Twenty Five Reasons
Image from Kevin Kelley’s Natural Process Alliance
After years of playing around with base wines and trial fermentation, Kevin Kelley of Salinia Wine Company has just released Twenty Five Reasons, a skin-fermented, organic Petillant Naturel. “It comes from a love of the wine,” said Kevin, “I’ve always preferred Petillant because you can smell and taste the wine. They go really well with food; most of what I drink is sparkling…and we’ve always made small batches for ourselves.”
And though a lot of other wineries will produce a small batch of sparkling wine during harvest for themselves, Kevin Kelley is one of very few in the world to make a skin-fermented sparkling wine, and the second vintner in California to release a Petillant to the public. For six months, he and Louisa Smith, the assistant winemaker, “made many trial wines trying to find our favorite ones, and as an exercise to see how skin fermented wines do as sparkling wine,” said Kevin, “it was a completely new learning experience for us, getting the balance just right.”
“There are a few other wineries I know who are making small amounts,” he added, “but it’s risky to make these wines if it isn’t done right. The dangerous part about this is to make sure that everything is done right and on target.” For if one doesn’t strike a balance he is stuck with “sweet, still wine in expensive bottles”; or even worse with bottles that explode all over the cellar.
Last year, Kelley made a small batch of Petillant Natural that was mostly Chardonnay; this year, he produced 480 cases that are 100% Sauvignon Blanc with no added yeasts, no sulfur or sugar. With 85% from the 2011 vintage, 5% from reserve barrels of 2009 and 2010, and 10% from the still fermenting 2012 vintage to help complete the second fermentation in the bottle, this is not a wine that can be replicated. “Given the season and what we had,” he said, “making a Petillant like this is all about timing. We went through many renditions where we had Pinot Gris and Chardonnay” in the mix, before they finally decided to commit to this particular blend.
This particular vintage is made with fruit from a 5-acre parcel of 42-43 year old Sauvignon Blanc vines in Redwood Valley, Menocino. Farmed organically since day one, the current owner of the property purchased it 20 years ago and has maintained its original state, “The way things used to be done,” said Kevin, with a walnut tree at one end of the vineyard and on the other, an old redwood.
Old Vine Sauvignon Blanc, by Louisa Smith
And because his Petillant Natural is made at the hands of nature, Kelley isn’t yet sure what next year will bring. All the more reason (#26!) to acquire, while the getting’s still good.
Twenty Five Reasons was just voted one of Serious Eats’ “The Best Drinks We Drank in December” and we’re taking the liberty to extend it into the month of January.