Native American sparkler from Los Pilares

Taste with me this week in Texas (Dallas, Houston, San Antonio).
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michael christian pilares san diegoIt’s always a treat for me to catch up and taste with Michael Christian (above), founder of Los Pilares in San Diego.

In 2012, the winery made a big splash on the American wine scene when top wine writers like Alice Feiring embraced it as the new voice of Southern Californian viticulture.

Until Michael began making wine in Southern California (where I grew up), consumption was almost entirely local and few bottles shipped beyond San Diego county. Today, Michael’s wines can be found as far north as San Francisco, where competition in the domestic market is fierce.

sparkling wine pilares ladonaWeekend before last, when I was visiting San Diego (my hometown), Michael reached out and asked if I’d like to taste his new wine, a méthode ancestrale made from Muscat Blanc grapes grown on the Rincon Indian Reservation in San Diego County, where the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians live and thrive today.

There is a long tradition of growing Muscat Blanc in this far corner of the U.S. and he wanted to make a wine (a new one in his portfolio), he said, that would be an expression of historical viticulture there.

I liked the wine a lot. It was fresh and bright on the nose, with notes of herbs and dried stone fruit, and in the mouth it had a wonderful and delicate bitterness that offset the ripeness of the citrus notes. He said that some of the clusters had been crushed whole and he ascribed this balance to the fact that not all the fruit was destemmed.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this wine, when released, will become another hit among the Californian wine cognoscenti. The wine will be called Los Pilares LaDona 2013 San Diego County Sparkling Muscat, a homage to local radio personality LaDona Harvey.

(That’s my older brother Tad, btw, in the background of the photo, playing guitar with his jazz quartet, Sounds like 4, at the Café-Bar Europa in Pacific Beach, where Michael and I met. They sounded great.)

pilares grenacheI also liked Michael’s new 2012 red, which is made from 100% Grenache. In that vintage, he had some issues with his Carignan, he said, and so this release is monovarietal.

As with the LaDona, the thing that struck me about this wine was its freshness on the nose. And in the mouth, the wine was vibrantly delicious, with notes of ripe dark red fruit and a wonderful lightness in body that made the wine very food friendly and very “drinkable,” as the Italians like to say.

I thoroughly enjoy Michael’s wines and I love that he’s spearheaded a new wave of Southern Californian viticulture. It’s taken too long for the wave of the “new Californian” wines to take root in San Diego, where a heavy metal approach to winemaking still prevails.

Thanks again, Michael, for the wine and for taking the time to connect.

May you feast on fat things full of marrow and wines on the lees well refined!

6 thoughts on “Native American sparkler from Los Pilares

  1. Great to see you again Jeremy. We have had lots of good luck with our wine. Meeting you has been part of that. Also, when Coleman met Michael of Hunter & Mazzetti Vineyards on the Rincon land, we finally found what we were looking for to make this pétillant naturel of which I am so proud. -m

    p.s. LaDona is a redhead who loves orange wine, so we gave it three days on skins and stems. -m

  2. Jeremy, any idea if these wines are sold in LA? Based on reading the Los Pilares philosophy, your post, and Alice’s review, I’m very intrigued by the potential. I’d love to try them.

    • Hi Geoff

      Amy Atwood Selections carries Los Pilares. Everything is sold out but we are about to release the wine Jeremy tasted. You can get the Grenache right now from the winery. Soon I think Domaine L.A. and others will carry our new release in L.A. -michael (himichael at post dot harvard dot edu)

      • Drank the sparkling Muscat a few ago. It really is lovely with great notes of citrus, ginger, lemon thyme (?) and a wonderful bitterness that really elevates the wine. Looking forward to trying more wines from Los Pilares.

  3. Michael, great to see you, too, as always.

    Geoff, I’m trying to get Michael to come up for dinner at Sotto on May 20 when I visit for the rosati tasting… :)

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