Maggie Harrison was assistant winemaker to Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non for eight years before moving to Oregon to take over the winemaking position at Antica Terra. Started in 2004 with an inaugural release of 150 cases, Lillian represents Maggie’s personal project and reflects everything that she learned during her time at Sine Qua Non.
What Maggie tries to capture with her wine is a certain sense of balance; a particular sensation of restraint. For a complete lack of a better word…a prettiness.She is making wines that are at once voluptuous, powerful and rich without ever being overbearing. Wines with a strong structure, but with a fine-ness and a lushness and a purity that for us is the embodiment of true femininity
The fruit for her syrah is sourced from White Hawk Vineyard in Santa Barbara County, Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley and Stolpman Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. The wines are fermented with native yeasts in small, open top fermenters, siphoned, warm into barrel without the use of pumps and are in barrel for 24 – 36 months before being bottled without fining or filtration.
The White Hawk Vineyard is a 60-acre vineyard planted on ancient sand dunes on the south facing slope of Cat Canyon, a side of the Los Alamos Valley in Santa Barbara County. It’s 21 miles west of the Pacific and 2 miles north of Los Alamos and planted at 900 feet elevation. This region is recognized as a top producing wine region. Fog often embraces the small vineyard in the morning before gentle afternoon breezes chase it away to allow the sun’s rays to slowly ripen the fruit. The vineyard is farmed using sustainable and primarily organic viticulture. The yields are minuscule and the berries intense with a strong core of acidity that is complemented by elements of meat and blackberries. Other wineries that source fruit from this venerable vineyard include Sine Qua Non, Ojai and Andrew Murray.
The Stolpman Vineyard is owned by Sashi Moorman. “Finally in 2006, Sashi decided to level the playing field. He made a deal with me that I could come to his vineyard and choose any fruit that I wanted. Even if it was fruit that he had earmarked for his top cuvée, I could pull one small fermenter’s worth. He allowed me to visit the vineyard as much as I wanted, sample as many lots as I liked and change my mind as frequently as necessary. It was a deal I couldn’t refuse! The syrah at Stolpman Vineyard is some of the most beautifully raised and thoughtfully farmed fruit on the central coast.”. Each year Stolpman sells Maggie two tons of their best fruit. Usually this is a ton of T99 clone Syrah (producing very thick skins) and something from one of their high density plantings. The site is in Ballard Canyon. It’s not very far from Whitehawk and the sites are not dissimilar, but the calcareous soils at Stolpman mean the fruit profile is slightly brighter and more tannic. This is usually 10% -15% of the blend.
“The Bien Nacido Vineyards is in Santa Maria, California. The vineyard traces its roots back to the year 1837 when a Spanish land grant of some two square leagues was made to the ancestors of one of the current directors of the vineyard. Today, Bien Nacido Vineyards is one of the most storied in the state. With over 600 acres under vine, the fruit from this vineyard has contributed to some of the most sought after wines in California. In 2005, the folks at Bien Nacido decided that it was finally time to consider planting the perfectly located, south-facing hillsides that overlooked the property. Instead of first planting the blocks and then, three years later, seeking buyers for the fruit; they decided to reach out to a small handful of the best winemakers on the central coast and offer to plant those blocks specifically for them. With my first, tiny vintage still in barrel, it goes without saying that I was not one of the few to whom a block was proffered. My mentors, however, were. The day that M. drove out to the vineyard to take a look at the little block that had been earmarked for him, he generously invited me to tag along. For two hours in the car, we spoke excitedly about the prospects of this new planting. We debated the virtues of different clones and rootstocks, of vine densities and varietals. Once at the vineyard, I was surprised to be greeted by the director of the vineyard, who is infamous for being more elusive than the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. The three of us spent the next few hours walking the hillsides, digging in the soil, drawing sketches of the aspect, taking notes on the terrain and imagining the eventual layout of the vines. Back in the parking lot, I was barely paying attention as the two of them talked. I was feeling a little melancholy because I would never have the chance to see what this block would produce as I would be leaving my job at the end of the year. I was thinking that I would have to make sure to visit the cellar in four years to see how things had turned out when I overheard M say, “this block is going to be amazing…now what do we need to do to secure this for Maggie?” I was stunned. Even as I retell this story to you, I am again astonished and humbled by the kindness and generosity that now allows me to call that 2.14-acre hillside block my own.”
Bien Nacido is far cooler than Stopman or Whitehawk and it is evident in the wines. This is more Northern Rhone-esque in its flavors; It’s all about bacon fat, smoke, olives, lavender and crazy salt inflected oceanic aromas. This is always the lowest in sugars, highest in acidity and tannin and most vin-de-garde.