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Tasting Natural Wine

Santa Barbara Bottles to Try While Reading Isabelle Legeron’s New Book


Isabelle Legeron has been championing “natural wine” — wine made with very few or no additives — since 2008, when it was considered weird rather than progressive. The first French woman to pass the grueling Master of Wine accreditation, Legeron gives both a personal and professional perspective on what some consider the most pure of winemaking styles in her new book Natural Wine (Cico Books, $24.95), which excels in explaining the movement without employing the sanctimonious tone often associated with the subject.

The self-proclaimed Crazy French Woman uses real-world examples to illustrate her passion for the style while demystifying the ethos and process involved in creating the wine. Starting in the country of Georgia — often referenced as the birthplace of natural wine and where Legeron’s love affair began — the book takes us all over the world, explaining everything from the benefit of butterflies in the vineyard to the thorny topic of sulfite use in wine. Among other characters, she spotlights Paso Robles’ Phillip Hart and Mary Morwood Hart of AmByth Estate, explaining how they dry-farm in a drought-stricken region.

On Wednesday, December 10, Los Olivos Café (2879 Grand Ave., Los Olivos) will host a tasting of other natural, organic, and/or biodynamic wines for $25. See losolivoscafe.com or call (805) 688-7265 x6. And here are three more “natural”-leaning Central Coast wines to sip right now.

2012 AmByth Priscus Amphora: Don’t be alarmed by the orange tint to this white Rhône blend — that’s just extended skin contact during fermentation. The Paso Robles–made wine offers Bartlett pears and white flower, nice grip for a white with a chalky stone finish. $45

2013 Lo-Fi Cabernet Franc: Also mentioned in the book, Mike Roth’s recently launched label Lo-Fi is getting high praise. This cabernet franc is excellent with ripe black cherry and bitter cranberry giving bite, plus classic dry leaf and bark, making a perfect autumn treat. $25

2011 Ampelos Lambda Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir: Strictly speaking, Ampelos is biodynamic (where sulfur is allowed), and this is quite a lush little number, full of juicy cherry, rich cassis, and a hint of lead pencil minerality. $35

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