Raj Parr, famed Sommelier, author, winemaker and partner at Domaine de la Côte and Sandhi in California and Evening Land in Oregon, set out to do something rather different in 2020: farm. Increasingly convinced that the most fundamental part of winemaking takes place in the vineyard, he traded a partially nomadic lifestyle of traveling, consulting, and wine educating for a more rooted mode of living in Cambria, a secluded town of rocky cliffs, pine forests, and cool climes on California's Central Coast. He had been drawn north from Santa Barbara by a few acres of vines nestled between the mountains and the Pacific: Phelan Farm.
The roots of Phelan Farm stretch back to the 1850s, when the Phelan family founded a homestead on Steiner creek. They worked the land, planting a variety of crops and raising animals. In 2007, Greg Phelan planted four plots of own-rooted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in areas cooled by Pacific winds. Since 2019, Raj Parr has leased the entire farm, and grafted the own-rooted vines to a large variety of different grape varieties that are suited to the area’s cold climate. Working with famed producers in France’s Jura and Savoie and in Galicia, he has sourced cuttings of Trousseau, Poulsard, Savagnin, Mencia, and other varieties. The vines are farmed regeneratively, with close attention to the larger ecosystem and an emphasis on the interconnection between the vineyard and uncultivated nature.
The Phoenix block, a shady site nestled in the folds of the hills around Steiner creek, holds Mencía, grown from cuttings that Raj brought back from Envínate’s Camiño Novo vineyard in Ribeira Sacra, Galicia. From these vines, a small amount of adjacent Trousseau, and some purchased Palomino from a biodynamic farm in the Fresno area, Raj makes his Misturado de Cambria, a tribute to Envínate’s Misturado de Abeleda.
Raj Parr cites accomplished farmer-winemakers Thierry Allemand, Jean-Louis Chave, and Stéphane Tissot as some of the main inspirations for this project. For the first time, he is directing the whole process - from vine to cellar to bottle - of wine production. The wines that he is producing are made with a light hand in the cellar, without fining or filtering, largely without sulfur, and with low levels of alcohol due to Cambria’s maritime climate. Perhaps most importantly, they are made with grapes that are farmed with great attention to regenerative and biodynamic practices, infusing into the wines both the natural and the cultivated environment of Phelan Farm, a magical piece of land a stone’s throw from the Pacific.
Misturado de Cambria is a coferment of 40% Mencía, 40% Trousseau and 20% Palomino. The Mencía and Trousseau are from the Phoenix vineyard at Phelan Farm, where in 2019 Raj Parr grafted own-rooted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines planted in 2007 to many cool climate varieties, including Mencía from Envínate’s Camiño Novo vineyard in Ribeira Sacra. The climate here is cold and marginal: grapes struggle to ripen, and harvest is in the last week of October. Soils are felsite and pink quartz. The Palomino is sourced from a biodynamically farmed vineyard near Fresno. The Palomino was harvested by hand, destemmed and kept in cold storage until the Trousseau and Mencía were harvested at the end of October. The Trousseau and Mencía were deposited in a stainless-steel dairy tank with their stems, the destemmed Palomino was added, and the three varieties fermented together with their skins for 3 weeks. Fermentation finished, the wine was pressed into 500L used French oak puncheon to rest. Bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with no added sulfur.