Wine country around the world is wonderfully scenic. Santa Barbara County, known around the world for its beauty, proves the rule, even during a drought year making the state truly “golden.” We were reminded of this during recent visits to Santa Ynez Valley: from the drive along the Pacific, to the climb up from Santa Barbara over San Marcos pass, and down the other side toward Lake Cachuma, an eerily empty reservoir following a history making absence of rainfall in 2022.
On any road trip, some times you go with the flow, sometimes you trust your gut. In 2021, when I asked Lisa Stoll of Explore Wines Tour company about wineries she would recommend I include in Slow Wine Guide, she suggested Demetria: practicing biodynamic, great wines, and a beautiful locale her clients love. But visiting turned out to be easier said than done last year. This year, when there was no response to my emails and my phone calls, and when we had a Demetria sized hole in our schedule, I told my friend who was driving
“Let’s just go there and see.”
From bustling Los Olivos, crowded with tourists and tasting rooms, on a warm summer day, we drove up narrow Foxen Canyon Road north toward Santa Maria, more or less on a parallel route. The land is agricultural, with rolling hillsides dotted with oaks and cattle grazing plus row crops and vineyards. At the gate, we pressed the code, and it swung open, a sign we were in the right place at the right time.
A rather rough (Kathy lost a hubcap!) one lane road wound us up and took us along the spine of the ridge, and the views had us oohing and awing. Whether or not we’d be able to taste and enjoy our picnic quickly became beside the point: we were just happy to experience the views from Kathy’s air-conditioned car.
We parked in the shade of a large oak tree, and following a sign that said to check in before sitting down, we approached a large imposing door which didn’t open when I tugged. Feeling a bit silly, we walked around the building and through the patio to a kitchen where we were greeted by tasting room manager Logan Livermore. We explained our purpose of wanting to include Demetria, showed him Slow Wine Guide, and seeing the top-notch wineries in the book, he quickly agreed that Demetria belongs in it. He attended to his guests, then we started going over the audit with its in-depth and detailed questions about farming and winemaking.
“Would you like to talk to our winemaker, Ryan Roark? He’s here right now; I can check.” YES PLEASE!
That’s how we came to be sipping Sauvignon Blanc, enjoying the expansive views, and chatting with Ryan Roark, who, while new as the winemaker at Demetria since 2021, is not new there having served as vineyard manager since 2019, or new to winemaking either: he has his own eponymous label, Roark Wines, where he has been making wine since 2009 from vineyards he doesn’t own but often farms.
Ryan came to vineyard management and winemaking via an unusual route. As his soft drawl belies, he’s from Texas where he majored in biology and environmental science at Texas A & M. His program included an internship which took him to the Loire, a hot bed of biodynamics. While he didn’t learn about biodynamics there, he did fall in love with wine. As someone with a back ground in resource conservation, he found farming biodynamically a natural fit. In 2009, after working in Napa and New Zealand, Ryan settled in Santa Barbara County and began managing vineyards, which brought him to Demetria, founded by John Zahoudanis in 2005.
John and his wife Sandra dreamed of retiring on a vineyard, and their dream came true when they found the property they named Demetria, after their daughter who is named for the Greek Goddess of harvest. John grew up near Mount Olympus where they farmed olives, citrus, and wine grapes that his family made into wine for themselves, so he wanted to return to the land.
The 213 property already had 23 acres of vineyards (now about 40 years old), often on very steep slopes; it was winemaker and viticulturist Mike Roth who served as a catalyst to inspire John Zahoudanis to shift to biodynamic farming, and so in 2006, John brought in Philippe Armenier, a biodynamic consultant committed to progressive agriculture who pioneered biodynamic farming on the west coast. Philippe Armenier has advised wineries including Seasmoke (which I also visited this week), AmByth (read about my visit where I picked and stomped fruit), and Beckmen (I interviewed Steve Beckmen yesterday and visited last year).
Following biodynamic principals, grapes are grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. Sheep graze on the property to keep down the weeds and the fire danger, and provide manure. In the past, they bought their biodynamic preps but now they are making their own as much as possible.
Wines express vintage variation and this terroir by using selective native yeasts and neutral barrels. About 80% of the fruit is estate grown with the remaining 20% chardonnay and Pinot Noir coming from Sta Rita Hills from vineyards grown using similar philosophies as Demeter. (We’ll discuss the Pinot Noir at a later date!)
In addition to the Pinot Noir, Logan provided us with samples of their rose, white wine blend, and red Rhone grape blend, and Ryan added a fifth, the white Rhone blend. After discussion, we selected these for Slow Wine Guide as they are the flagship wines:
- 2021 Demetria Rose of Grenache
- 2020 Demetria Cuvee Papou
- 2019 Demetria Cuvee Constantine
And we chose them to pair this month for Wine Pairing Weekend, a group of wine writers who take up the challenge of pairing different wines with foods following a prompt from one of the members. Read Camilla’s invitation post here which challenges us to feature foods in abundance in the summer, whether from a CSA or Farmer’s Market.
In Ventura County where we live, we are fortunate to have many Farmer’s Markets. People come from near and far to attend Ojai’s on Sunday (plus there’s one of Thursday nights), Ventura has one on Wednesday morning and another Saturday morning where you can sample and buy wine from Clos des Amis, and Santa Paula’s also has wine from Clos des Amis plus a car show!
With so much agriculture here, many farms offer CSAs and we have been a member before, but not currently.. Farmivore offers a slightly different model with a collective of five farms which has a fresh organic produce delivery model called Farmivore. Phil McGrath and Mike Roberts co-created Farmivore, an online ordering system for locally and sustainably grown produce to provide the groceries needed to make Slow Food. “We aspire to be a transformative food source,” said Mike Roberts in a June interview with me for an article to be published in Edible Ventura County.
SUMMER HARVEST PAIRING
When I think about summer harvest foods in abundance, I remember growing tomatoes, zucchini, and cantaloupe with my father and his father, and then gardening for my mother’s father when he could no longer get around as well. I love growing eggplant, as much for the beautiful vegetables as for the flowers and gorgeous leaves, and I love making fresh garden bruschetta to go on grilled eggplant, so these ideas, as well as thinking what would work with the wines, inspired our menu.
We were also guided by foods from friends, family, and neighbors plus our own gardens and by making a menu that was easy and fresh!
Summer Harvest Menu
- cantaloupe with speck drizzled with balsamic vinegar
- fresh figs with St Augur
- grilled eggplant with bruschetta
- zucchini tart
- tomato salad with mozzarella and fresh basil
- lamb meatballs
- grilled herbed zucchini
- Grimm’s Bluff biodynamic olive oil (wines coming up soon!)
Demetria Santa Ynez Valley Estate Biodynamic Wines
- 2021 Demetria Rose of Grenache
- 2020 Demetria Cuvee Papou
- 2019 Demetria Cuvee Constantine
2021 Demetria Rose of Grenache
All 800 cases are pretty much sold out, but Ryan and Logan say the wine is quite consistent year to year.
Varietals Grenache with a little Cinsault and Counoise.
Color Pale salmon, very pale, rose gold, provincial, more rose gold than anything else
Aroma Stone fruit, honey, bee pollen, white and red stone fruit, peach, cherry, nectarine,
Palate Clean and bright, fruit forward, tart, sweet tart, white stone fruit up front,, cherry and fresh wild strawberry on the finish, nice acidity, easy drinking but it does yearn for food,.
Pairing Great wine for food, perfect pairing was the cantaloupe and the Italian speck. The fig topped off with St Agur and balsamic was also amazing with the wine. Great with the lamb meatballs loving the spices and herbs as well as the richness of the food. The sweetness of the crust and the flavors of the zucchini tart were a bit too sweet for the wine.
For Sue the capresse salad and the wine were the best pairing with the wine. So fantastic with the vine ripened tomatoes, such umami, the rich fresh mozzarella and the basil. The wine loves the basil.
2020 Cuvee Papou
Varietals 40%f Marssanne, 30% Roussanne, 30% Grenache Blanc
Color Quite golden, deep gold, buttercup, very pretty golden yellow, daffodil.
Aroma So pretty, honeysuckle, gardenia, white waxy flowers, white stone fruit, grassy, meadow flowers, chamomile,
Palate Nice body and heft, great mouthfeel, acidity, minerals, salinity
Pairing Food on the palate changes everything about this wine, it becomes so much more fruit forward. The zucchini tart was amazing with the wine, rich meets rich. The capresse salad and the wine was quite nice together the sweetness of the tomatoes worked nicely with the wine. For Sue, the char and amount of garlic in the roasted vegetable bruschetta was a bit overwhelming to the wine. Different palates have different experiences. For me the fresh garlic brightens up the fruit in the wine where as for Sue the garlic overwhelms the nuances that come alive when this wine is paired with food. The meatballs and the wine are perfect companions. It loves the richness and herbs in the meatballs, as well as the herbs and lemon in the sauce. Meditarianian influenced foods work nicely with this wine. Proscuitto and cantaloupe was a bit to sweet for the wine according to Sue, she wanted the dish with a rose or sparkling wine. I don’t particularly like cantaloupe, but I really loved it with this wine.
2019 Cuvee Constantine
All 425 cases of this wine are sold out on the website.
Varietals 58% Mourvedre, 32% Grenache, 10% Syrah
Color Medium density, cherry cola, Dr Pepper, cherry fruit red and a bit of brownness,
Aroma Potpourri, carnations, baking spices, kind of like Christmas with the rich flavors and aromas, mint, such an inviting nose, so many lovely things going on that the nose keeps bringing you back for more, sandalwood, amber,
Palate Lots of acidity and tannins, fabulous texture, tart cherry fruit, a bit of blue fruit, where I could drink this wine all day, Sue wanted food with this bold wine, sage and earth, finish, there is a dryness like chamise, there is an herbal element to the finish.
Pairing Great with our St Agur topped figs drizzled with balsamic glaze.
Fantastic with the lamb meatball, loving the cumin and the cilantro, the sauce for the meatballs also was quite nice with the wine. The mint in the sauce was a perfect accompaniment to the wine.
The zucchini tart was also lovely with the wine. The thyme in the tart was also perfect in highlighting the herbal characteristics in the wine. The wine handles the garlic and basil in the bruschetta topping and is a great companion to the grilled veggies. Absolutely perfect with our capresse salad. A margarita pizza would also be great with the wine.
Ryan suggested rack of lamb or lamb sausage, and lacking sausage, Sue made lamb meatballs which are great for summer, especially with the fresh mint from my garden.
Who else is writing about what this month?
- A Summer Harvest and A Visit to Santa Ynez Valley’s Beautiful Biodynamic Demetria by Wine Predator…Gwendolyn Alley
- CSA-Inspired: Whole Roasted Rockfish with Tomatillo Sauce + Seabold Cellars’ 2021 Siletto Aligoté by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Easy Peasy Pairing with Dracaena Wines Chenin Blanc by The Quirky Cork
- Grilled Artichoke and Marianna Rocim Alentejo by Our Good Life
- Lodi Locavore Living by ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
- Mexican Street Corn and Sausage Salad with a Vino Blanc by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Red Cabbage Pasta with Condriesque White Wine by Cooking Chat
Join the #WinePW group along with host @Culinary_Cam to chat about CSA or farmers’ market veggies and wines that go with them. We start at 8 am Pacific here on Twitter. See you then! Questions for the #WinePW CSA event on August 13, 2022 at 8am Pacific / 11am Eastern below.
- 11:00 – Q1 Welcome to the #WinePW chat for August 2022! From where are you tweeting? Introduce yourself and share a link to your blog. Use the #WinePW hashtag during our chat and, if you’re joining in live this morning, share a selfie if you like!
- 11:05 – Q2 For this #WinePW event, we’re talking about wine pairings with produce from a CSA or farmers’ market. CSA is ‘community supported agriculture.’ Do you belong to one? Give a shoutout to your farm if they are on Twitter. Also, did you pick your wine first? Or the vegetable?
- 11:15 – Q3 Tell us about the wine that you opened and poured for today. Is there anything noteworthy about its creation? What made you pick the wine that you did? Share a link to your tasting notes and photos, if you like. #WinePW
- 11:20 – Q4 What foods did you pair with your wine? Was this a challenging pairing? Example – sometimes asparagus is a tough match! Share a link to your recipe and photos, if you like. #WinePW
- 11:30 – Q5 Did you think the pairing was successful? Why or why not? If not, what would you pair with the wine a second time around? #WinePW
- 11:35 – Q6 Let’s go back to talking about CSAs for a bit. What is your favorite thing about belonging to one, if you do?! If you don’t belong, have you ever thought about it? #WinePW
- 11:40 – Q7 And one more question about the wine you picked for the event: while most CSA farms are organic, did you pick a winery who follows organic, sustainable, or biodynamic practices? Is that a big draw for you when choosing a wine? Why or why not? #WinePW
- 11:45 – Just a shoutout of appreciation to some of the #WinePW bloggers who participated today: @Culinary_Cam @artpredator @LemieuxAndrea @tsteffes @martindredmond @WendyKlik @cookingchat. Thank you!
- 11:50 – Q8 Did you find any of the pairings inspiring today? If so, in what way? Will you try to track down any of the wines mentioned? Or try any of the dishes? Why or why not? #WinePW
- 11:55 – Q9 Any last comments/questions? Share a thought, comment, or question! #WinePW
- 12:00 p.m. Thanks for joining us for the #WinePW chat today! Next month we’ll be heading back to school as @CrushGrapeChron has us posting a pairing that demonstrates or teaches us something about wine and food. Stay tuned!