SANTA BARBERA, California
Like many in the emerging scene of fresh-focused Cali wineries, Mike Roth and Craig Winchester favor a scientifically thorough approach without falling for the trickery of interventionist winemaking. Native yeast, natural malolactic conversion, minimal effective sulfur and bottling without filtration are the pillars of the Lo-Fi ethos. Over the last few years they’ve seen the public resonate with their vision and the business has grown to an impressive 7,000 cases in a year. Some of their fruit comes from vineyards they farm and some is purchased. They don’t believe in dogmatic natural wine purism and they’re not fans of science project indulgences with high price tags. The cool-kid treehouse thing doesn’t do it for ‘em. They just want to jam out high-quality, wholesome wines that people can always look forward to hanging out with; Lo-Fi wines relentlessly deliver on quality and affordability. The winery employs a charming record store motif to drive home the message that the wines aren’t supposed to be aristocratic studies, just a good time in a bottle.
This is basically what happens if you splice Loire Côt with Californian fruit-minded extroversion.
Honestly? This is just really good Chardonnay. Aged in a mix of concrete and barrel, this isn't groundbreaking it's just super well priced for awesome quality.
Mike’s Mourvèdre pink wine is pulled from one of those ‘rich guy bought a vineyard’ situations so common in California. The hillside vineyard is classic Santa Barbera with the gravelly, marine, shaley loam that defines the whole area. The wine itself is made without too much fuss: 6 hours of maceration before pressing to barrel for fermentation and aging.
Mike’s single-varietal Gamay is picked from his home-vineyard, which he affectionately calls ‘Clos Mullet.’ With short stakes in front and long stakes in back, Mike jests that it’s “like a mullet haircut: business in front, party in the back.” Mike always de-stems the Clos Mullet fruit because the little micro terroir he’s got at home favors bitterness too much.
The story behind the River Bench Vineyard is expectedly weird. It was originally planted in the 70’s and 90’s to the usual suspects, but was purchased a few years ago by a former sherry importer who rebudded the 1.5 acre vineyard to a split of Arinto and Mencia four years ago before deciding that he wanted to go back to school. It then fell to Mike to figure out what to do with those super cool berries. He decided to coferment a ton of Mencia and half a ton of the more evenly ripening Arinto in alternating layers in a big ol’ steel tank.
SANTA BARBERA CABERNET FRANC
This is the central wine of the Lo-Fi brand. Mike’s carbonic macerations aren’t just whole cluster fermentations in a reductive environment. He’s really doing the whole deal with extra steps taken to negate concurrent alcoholic fermentation so it’s really just enzymatic conversion at work. After 8 days of carbo, Mike presses this out and finishes it as pure juice, describing it as more of ‘an advanced rosé’ than anything else. Bright aromatics, endless drinkability and the perfect structure for a chill, it’s easy to see why they dedicate almost a thousand cases to this cuvée.