We are proud to announce a wonderful addition to our California portfolio, welcoming the wines of Melville of the Sta. Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County.

Adding a winery to our portfolio is not something we do casually. It has to fit a niche for us, in terms of style, price, reputation, availability, etc. Most importantly, however, the wine has to be delicious, and on that question Melville hits a grand slam.

Santa Barbara wine country, and the Sta Rita Hills in particular, is a place misunderstood by many. So before we get into the deliciousness of Melville, let’s do a little geography lesson.

When you look at the coastal wine regions of California, from north to south you go from Sonoma to Santa Cruz to Monterey to Paso Robles to, finally, Santa Barbara. It’s logical to think that the further south you go, the hotter it should get. But that is not entirely true and it’s definitely not that simple.

The irony is that parts of Santa Barbara (and the Sta Rita Hills in particular) are some of the coolest temperature wine growing regions in the state of California. Why is this? It’s because the weather patterns that bring cool air and fog to San Francisco are the same patterns that spin down the coast all the way to the Santa Barbara region.

Important to note: When we talk about the Santa Barbara wine region it’s a completely different place than the city of Santa Barbara.

The coast of the city of Santa Barbara, looking east. To the north, the Santa Ynez mountain range separates the temperate climate of the south from the rugged, cold, wine country climate to the north.

The coast of the city of Santa Barbara, looking east. The Santa Ynez mountain range separates the temperate climate of the south from the rugged, cold, wine country climate to the north.

As the map below shows, Santa Barbara the city is facing due south, and is on the southern side of the mountain range. The Santa Barbara wine region is to the north, on the other side of the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Map from sbcountywines.com

Map from sbcountywines.com

The weather systems that hit the city of Santa Barbara are the same that affect Los Angeles and Baja Mexico (in other words, temperate sun all year long). However, once you go around Point Conception, everything changes. The water temperature drops. The fog rolls in. The waves are bigger. A chill is in the air. Just as in the Russian River Valley, cold air over the ocean gets sucked over the vineyards on a nightly basis, but the air here is even colder than San Francisco.

Which brings us to the Sta. Rita Hills* and Melville winery. If there is a particular point of weather extremes, it’s this region located between Lompoc and Buellton. Need proof? On a summer afternoon start in the city of Santa Ynez, where the temperature might be close to 100 degrees (which explains the plantings of Syrah and Grenache in this area), and start driving west. For every mile you drive, the temperature will drop by one degree. Over the course of a 40 mile drive, you’ll go from 100 degrees to 60, or 80 down to 40!

Smack in the north-central part of the Sta. Rita Hills sits the Melville estate, perfectly positioned to take advantage of this diurnal temperature swing.

* Regarding the name “Sta. Rita Hills”: when the AVA was first formed, it was called “Santa Rita Hills” but the Santa Rita winery in Chile didn’t like that. Thinking it would confuse consumers, they forced a change in the appellation name. Hence it’s still called “Santa Rita Hills” but the correct way to print the name is “Sta. Rita Hills.”

Here’s what you should know about Melville. What sets them apart.

The Melville family are farmers. Their history in the wine world started in the Knight’s Valley of Sonoma, where Ron Melville planted his first vines and quickly developed a reputation as one of the best at what he does. However, a love of Burgundy brought them to cooler climates and eventually to a patch of land east of Lompoc in the Sta. Rita Hills to plant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

“We are growers. We are not winemakers. That’s why our partnership with Greg Brewer is so important,” says Ron’s son Chad Melville. “We know how to work the land and bring Greg the best grapes. Greg knows how to coax the expression of land from those grapes. We work perfectly together.”

This balance and respect between farmers and winemakers is assumed throughout the wine world, but rarely do a pair dance together as beautifully as the Melville family and Greg Brewer.

Greg Brewer is a fascinating fellow. Originally a French language instructor, he approaches winemaking from angles and directions that show his distinctive mindset. For instance, no new oak is used in the Melville wines. Where does that woody tannin come from? The stems. By harvesting a portion of the vineyard late, when the stem wood is dried, and adding the whole cluster to the tank the natural release of tannins happen. “The meat is sweetest closer to the bone” is what Brewer is fond of saying.

As told by Los Angeles times in a great profile:

Brewer likes to compare the collection of wines that go into the estate wine blend to an orchestra. He calls the bright, high-toned wines picked earlier in the six-week harvest and wines from sandy soils the piccolos, while richer, more curvaceous Pinots picked later or from primarily clay soils play the part of the violin or maybe the cello sections.

Some winemakers taste through every barrel, make sample blends and then put their final blend together. Brewer’s strategy at Melville is a little different.

“We essentially craft the blend over a six-week period during the harvest,” he told me. “At the start, we’ll be picking early-season fruit that’s lighter, brighter and with a higher acidity.” That’s his piccolos. As the harvest progresses, he says, “different blocks and clones and soils and picking parameters offer grapes with more weight and more bass notes.”

What results in the top quality fruit grown by the Melville family combined with the winemaking detail of Greg Brewer are wines of incredible distinction and amazingly high quality. Every person we pour them for is impressed.

WHERE TO FIND THE WINES OF MELVILLE
Locations are listed alphabetically by city. Be sure to call ahead to confirm availability.
The coveted single vineyard selections are occasionally available. Contact us for more information.

Melville Estate Chardonnay

Edina Country Club
Edina
(952) 927-7151

T-box Bar & Grill
Ham Lake
(763) 413-9950

The Wine Market
Mendota Heights
(651) 452-9463

Nighthawks
Minneapolis
(612) 618-5909

Capital Grille
Minneapolis
(612) 692-9000

North Loop Wine & Spirits
Minneapolis
(612) 338-5393

France 44
Minneapolis
(612) 925-3252

Bridgeview Liquors
Moorhead
(218) 477-6162

Brightwines.com
North St Paul
(651) 748-0793

Tessa's Office
Rochester
(507) 226-7763

Thomas Liquor
St Paul
(651) 699-1860

W.a. Frost
St Paul
(651) 224-5715

****

Melville Estate Pinot Noir

The Beanery Internet Cafe
Aitkin
(218) 927-7811

Tournament Liquor - Blaine
Blaine
(763) 786-4992

Mgm - West Bloomington
Bloomington
(952) 888-9421

Haskell's - Chanhassen
Chanhassen
(952) 345-1115

Spanky's Stone Hearth
Frazee
(218) 334-3555

High Spirits Liquor
Mankato
(507) 625-5347

The Wine Market
Mendota Heights
(651) 452-9463

Red Cow - 50th St
Minneapolis
(612) 767-4411

Toast Wine Bar & Cafe
Minneapolis
(612) 333-4305

Owner Zelo
Minneapolis
(612) 333-7000

Red Cow - North Loop
Minneapolis
(612) 238-0050

Lake Wine & Cheese
Minneapolis
(612) 242-0073

North Loop Wine & Spirits
Minneapolis
(612) 338-5393

France 44
Minneapolis
(612) 925-3252

Campus Club - U Of Mn
Minneapolis
(612) 624-9136

Spirits Of Nisswa
Nisswa
(218) 963-7488

Mgm - North Mankato
North Mankato
(507) 387-2634

Winestreet Spirit-north Oak
North Oaks
(651) 483-1767

Brightwines.com
North St Paul
(651) 748-0793

Joan's In The Park
St Paul
(651) 690-3297

Thomas Liquor
St Paul
(651) 699-1860

Scusi
St Paul
(651) 789-7007

Haskell's - St Paul
St Paul
(651) 698-8844

Red Cow - Stp
St Paul
(651) 489-0554

Gianni's
Wayzata
(952) 404-1100

****

Melville Estate Syrah

Noel's Bottle Shop
Bemidji
(218) 444-9864

Top Ten Liquors - Blaine
Blaine
(763) 754-3231

Jw Marriott Minneapolis Moa
Bloomington
(612) 615-0100

T-box Bar & Grill
Ham Lake
(763) 413-9950

North Loop Wine & Spirits
Minneapolis
(612) 338-5393

France 44
Minneapolis
(612) 925-3252

Alma Restaurant
Minneapolis
(612) 379-4909

Toast Wine Bar & Cafe
Minneapolis
(612) 333-4305

Capital Grille
Minneapolis
(612) 692-9000

Bridgeview Liquors
Moorhead
(218) 477-6162

Brightwines.com
North St Paul
(651) 748-0793

Travail
Robbinsdale
(612) 669-5231

The Commodore
St Paul
(651) 330-5999

Thomas Liquor
St Paul
(651) 699-1860

Gianni's
Wayzata
(952) 404-1100

 

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