WHAT: Interesting winemakers usually make interesting wine. That certainly is the case with The Offering.
The Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blend typically creates a smooth, luscious wine. The folks at Sans Liege add 2 percent Viognier, a gorgeous label and a fun back story. Starting with a tasty wine is essential, but great marketing gives the wine a better chance at success.
Curt Schalchlin has all the ingredients for his flagship wine, The Offering. It starts with beautiful aromas of black cherry cola, orange peel and vanilla. The rich mouthfeel is full of mixed dark berries, chocolate and black pepper. It has a long, smooth, complex finish.
The label says, “More dream than plan, The Offering began with days spent in the vines, late nights in the cellar, and thoughts on redemption. My prized cuvee from seven hand-picked sites, The Offering opens a window into my mutual respect for time-honored practices and fixation with whatever lies around the bend.”
Schalchlin wants you to think of a picnic in an ancient church, with the grapes being the offering. The grapes come from several top Santa Barbara County vineyards: 48 percent Grenache from Santa Barbara Highlands, Alta Mesa and Larner; 29 percent Syrah from Bien Nacido, Watch Hill, Les Galets, Larner and Santa Barbara Highlands; 21 percent Mourvedre from Alta Mesa, Santa Barbara Highlands and Alta Colina; 2 percent Viognier from Bien Nacido Vineyard.
The wine is aged 22 months in 33 percent neutral French puncheons, 33 percent neutral French barriques, 26 percent second fill French barriques and 8 percent new French barriques.
I would decant the wine at least one hour, possibly longer, and drink it slightly cool. It has the potential to age well for 8-10 years.
WINERY: After graduating with a business degree from CalPoly San Luis Obispo, Schalchlin started enjoying wine tastings. He learned about making wine at several well-regarded wineries, including McPrice Myers, Herman Story Wines, Barrel 27 Wine Co. and Core Wine.
He made one barrel of his own wine in 2003 and four barrels in 2004. In 2007, he established himself in the Central Coast, making 17 barrels. He makes his wines now at Central Coast Wine Services in Santa Maria, doing all the cellar work himself.
The greatest challenges in his winemaking, he says, are: “finding good vineyard sources and keeping track of all the different lots I have going at any given time. I try to push off the blending for quite a while and I try to make each wine individually. When you work with six different vineyards and you get three or four varieties from each vineyard, that’s a lot of wine to keep track of.
“Sans Liege is my relentless search for independence. After many years learning from and working with good friends who have since made their mark as winemakers, I decided it was time to take what I’d gathered with them, and to go my own way. Equally aligned with the freedoms of the New World and the heritage of the Rhone Valley, I am careful not to hold too closely to either. Instead I trust an intuition of the microcosms of each vine and vintage to guide my work in the cellar.”
Schalchin makes several other wines, including an incredible white Rhone-style blend called Cotes Du Coast, a blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne. The other bottlings include a Grenache, a Grenache Blanc, a Mourvedre, a Syrah-dominant GSM, a Marsanne and a Grenache Rose.
All the labels are striking and have interesting quotes from the winemaker.
GOES WITH: My wife, Teri, and I had this with a mouth-watering prime rib soup, a hearty recipe for cold winter nights. The complex, robust flavors in the wine stood up well to the soup. The flavors played off each other for a memorable pairing.
The wine will go well with most meats, especially with a nice mushroom sauce, beef stew, French onion soup and brie.