Harvest nearly turns wine country into an insane asylum — endless days and nights of picking and pressing amid weird smells and heavy machinery can turn anyone kooky — but it’s also a time of great camaraderie and satisfaction, as hard work makes meals taste better. For centuries, winemakers in Burgundy, France, have capitalized on this season by preparing rich lunches to reward their troops each day. That tradition thrives in Santa Barbara County today, spearheaded most valiantly by Au Bon Climat’s Jim Clendenen, whose lavish lunches in his Santa Maria Valley winery are legendary, but it’s also quite popular at other wineries.
Doug Margerum recently invited us to check out his version on Industrial Way in Buellton, where workers were busily sorting cabernet sauvignon grapes amid yellow jackets outside and interns from Cal Poly, South Africa, and elsewhere were punching down the fermenting caps inside. He happily showed off the emerging qualities of latest vintages, from tastes of the sauvignon blanc that would go into his “D” bottling and his relatively new cool-climate, syrah/pinot noir/chardonnay brand Barden to the super-unique, floating-cap, open-top-barrel-fermenting Rhône red grape “Carmine” program that goes into his M5 blend.
But the Wine Cask cofounder seemed happiest when tending to the meal he was preparing, which included a lardon salad with eggs poached in red wine, zesty green beans, pan-fried potatoes, stewed cabbage, and a rich stew that the cellar rats call “Reinvented,” as it is basically a mix of the week’s leftovers, from ham to potatoes and beyond. Artisan cheeses and fresh breads were present throughout, and so was the wine, including the hands-down favorite of the day: his 2010 Cent’anni Sangiovese Riserva, a “big boy,” said Margerum, “with good dollops of colorino, canaiolo, and montepulciano” grapes, as well.
Taste Doug Margerum’s many wines at one of the Santa Barbara Wine Collective tasting rooms at 813 Anacapa Street. See margerumwinecompany.com or call (805) 845-8435.