“I wanted to make wine that was different, outside the comfort zone of most tasting room visitors” said Megan Bell, as we sipped through her lineup of low-intervention wines. Hence the name “Margins”. Trained at UC Davis and with multiple apprenticeships in wineries from California to Loire Valley, Megan certainly knows conventional winemaking. But she is chasing a different dream giving recognition to vineyards, varietals, and wine styles that she admits many people “won’t get”.
But these wines are eminently “gettable” if you appreciate originality. Although firmly in the style of natural wines made using native yeasts, low sulfur, without fining and filtering, and only neutral oak, they nevertheless taste like no other and each bottle brings something distinctive to the table. With an annual production of only 500 cases (but growing) snap these up. They sell quickly. Oh, and she has some of the coolest labels to ever grace a wine bottle.
Reviews are based on industry samples
Chenin Blanc 2017 Wilson Vineyards Block 20 Clarksburg
Made from organic grapes, this wine is creamy but with an underlying textured mouth feel, the result of skin contact for about 30% of these grapes. Apple, lemon, robust floral notes and a hint of yogurt on the nose, on the palate its more mineral than fruity with slight honey midpalate and a bit of pine on the structured finish. 6 months in used oak. A vibrant white wine with red aspirations. 90 pts. $25
Cabernet Franc Santa Cruz Mountains 2017
This is very French, straight from the Loire via Santa Cruz. Strawberry with background hint of barnyard especially after aeration and mint that plays hide and seek. Tart cranberry on the palate, this is lean with some interesting citrus-like top notes. The finish is acid-driven with powdery tannins playing a supporting role. A 3 week fermentation, on neutral oak for 8 months. 88 pts. $26
Sangiovese Arroyo Seco Mesa Del Sol Vineyard 2017
From very stressed vines in a very hot vineyard on the back side of Big Sur, this is not Italian. No sour cherry here. This is a darkly fruited Sangiovese redolent of ripe plums, freshly turned earth, blackberry and hints of caramel. The palate is rich and round, full bodied, bringing chocolate to the table with really lovely supple tannins that build on the peppery, mouthwatering finish. Large-framed but elegant and refreshing, there is real purity of fruit on the finish. 6 months in used French and American oak. A standout. 92 pts. $26
Mourvedre Santa Clara Valley Sattler’s Vineyard 2017
This wine is so unique, I could explore it for hours. An unusual nose, ripe berry, coffee, herbal wood notes, against a spiced chocolate background. It’s very luscious and creamy on the palate, supple and ingratiating, with a lengthy drawn out midsection that gently slides into a subtle finish softly lingering, loaded with delicate, hi-toned acidity that never cuts. A meditative, dreamy wine to be enjoyed with Jan Garbarek’s Knot of Place and Time. 92 pts.