In watching the Central Coast’s steady strides to becoming a globally respected and stylistically varied wine region, it’s easy to forget that other corners of the world are also evolving in their own ways. That’s particularly true in the Old World, where a new generation of winemakers are ditching rigorous traditions while embracing their history more fully. Spain is a hotbed of this movement, in which old, forgotten vineyards of obscure origin are being revived and turned into unique, energetic, storyful bottles of wine.
Case in point is Envínate, a brand that translates to “wine yourself” and was founded in 2005 by four college friends to explore underappreciated corners of their homeland. They found old vines on the slate-covered slopes of Ribeira Sacra in the northwestern corner, the volcanic skree of Tenerife on the Canary Islands, and the chalky ground of Almansa, about an hour or so southwest of Valencia. The wines are handled in a very delicate, “natural” way, so as to translate the different sites most purely. In the case of the Benje Blanco I tried from Tenerife, that means lots of dried citrus peel, kaffir lime leaf, and tremendous salinity, set against a tense mouthfeel.
All four of the founders — Roberto Santana, Alfonso Torrente, Laura Ramos, and José Martínez — will be in Santa Barbara on May 11 to share their coveted and hard-to-find wines during a four-course dinner at Bibi Ji. The modern Aussie-Indian restaurant on State Street is co-owned by superstar sommelier/winemaker Raj Parr, who has become friends with the quartet. Chef Gary Singh’s one-night menu was designed explicitly to highlight the fresh and fascinating flavors of four Envínate’s 2017 releases. It will be an evening that your mind and mouth won’t forget.
Seatings for the $125 dinner are at 5 and 8:30 p.m. Reservations required by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (805) 560-6845.