“…she took her hand and raised her brush. For a moment it stayed trembling in a painful but exciting ecstasy in the air. Where to begin?–that was the question at what point to make the first mark? One line placed on the canvas committed her to innumerable risks, to frequent and irrevocable decisions… Still the risk must run; the mark made.”
Virginia Woolfe

“Every artist makes herself born. It is very much harder than the other time, and longer.”
Willa Cather

I arrived at a vineyard in Paso Robles on something of a lark after fleeing Toronto’s hustle and sleet. I had nothing but a crazy dog, a tiny camper and a few changes of clothes, and I couldn’t have been more delighted. I came following a light I’ve chased my whole life, but never thought I’d see so close. I’ve chased that light across North and South America, always grasping, nearly catching hold and watching it dart past. I don’t know what it is, I hope I never do, I would hate to get old and boring, but I am certain that it’s something in wine and I just have to get a closer look. In my wild chase, I’ve been everything I could for wine: importer, broker, retailer, cellar rat, harvester, vintner. The moment I set foot in that Paso vineyard, I knew I was closer than I had ever been, I just had to stay and explore.

That was years ago now, and my journey has begun a new chapter. My life working, loving and living in wine has brought me closer day by day to knowing exactly what the hell I’ve been after for so long. Honestly, I hope I never rest, I hope that by living in pursuit I coax that light to run along side me.

“If a woman does not keep pace with her companions, perhaps it is because she hears a different drummer. Let her step to the music which she hears, however measured or far away.”
Henry David Thoreau (adapted)

It is no accident that Desparada came into being in the Central Coast. Here my hand isn’t forced into any particular style, I’m free to play, to discover and push toward new horizons. I’m an explorer by nature, I can’t escape that, and my wines are the milestones in my journey. Working in a place so young, there is an unavoidable temptation to use the guideposts left by regions like Pauillac, Chateauneuf or Montalcino. This is a place as singular as those, but we’re still plotting our trail, and I would hate to lose the lure of the unknown by relying on old maps. That’s why the wines of Desparada are guided more by spirit than style. Each wine stands for a particular vision, and in each vintage I use new knowledge, varietals and vineyards to bring that vision into sharper focus. I am a stranger in this wild and strange land, chasing something far-off and faint, but am sure-footed and ready for the chase.

 

Wines Released in FALL

Wayfinder

Wayfinder is a beacon that has drawn me in. I made her in 2012 as a one off, but ultimately she was too intriguing to not pursue. I never wanted to get into the Chard game, Wayfinder is a swerve. Though as they say “The straight line is a godless line”....

  • v. 2015

    Varietal: 100% Chardonnay
    Appellation: Santa Maria Valley
    Aging: 100% New French Oak
    Vineyard: Bien Nacido
    Alc: 15.6%
    157 cases produced

    TASTING NOTES

    The sun-dense beach is brilliant at sunset. There is a glass of ice water with lemon on the windowsill and a sharp breeze teasing the ocean. On the side table: crisp pear cookies on a plate and a Newcomb vase heavy with June’s flowers: honeysuckle, plumeria, orchids and cherry blossoms. It will be over so soon. Then back inland, to fall.

Purist

In many ways, Purist was the inspiration that launched Desparada. I have always wanted to marry classicism and the bombastic new, and I feel the Purist does that best. If Desparada has a thesis, then it is somewhere in this wine.

  • v. 2014

    Varietal: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
    Appellation: California
    Aging: 60% New French Oak
    Vineyards: TTT, Chelle Mountain, Grimm and Star Lane
    Alc: 16.4%
    120 cases produced

    TASTING NOTES

    It’s the way velvet makes shadows feel comfortable. It’s the snap of pink-peppercorn on a cherry red sunburned shoulder. It’s the plum in a cold Dr. Pepper. It’s the weight of asphalt and huckleberry bundt cake in the pre-rain air. It’s the way that charred poblano peppers and cedar mix seamlessly into summer. It’s the flesh and juice of sweet pressed blueberries. It’s the wafted pipe smoke from a passing old man. It’s all that and forever. I wish you were here.

Suitor

New wine, description coming soon.

  • v. 2014

    Varietals: 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 4% Syrah
    Appellation: California
    Aging: 50% New French Oak
    Vineyards: Pine Hawk, Star Lane, Two Wolves, Rancho Real, White Cliffs and TTT
    Alc: 15.5%
    450 cases produced

    TASTING NOTES

    The train across the continent took a year off her life. She had arrived in New York from Paris with expensive spiced cigarettes, Iraqi dates, alpine currants and calf leather luggage. A lifetime later, here she is breaking through august chaparral and sage, felling white fir and resting her heart on the whiskered curves of cypress. This is her life on the edge of the earth, born from a young book a world away.

Soothsayer

New wine, description coming soon.

  • v. 2014

    Varietals: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Nebbiolo
    Appellation: Paso Robles
    Aging: 10% New French Oak
    Vineyards: Pine Hawk and Luna Matta
    Alc: 15.7%
    96 cases produced

    TASTING NOTES

    Above the heavy breath of the jungle it is Christmas. Ancient leather bowls of frothed Oaxacan chocolate are passed between scoops of mountain berries and swigs of rare kirsch. Bells ring, the fog lifts, the early sky is illuminated in stars. The feast ensues: fire roasted peppers, charred sweet pork with sumac and herbed heavy cream. Tonight, even the stones are dancing.

Dione.4.b5?!

New wine, description coming soon.

  • v. 2014

    Varietal: 100% Nebbiolo
    Appellation: Paso Robles
    Aging: Fermented in 800L Amphorae, aged in used 228L bbl
    Vineyard: Luna Matta
    Alc: 15.7%
    57 cases produced

    TASTING NOTES

    What if it all were real? The nameless berries of the moon, the Caliph’s cherry orchard, the homeless stars, Rousseau’s plump jungles, Enki’s eaten flowers, the incense heavy air surrounding Scheherazade, the solitary rose of asteroid B-612 pining for her prince?

Death & Resurrection

The Death and Resurrection series is reserved for those rare wines that must be buried for long periods of time before they reach their full promise. The wines in this series are the most extraordinary and longest living wines in my cellar.

  • v. 2014 - Sangiovese

    Varietal: 100% Sangiovese
    Appellation: Santa Barbara County
    Aging: 100% used barrels
    Vineyard: White Hawk
    Alc: 16.1%
    120 cases produced

    TASTING NOTES

    From the black walnut banister to the vanilla white floors to the cherrywood portico to the passed platters of Leonard’s dry rubbed ribs and the gentlefolk jostling for juleps on the veranda, you can be sure this place is haunted. At midnight the house is soaked in secret cigars, Italian espresso, polished side-by-side Purdey’s and felt-muffled footsteps. When the moon is full, a silver Rolls Royce draws rich wake in the black soil of the lawn.

Wines Released in SPRING

Fragment

Fragment is dedication to the first spark of inspiration. That sudden moment of insight when the whole world recenters and you realize that this is the path that you’ve been after for so long. The wine gets its name from the shard-like quality of these moments: it is precise, whole unto itself yet points toward a larger unity.

  • v. 2015

    Varietals: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
    Appellation: Santa Barbara County
    Aging: 43% Neutral French Oak
    27% Stainless
    15% New Acacia
    and 15% Amphora
    Vineyards: McGinley, Presquile and Vogelzang
    Alc: 14.9%
    744 cases produced

    TASTING NOTES

    You made it through to the bluffs over the beach. There were no guards. There is a tiny impossible garden here overgrown with jasmine, lemon verbena, woodsorrel and a blooming pear tree. You had no idea what to expect when you climbed through the fence of Red Gate Farm, but the seersucker clouds are perfect with your pilfered Tieguanyin tea, young plums and chiffon cake.

  • v. 2014

    Varietals: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
    Appellation: Santa Barbara County
    Aging: 53% Neutral French Oak
    24% Stainless
    and 23% New Acacia
    Vineyards: McGinley and Presquile
    Alc: 13.5%
    692 cases produced

    TASTING NOTES

    Oh Lord was it worth cashing in all the miles. 2 weeks and nothing but first class and the Four Seasons. Let them suffer through winter, you’re on the South Island, the flink-lock bluster will be there when you get back, for now your life is nothing but soften white Lily petals, Meyer lemon ice, coriander oil, oceanside quilts, fresh opened Uni, orange blossom water, grapefruit, dewy pine, salt spray and late evening bike rides.

  • v. 2013

    Varietals: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
    Appellation: Santa Barbara County
    Aging: 65% Neutral French Oak
    18% Stainless
    and 17% New Acacia
    Vineyards: McGinley and Presquile
    Alc: 13%
    678 cases produced

    TASTING NOTES

    This is a James Bond ski chase down an Alpine peak and through the dense cobbled streets of some forgotten village -- Gooseberry, crushed oyster shell, sweet lime, detonated dynamite, lemon seltzer, clove spiked orange, white Gatorade, Red Pine needle, peach Schnapps, white smoke and brand new novel. Fresh, dry and exuberant with a rolling mouthfeel.

    • v. 2012

      Varietals: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
      Appellation:Santa Ynez Valley
      Aging: 20% New Acacia,
      50% Neutral French Oak
      and 30% Stainless
      Vineyards: McGinley and Presquile
      Alc: 13.3%
      341 cases produced

      TASTING NOTES

      When I was travelling in the hills of Nicaragua I came across a small, forgotten church nestled in the jungle growth outside of a town. The church didn’t have a roof, the windows had long since been smashed and the floors were littered with rubbish and plants. Looking up, it was all tree boughs and birds and late sunlight and bright colors. Honestly, the place felt so free. Fragment reminds me of that church, it has an improbable freshness and big shoulders. It’s like opening the window on a rain-heavy garden: herbal scents of lemongrass, fresh sage, tangerine oil and young mango lead you out the garden and into a palate reminiscent of a redwood forest at twilight with flavors of juniper, honey comb, sea spray and persimmon. A wine full of the early nerves before beginning a new journey.

      • v. 2011

        Varietals: 90% Sauvignon Blanc,
        10% Semillon (cofermented)
        Appellation: Santa Ynez Valley
        Vineyards: 100% McGinley Vineyard
        Aging: 100% Neutral French
        Alc: 14.1%
        282 cases made

        TASTING NOTES:

        There’s a true art to the simplistic decadence of a proper picnic. It’s not about having fancy stemware, French macarons or a candelabra (although all are delightful). It’s about creating a revelation, the surprise of re-discovering the joy of familiar food and friends in a different setting. The 2011 “Fragment” recalls what magic can happen at those late afternoon, sun-dappled picnics. Scents of Meyer lemon, sea breeze, sweet pea, warm quilts and fresh honeycomb are combined with a palate of lemongrass, Bosc pear, coriander and key lime pie. Think one part finding lost Valentine at the bottom of a drawer, one part sun warmed citrus from a friend’s backyard.

      • v. 2010

        Varietals: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
        Appellation: California
        Vineyards:
        Aging: 75% Neutral French Oak,
        25% Stainless Steel
        Alc: 14.3%
        91 cases produced

      Explorer Series

      A winery is an intuitive laboratory. In moments of divergent wonder I will run experiments. Sometimes my curiosity is rewarded. On those occasions I will release wines under the Explorer label in tiny amounts. These wines are the wild-eyed vanguard of things to come.

      • Alcyone.4.Kf1

        Vintage 2015
        Varietal: 100% Grenache Blanc
        Appellation: Paso Robles
        Aging: 500L New French Oak
        Vineyard: Jada
        Alc: 15.9%
        65 cases produced

      • Gamma Cassiopeiae.3.Qh4+

        Vintage 2014
        Varietals: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
        Appellation: Santa Maria Valley
        Aging: 500L Terra Cotta Amphora
        Vineyards: Presqu'ile Vineyard
        Alc: 14.4%
        48 cases produced

      • Ruchbah.2.exf4

        Vintage 2014
        Varietals: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
        Appellation: Santa Maria Valley
        Aging: 1 year old Bel Air MT+ barriques
        Vineyards: Presqu'ile Vineyard
        Alc: 14.4%
        48 cases produced

      • Shedir.3.Bc4

        Vintage 2014
        Varietals: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
        Appellation: Santa Maria Valley
        Aging: single new Ermitage Acacia puncheon
        Vineyards: Presqu'ile Vineyard
        Alc: 14.4%
        48 cases produced

      • Beta Cassiopeiae.2.f4

        Vintage 2014
        Varietals: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
        Appellation: Santa Maria Valley
        Aging: Stainless Steel
        Vineyards: Presqu'ile Vineyard
        Alc: 14.4%
        48 cases produced

      • Borealis.1.e4

        Vintage 2013
        Varietals: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
        Appellation: Santa Ynez Valley
        Aging: 500L Terra Cotta Amphora
        Vineyards: McGinley Vineyard
        Alc: 12.6%
        52 cases produced

        TASTING NOTES

        White peach, tarragon, peeled pear skin, wintergreen -- rolling down a myrtle covered hill in the early spring woods Vanilla greek yogurt, wild clover honey, fresh tennis ball, oleander -- hugging in a sage banked mountain stream with a summer-long goodbye 9 volt battery-like acidity, key lime pie, white gummy bears, lemon sno-cone -- tubing behind a boat, slapping your face against the joyous water.

      Borderlands

      On all journeys there comes a sudden moment of change. One night you fall asleep and the next morning the light is different, the air somehow exotic and foreign. A blend of Bordeaux and Rhone varietals, Borderlands commemorates the invisible divide between what was and what will be.

      • v. 2014

        Varietals: 25% Cabernet Sauvignon,
        25% Cabernet Franc,
        25% Grenache,
        25% Syrah,
        Appellation: California
        Aging: 50% New French Oak, 50% Neutral French Oak
        Vineyards: Laetitia, Lunacy, Chelle Mountain, Star Lane, TTT, Santa Barbara Highlands
        Alc: 15.6%
        198 cases produced

        TASTING NOTES

        Their baskets swelled with tiny blueberries, they returned to the blanket at the edge of the ocean. It is early August and the Nova Scotia summer has been good for hunting. A celebration of Texas BBQ brisket, chocolate milk, marionberry pie, Swisher Sweets and cherry blossoms is ended abruptly by the leather seated Cadillac crashing through the pines, churning the dense soil and shockingly halted by the slate cliffside.

        • v. 2013

          Varietals: 25% Cabernet Sauvignon,
          25% Cabernet Franc,
          25% Grenache,
          25% Syrah,
          Appellation: California
          Aging: 50% New French Oak, 50% Neutral French Oak
          Vineyards: Chelle Mountain, White Hawk, Coghlan, Santa Barbara Highlands
          Alc: 16.1%
          97 cases produced

          TASTING NOTES

          In the desert there is a road that ends without warning. That is where you must set up camp. It is at the foot of the mountain and beside a vernal stream. The tattered map says that beneath a mulberry tree a box is buried. Tomorrow you will search, today you will let your senses deepen: wild blueberry, fire roasted chiles, pure marionberry preserves, rose hips, toasted marshmallow, tufa tower, cracked fresh bay leaf, dark chocolate espresso beans, cut flowers and lightning struck tree..

        • v. 2012

          Varietals: 25% Cabernet Sauvignon,
          25% Cabernet Franc,
          25% Grenache,
          25% Syrah,
          Appellation: California
          Aging: 25% New French Oak,
          75% Neutral French Oak
          Vineyards: Coghlan, Santa Barbara Highlands, Spanish Springs, White Hawk
          Alc: 15%
          92 cases produced

          TASTING NOTES

          After hours lost hiking without water or food, a field of ripe huckleberries and English strawberries opens before you. Amazingly, there is a clean mineral spring and no bears for now --- county fair blueberry pie, mint julep, jack pine, hookah smoke, cherry cola, chicory coffee, spent shotgun shell, lavender, charred french toast, purple plum, roast chestnut and sweet maple. Beautiful, robust and precise like a 300 pound modern dancer.

          • v. 2011

            Varietals: 25% Cabernet Sauvignon,
            25% Syrah,
            25% Cabernet Franc,
            25% Grenache
            Appellation: California
            Aging: 25% New French Oak,
            50% 2 Year Old French Oak,
            25% Neutral French Oak
            Vineyards: D’Anbino, Vogelzang, Larner, Jesperson and Alamo Creek
            Alc: 14.8%
            94 cases produced

            TASTING NOTES

            In Canada when you’re planting a garden, it is important to select plants that look good in all seasons. You need plants that are full and lush in summer, turn bright colors in fall, have beautiful skeletons in winter and perfect flowers in spring. When it’s done right, it can be a revelation. Borderlands is a wine that strikes that kind of balance, it’s flashy and full in and is bright and articulate at the right time. Think of it as the perfect guide through a full evening: dapper and charming without being a jerk about it. The wine makes an entrance with an opulent nose of charred lamb shank, cassis, black earth, aquavit and cedar, the palate has the welcome force and precision of a well placed compliment with flavors of strawberry pie, coffee, violet pastilles, crisp pepper and lasting chocolate tannins. Just like a Canadian garden, nothing takes over except at its time.

          • v. 2009

            (known as My Comforter)
            Varietals: 25% Cabernet Sauvignon,
            25% Syrah,
            25% Cabernet Franc
            and 25% Grenache
            Appellation: California
            Aging: 25% 1 Year Old French Oak,
            25% 2 Year Old French Oak
            and 50% Neutral French Oak
            Vineyards: Larner, Indian Valley, Camp 4 and Shadow Canyon
            Alc: 15.1%
            89 cases produced

          Sackcloth & Ashes

          Growth and change seem to happen fastest when you leave behind your inhibitions and fit into a new whole the smaller moments of living that so often get overlooked. Sackcloth & Ashes has as its center the challenge of letting go of the what has been done in past and moving steadily into the unknown.

          • v. 2014

            Varietals: 35% Cabernet Sauvignon,
            28% Cabernet Franc,
            26% Petit Verdot,
            7% Merlot,
            4% Malbec
            Appellation: California
            Aging: 11% New French Oak,
            49% Neutral French Oak,
            40% Once Used Oak
            Vineyards:
            Vogelzang, Coghlan, D'ambino, White Hawk, Luna Matta, Santa Barbara Highlands, Chelle Mountain
            Alc: 16.6%
            713 cases produced

            TASTING NOTES

            6,000 miles, 3 layovers and lost luggage, but you made it. A seven course meal at the house of Francis Mallman. Greeted by charred asian pear, yerba mate and perfect pata negra, the night takes off like a Saturn V. Course after course of lamb shank, morcilla, clove rubbed flank steak, sweetened oak smoke, and amarone poached cherries the meal is capped off with a cinnamon dusted pot du creme, Chef’s Romeo y Julieta and recited poetry under the moon.

          • v. 2013

            Varietals: 39% Cabernet Sauvignon,
            17% Cabernet Franc,
            16% Petit Verdot,
            14% Malbec,
            7% Merlot,
            7% Sangiovesse
            Appellation: California
            Aging: 33% New French Oak,
            67% Neutral French Oak
            Vineyards: Vogelzang, Coghlan, D'ambino, White Hawk, Luna Matta, Santa Barbara Highlands, Chelle Mountain
            Alc: 15.2%
            800 cases produced

            TASTING NOTES

            This is the memory of the abandonved abbey you discovered when in lithe summer nights, when you were young and alone. Crushed violet, ripped jeans, quarter sawn spruce, blueberry cake, warmed sage, buckwheat honey, anisette, chocolate brownie batter, ancient incense, cherry-skin cigar, palo santo smudge and sassafras bark.

          • v. 2012

            Varietals: 38% Cabernet Sauvignon,
            33% Petite Sirah,
            23% Cabernet Franc,
            5% Petit Verdot
            1% Malbec
            Appellation: California
            Aging: 50% New French Oak,
            50% Neutral French Oak
            Vineyards: Coghlan, Happy Canyon, Roadrunner, Santa Barbara Highlands, Vogelzang
            Alc: 15.7%
            288 cases produced

            TASTING NOTES

            Spiced hot chocolate made on a wood stove by a Mexican grandmother with all the red fruit trees in bloom out the window --- warm chocolate croissant, cherry rugelach, country dust, red velvet cake, new bones, prairie fire, hot wooden fence, crisp pizza crust, baseball-sized ripe blackberry, fire roasted poblano pepper and sweet espresso. Massive and balanced, with achy tannins.

          • v. 2011

            Varietals: 57% Cabernet Sauvignon,
            31% Petite Sirah,
            7% Cabernet Franc,
            5% Grenache
            Appellation: California
            Aging: 20% New French Oak,
            80% Neutral French Oak
            Vineyards: Coghlan, Vogelzang, Murmur, D’Anbino, Hames Valley
            Alc: 14.1%
            247 cases produced

            TASTING NOTES

            Growing up, I spent a lot of time reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Once you get into them, it’s impossible to avoid believing that you’re Nancy. I began stalking around corners, seeing my parents’ friends as clandestine bank robbers and looking for secret compartments in bookshelves and desks. My normal world had been transformed into a place of ceaseless possibility and wonder. Sackcloth & Ashes is a wine that could have been made in that kind of world, it’s what happens when the familiar meets the exotic, and reminds me of snooping around a forgotten New Orleans mansion at sundown looking for ghosts. Scents of honeysuckle, pipe tobacco, cherry skin, nutmeg and violets are suddenly joined by an ancient and regal spirit on the palate with flavors of adobo spice, smoked blackberry, frankincense and Mexican hot chocolate with tannins that’ll prick up your arm hair and chase you out the door.

          • v. 2010

            (known as Solacer)
            Varietals: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon,
            20% Sangiovese
            Appellation: California
            Vineyards: Chelle Mountain, Diamond JEM and White Hawk
            Aging: 30% New French Oak,
            20% 2 Year Old French Oak,
            50% Neutral French Oak
            272 cases made

            TASTING NOTES:

            I learned how to be a strong willed woman from my grandmother. Through hundreds of stories, slaps on the wrist (although never mine) and powerful hugs, she showed me that going easy on others isn’t always the best way to show you love them. “Solacer” owes much to tales told over evenings in my grandmother’s kitchen: scents of orange Pekoe tea, black currant jam, sarsaparilla and roasted beets open to an elegant palate of brandy soaked cherries, chocolate cream, spiced meats and raspberry coulis. Compelling and complex, it leaves you leaning in, waiting for the next story to unfold.

          Arclight

          When stars still cast shadows, there were towers that lit towns with a comet’s blaze. These were the arclights. Full fields of fresh berries, a soft whisp of distant smoke, new patent leather shoes, French lavender perfume, all lit for the first time by a flameless torch that banished the thief and his razor.

          • v. 2015

            Varietals: 100%Sangiovese
            Appellation:Santa Barbara County
            Aging: Saignee Fermented and Aged in 25% Stainless Steel, and 75% Neutral French Oak
            Vineyard: White Hawk
            Alc: 15.1%
            35 cases produced

            TASTING NOTES

            This place is perfect. Raspberry red vinyl seats, fresh apricot preserves on checked tables, oregano rich marinara on a stove. How on Earth did you never stop here before? The water is clean and cold and the service warm. Your English muffin is spread with a confounding strawberry jalapeno jam, which pricks you awake just in time to see the cement truck skid and collapse.

          • v. 2014

            Varietals: 50% Nebbiolo, 50% Sangiovese
            Appellation:California
            Aging: Saignee Fermented and Aged in Neutral French Oak
            Vineyards: Luna Matta, White Hawk
            Alc: 15.2%
            24 cases produced

            TASTING NOTES

            When electricity was still magic and the black of night so complete stars still cast shadows, there were towers that lit entire towns with a blaze so brilliant it were as if a comet were landing. These were the arclights. Entire fields of summer berries, the soft whisp of smoke from a distant fire, the new patent leather shoes, the French lavender perfume, all lit for the first time by a flameless torch that banished the thief and his razor.

          I would love to have everyone be able to share in my growing vision, but the reality is that Desparada is made in minuscule quantities that tend to disappear faster than I ever expected. If you take a moment to join my mailing list I’ll make certain that you’re the first to know when wines are released. Thank you so much for your support, the twists and turns of this crazy ride are at their best when you’re there with me.

          Winery & Tasting Room

          Tastings exclusively by appointment or chance, 7 days a week

          3060 Limestone Way, Templeton, CA 93465
          (805) 434-9611
          answers@desparada.com