The Tasting Panel magazine

January 2014

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INTRO-VINOUS Cinque Stelle FIVE-STAR WINES IN SANTA YNEZ by Michael Cervin / photos by Jeremy Ball M Matthew Crist is winemaker for his family's winery, Cinque Stelle. atthew Crist has a seven-year old American bulldog named Tug whose mug is on a Syrah rosé he made for his Cinque Stelle label. At just 1,800 cases and with distribution only in Santa Barbara County only, can a small guy go up against the big dogs? Cinque Stelle (meaning five stars in Italian) is betting on a specific market sector. "Our niche it that we're doing Spanish varietals that aren't super popular just yet," Crist tells The Tasting Panel. "We do everything by hand, small lots, premium fruit, all hand harvested." His estate wines include Tempranillo, Albariño, Pinot Grigio and Syrah, but he's also producing Grenache, Riesling, and Cabernet from Happy Canyon, as well as Pinot Noir from a five-acre vineyard of exclusively Pommard clone in the Santa Rita Hills. As a self-taught winemaker Crist was mentored by two of Santa Barbara's wine stalwarts: Fred Brander and Rick Longoria. But making wine is not Crist's' first passion. "I fell in love with the farming aspect," he says. And that love of farming provides a fundamental philosophy of producing fruit of exceptional quality. "We don't do anything over three tons per acre. Period. Our Syrah can easily do eight, but we green drop early, then drop again." Sitting on a flat 15 acres in what will become the newly minted Los Olivos AVA (once TTB approves the petition) the vineyard site is half a mile to an old riverbed, and The Cinque Stelle Rosé of hugged by the Santa Ynez Mountains. "We're in a Syrah features Matthew's unique spot with socked-in foggy mornings, super dog Tug on the label. cool nights, and we hit 100s in summer." Though he's not certified, Crist farms his land organically, and his winemaking style utilizes just 20% new oak on any given lot to keep the fruit at the forefront. Crist's parents purchased property that happened to include a vineyard that they kept for purely aesthetic reasons. No one thought they'd actually end up making wine. "There are five of us in the family and we're all involved with the winery." Their tasting room opened in August 2012 in Los Olivos, holding court with 45 others. To set themselves apart their trendy tasting room is also part dress boutique. Also unique is that their brightly acidic Albariño is their flagship wine. "I love making and drinking white wines. It's actually more challenging to make a great white wine," Crist admits. Clearly with this Cinque Stelle's niche is caliber of fruit his niche will certainly evolve into a Spanish varietals, such wider success. as this Tempranillo. 24  /  the tasting panel  /  january 2014 TP0114_001-33.indd 24 12/19/13 9:23 PM

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