Blog: Producer Newsletters
Suelo Farmers: Eric Prahl (left), Matt Osgood and their wifes
For our second California winery we are returning to Northern California with the addition of Suelo Farmers, Suelo is a new project from Eric Prahl and Matt Osgood. These names might not be familiar to you now but keep both in mind, as we really believe they are one of the most talented up and coming teams out there. We are excited to welcome them, and their awesome Pinot, to our book. Both fit right in with the rest of our portfolio – cool people who care about farming and the expression of terroir.
Visiting Dear Meadows, Anderson Valley in July 2014
We first met Matt and Eric in 2012 when they had just bottled their first wine. Our philosophies on wine were pretty similar despite the difference in old world vs. new world vantage points. Fast forward a few years down the road: RTT had started working with domestic wines and Eric and Matt were ready to bring Suelo to market. It seemed like the right time for both and we decided to work together.
Eric and Matt met working harvest at Rhys Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains and bonded listening to the soundtrack from the movie “Tsotsi,” while doing foot punch downs. Since then, both of their careers have evolved, with Eric continuing at Rhys as the assistant winemaker before moving on to Red Car Wine Company in Sonoma and Matt taking on the viticulture and grower relations for Flowers. Along with Alexander Bain in Pouilly Fumé we now have two Flowers alumni in the RTT portfolio!
Matt and Eric in Dear Meadows, July 2014
In between, both Matt and Eric traveled and worked in other wine regions – Eric in Oregon and New Zealand and Matt in South Africa – which expanded their perspectives on winemaking. It was in South Africa that Matt learned the intimacy of the connection between vines and people. And it was working at Cristom in Oregon where Eric became convinced that native yeast, low sulfur and minimal intervention was the way to go.
Matt Osgood and Eric Prahl (right)The two had talked about making wine together since the foot stomping days at Rhys, and when Eric found out about Hacienda Secoya, a multigenerational family owned vineyard in the deep end of the Anderson Valley, the timing was right to partner and make their first wine.
Planted in 1998, Hacienda Secoya is a small, 2.5-acre parcel on Casabonne-Wholy, an iron rich soil, and is surrounded by redwood and oak trees. As part of the deep end of the Anderson Valley, it has one of the coolest microclimates.
They made a Pinot Noir from this plot in 2011 and in 2012 turned their attention to the Deer Meadows vineyard that sits at an altitude of 1800 feet above Boonville, atop the Anderson Valley. The soil here is Hopland-Wholy and Bearwallow-Wholy complexes, essentially shale and sandstone. It was first planted in the 1980s by owner and legendary grower Rich Savoy, and replanted in 2003. The exposures and slopes of the vineyard vary wildly but the Suelo vines (about 1.5 acres) are generally south facing on a very gentle slope. Deer Meadows is farmed entirely organically except for one acre which is farmed biodynamically – this fruit being allocated for Littorai – (you may have heard of them). Suelo is also contemplating this for the future. .
A large part of Matt’s position at Flowers has been overseeing the organic and biodynamic conversion of the vineyards. It is imperative to both Matt and Eric that they work with the best fruit possible, so this is something they insist on, and they have been very involved in the farming at both vineyards, listening and also offering expertise.
In Eric’s words:
“The practices at each are organic, which we feel is necessary when talking about balance in the soil and in wine. We talk to them about the best way to start deficit irrigation with the end goal of dry farming. We are able to convince them both that fruit zone shading, which isn’t common in California, allows for better phenolic development during sugar accumulation over the growing season allowing us to pick for purity of flavors and expression of the land.”
“Suelo,” which means soil in Spanish, conveys Eric and Matt’s terroir first philosophy that carries over to their winemaking practices, meaning try to let the vintage and vineyard characteristics show through. The fruit is hand picked taking into account brix, acid levels and taste, and then a percentage is set aside for whole cluster ferment (amount varies by vintage). The wine gets started with a cold soak and then begins fermentation naturally with native yeast. Punchdowns take place once daily until the fermentation speeds up, then twice. When the wine reaches dryness it is pressed in a small basket press to barrel. Since they use a shared facility in Sebastopol, they filter the wines to make sure any unintended bacteria or other issues do not affect their wine. Bottling occurs 11 months or so after harvest.We’ll be starting with Suelo’s first two wines – and you can taste them as early as next week! Matt and Eric will be in San Francisco on March 31 and April 1 and Los Angeles on April 8 and 9 to help with the big debut.
Drop your rep a note if you would like to meet with them!Hacienda Secoya and Deer Meadows
Suelo Farmers Pinot Noir, Hacienda Secoya, 2011
$ 17.50/ $16 / $15
Given the cooler temperatures in the spring of 2011, Matt and Eric took pre-emptive steps, working with the grower early on to ensure even ripening. Luckily, they were ready to harvest the morning before the heavy rain began in October. There is nothing like trial by fire and the debut effort is an outstanding value.
Suelo Farmers Pinot Noir, Deer Meadows, 2012
$26 / $24
Deer Meadows is composed of 12 blocks – all of which have different microclimates, forcing a distinct picking dilemma for each winemaker. Suelo happened to be the second pick of the 2012 harvest.