The Many Wines of Margerum


It only just seems like you can't throw a rock in Santa Barbara without breaking a bottle of wine made by Doug Margerum. I had him explain his busy, busy slate -- and he's also still co-owner of the beloved Wine Cask restaurant too, with Mitchell Sjerven- - in a recent email interview. "I, of course, make wine for my labels -- Margerum, Barden (Barden is my middle name) and these are the wines (pinot noir, chardonnay, and syrah) that are from Santa Rita Hills, and Cent'Anni (a partnership [centered on Sangiovese] with the vineyard owner). The Margerum wines are poured in the Margerum Tasting Room and the Margerum reserve wines, Barden and Cent'Anni, are poured at MWC32. I am the wine maker for Jamie Slone Wines and Happy Canyon Vineyards. I also consult for La Encantada Vineyard."

Many of those wineries are now part of the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail, anchoring the move to create a Presidio District in a town that's seen a lot of action to its south (The Funk Zone) and north (the Arts District and new SB Public Market). "It's all about critical mass," Margerum says. "With six tasting rooms in The Wine Collection of El Paseo, we are now a bona fide destination worth visiting for the diversity of wines and personalities behind them. Certainly having new life in El Paseo is lovely, as the architecture and ambiance of the space has been hidden for far too long and now can be enjoyed."

And this is a man who knows enjoyment, based on his wonderful wines (check out his M5 that is a delicious American take on the Rhone classic blend Chateauneuf du Pape). Maergerum also landed his Sybarite sauvignon blanc in the Wine Spectator Top 100 wines of the year list in 2011, so it was interesting to hear him describe how he kept all his versions of that varietal separate. "The Margerum sauvignon blanc is stainless steel fermented, high acid, 'Loire Valley' style with just a touch of seasoned oak," he begins. "The Happy Canyon Vineyard sauvignon blanc is barrel fermented in new and seasoned oak and blended with a third barrel fermented semillon and aged; very much in the style of classic white Bordeaux. The Jamie Slone Wines sauvignon blanc is picked a bit riper, fermented in barrels and stainless steel barrels for a richer expression of sauvignon blanc more akin to the top sauvignon's from Napa. This methodology of making each wine different is true for all of the wines we make -- my experience in the restaurant serving the wines of the world has given me a unique ability. Each wine stands alone."

Having different visions and approaches for each wine and winery doesn't mean things get any easier to accomplish, of course. "Harvest is always very stressful and the time requirements are insane for a few months," Margerum points out. "However, I have a great team and we like to make wine. It is intellectually and physically stimulating to explore the vicissitudes (I swear I didn't thesaurus this) of different varietals and to flex our winemaking muscles to achieve the results desired. I couldn't imagine drinking just one style of wine and with our clients we are able to explore and expand our repertoire beyond just one type of wine."

That exploring and expanding might be at its peak right now, for Margerum says, "I am very happy with the wines, the life, and my team. I am not pursuing any new projects." Of course, there's always the possibility of something more, for he adds, "I dream of having dual properties in Santa Barbara and in the south of France where I could craft wines and live the life in my two favorite places in the world...and that will be what's next...in a few years down the road."

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