing in nutrient-deficient, well-drained soils for a longer-then-average growth season is the secret to making kick-ass Chardonnay?
Your typical Chardonnay blocks are found in wine regions on the warm or hot side, usually region (based on degree days) 2, 3, or 4. In the hills of Sta. Rita, just off the coast of the Pacific Ocean, ours are planted in a region 1 climate (due to the cold, some vintages don’t even qualify as such). Because we’re growing this varietal in such an uncomfortably cold climate, our process differs with a longer-than-average growth season and early bud break in a cold and sunny environment (think “refrigerated sunlight”). Our crew is out at midnight picking grapes off the vine while they’re still cold, stable, crisp, and fresh. Since we’re picking our Chardonnay in the middle of October, we’re getting ripe just in time and letting it hang out longer to decrease the acidity naturally. Once in the cellar, we’re not manipulating our wine and we’re removing oak from the equation so the purity is present. When Mother Nature throws us an obstacle, we reason, we adapt, and we solve these problems as they come. Chemistry 101, right?
With such struggles that come from our process, someone could easily argue that we have the wrong varietal planted in this climate (I mean, have you ever heard of a Chardonnay having too much acidity in its purest form?) We, on the other hand, know that there is something magical about this area and its production of cold-climate Chardonnay (think Chablis and Meursault).
Our basic understanding of chemistry, our aggressive farming methods, and our surrender of control to Mother Nature produce cold-climate Chardonnay with unique qualities. In terms of flavor, our descriptors don’t consist of the ones you’re used to; we’re throwing around words like minerality, salty, savory, oceanic, white flowers, citrus, and lime blossoms. When it comes to texture, a sip of a Melville Chardonnay will never just “sit” in your mouth. It’s alive with electric tension and concentrated fruit flavors that leave a feeling of depth across your palate. We’re not the only ones who believe in the magic that comes from the Sta. Rita Hills region. Wine critic Antonio Gallonio claims that this region is capable of yielding world-class Chardonnay, and experts around the globe are following suit. We have the wine scores to prove it. Our highly-acclaimed vintages always sell out and our latest release, the 2018 Estate Chardonnay, will be no different. With just under 1,100 cases produced, it was rated 93 points by Jeb Dunnuck, 93 points by Antonio Galloni, and 92 points by The Wine Advocate. You can say we’re not surprised it’s selling so quickly, and you’ll want to try it for yourself before it’s gone. If you don’t consider yourself a “Chardonnay person”, then we dare you to try it. You won’t be disappointed. And, if you’ve already joined our journey of making Chardonnay exciting again, you’re in luck! Our 2020 Inox Chardonnay is being released in April and this bottling takes cold-climate Chardonnay to the next level.
Remember, amazing things can happen when you let go of the rulebook. And don’t forget to tell the young people to pay attention in chemistry class.
-Chad Melville (Co-Founder & Head Winegrower)
As the saying goes, “with great risk comes great reward.” We’ve all heard it – but to most, it’s simply an overlooked cliché. To us, it’s much more than that. It’s the foundation on which we have built our winegrowing philosophy and the idea that, even after three decades of farming, drives every decision we make. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
If you know Melville, you probably know we do things a bit differently around here – we surrender control. This is something we as humans have trouble doing, but it’s an essential part of our winegrowing process. We don’t hide from Mother Nature, we rely on her. We make sure that we’re involved in every step of the process so that we can take risks that others wouldn’t dream of taking. The difference is apparent in all of our wines, but especially in our Syrah. As opposed to most varieties, Syrah can be planted and grown in a wide range of climates, almost anywhere in the world. Differences in soil quality, the slope of the vineyard, and climate result in Syrahs with differing aromas, flavors, and textures. So, you might wonder, how can you make Syrah unique when you start with a fruit that can be grown in any climate, in any soil around the world? For us the answer is simple: you take a risk.
In the heart of Sta. Rita Hills, occasionally under a layer of fog, our vineyards rest just off the coast of the Pacific Ocean. With a handful of Syrah clones, a few different soil types, and a wind-whipped climate, we’ve witnessed that something magical happens when you live life on the edge. Or as we like to say, plant on the edge. We planted our vines in a cold-climate with shifty soil, and farm aggressively during a longer than average growing season. Our vines awaken from their winter dormancy in late February, and we don’t harvest until mid-November. In any given year, we’re taking 40-50% of the fruit on the vine and dropping it on the ground. This is something that may seem like a waste to most winemakers, but to us, it’s how we ensure the highest quality grapes will make it to harvest. We lean into the idea that a number of things can go wrong in this process, instead of running from it. The reward? Some kick-ass Syrah.
Anyone who has tried cold-climate Syrah from Sta. Rita Hills will tell you that it’s something special. Farming aggressively, yet carefully, helps encourage our vines to produce small amounts of intensely concentrated fruit. Our climate, different soil types, clones, and farming methods produce a unique Syrah with exhilarating aromas, beautiful weight, and mouthwatering acidity. You don’t have to take our word for it, though. Our 2018 Donna’s Syrah was named to Wine & Spirits’ top 100 wines, is highly rated by the experts, and adored by the masses. If you love our 2018 Donna’s Syrah, we’re sure you’ll love Donna’s younger sister, our newest release: the 2018 Estate Syrah. Given the same attention and love as our Donna’s Syrah, this affordable, highly anticipated bottle was featured on Jeb Dunnuck’s Top 100 Wines of 2020 out of the thousands of wines tasted across the globe. Matt Kettmann, of the Wine Enthusiast, describes this wine as having notes of crumbled lilac, dark-black plum, and snappy red-currant aromas. There’s a wild zest to the palate, where the peppery spice plays well with black-raspberry, lavender, and rosemary flavors.
The greatest rewards in life are the result of the greatest risks. So, what are you waiting for? If we can take a chance every day in our vineyards, you can take a chance on our 2018 Estate Syrah, and at this price point, you have nothing to lose.
And remember, if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.
-Chad Melville (co-founder & head winegrower)