Wineries to Watch
Here are two relative newcomers that caught our attention during our first tastings of 2022.
Can Sumoi, Penedès
Pepe Raventós got to know Can Sumoi while biking through the hills of Penedès. The property overlooked the Mediterranean from a height of 1,960 feet—mostly forests, with some parcels of ancient bush vines that looked abandoned, and farmhouses from the 17th century that were waiting to be restored. Raventós purchased the 1,000-acre property in 2016 and convinced his friend, Francesc Escala, to help him renovate the 50 acres of vines. The soils are packed with fossils of sea creatures that settled into what Raventós believes to have been the floor of the Tethys Sea—predating the Mediterranean by several geologic eras. They now sustain his vines, and give a distinctive character to the wines from Can Sumoi.
We tasted their first set of releases in 2018. When we tasted another set in 2020, we recommended their 2018 Sumoll Ancestral, a sparkler that began fermentation in stainless-steel then finished in bottle, its bubbles created by the sugars in the grapes. At the time, it was bright and creamy, with rustic loquat and green olive flavors. Two years later, when we tasted it again in December, the wine had developed rich depths of flavor while sustaining the freshness of Penedès—fresh pear and litchi nut add ripeness and savor to its cleansing acidity. With four years in the bottle, the leesiness and the fruit have integrated into a tightly knit structure, their flavors open and airy.
Along with that 2018, we recommended a range of the Can Sumoi wines in our most recent tastings, including the 2020 La Rosa, a rosé of sumoll, parellada and xarello that gains its color from four hours of skin contact. Like all of the Can Sumoi wines, it ferments spontaneously, without additions, this one earthy and bold, a natural beauty for seafood paella.
The 2019 Sumoll Garnatxa is just as refreshing, its high-altitude cool sustained through 12 months of aging in stainless steel, the wine bottled without any added sulfur. Jon Diamond of NYC’s Polo Bar described its refreshing red-and-black-fruit flavors as “sessionable—I could just sit down and drink and drink this all by itself.” Or pour it as you might in the hills of Penedès, enjoying its meaty side and bitter notes with baby lamb chops off the grill. —Joshua Greene
Optik, Santa Maria Valley
Optik brings together two iconic Central Coast entities—winemaking phenom Joey Tensley and vineyard proprietors the Miller Family—for a detailed, down-to-the-block look at the Miller’s most heralded Santa Maria Valley vineyard, Bien Nacido.
The brand focuses on three varieties with a long history at Bien Nacido: syrah, chardonnay and pinot noir, which are currently planted to diverse clones there, giving Tensley many permutations to work with. In fact, all of the Optik wines are single vineyard block selections, amounting to a precise examination of the vineyard and its range of expression.
For his own eponymous brand, Tensley focuses on Rhône varieties in Santa Barbara County. He’s known for muscular-style wines from typically warm sites in places like Ballard and Colson Canyon. In their best iterations, the reds still manage to express an earthy savor. Of course, Bien Nacido is notably cooler; for the Optik wines, like the 2019 Syrah from Block 49A, a block of Clone 470 planted on decomposed shale and limestone soils, Santa Maria Valley wind and fog temper Tensley’s largesse, revealing dark and intriguing detail. —Patrick J. Comiskey
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