Absolution Cellars Specializes in Single Vineyard, Single Grape Variety Wines from Three Central Coast Counties | Flavor | San Luis Obispo
As Absolution Cellars owner Dirk Neumann pours a taste of 2020 rosé on his terrace in Morro Bay, he’s stepping into the story behind it. Each wine he pours has a story.
This particular rosé is made from Sangiovese grapes, but these aren’t just any old grapes. They come from the Michaud Vineyard in Monterey County, which grows grapes in the American wine-growing area of Chalone, an area that placed third in the now infamous Parisian competition of 1976 when Napa Valley beat French wines in a blind tasting. Well, said Neumann, you might never have heard of Chalone, but the wine from the region beat all French wines except one on this day.
Michael Michaud has been producing wine and growing grapes in the area for more than 40 years, said Neumann, in the shadow of the spiers of the Gavilan mountain range which are now part of Pinnacles National Park.
“He only grew three-quarters of an acre of Sangiovese, and it all happened in this wine,” Neumann said. “I prefer to make three barrels of it rather than any other rosé.”
Sangiovese, he said, is a more flavorful grape than something like Grenache or Pinot Noir, which Central Coast wine consumers are more used to drinking. Sangiovese rosé is drunk very well like “by the pool, sipping on the porch, with beach wine,” but it can also meet a Thanksgiving dinner halfway there. It’s versatile, Neumann said.
Absolution Cellars makes one to five barrels (or between 24 and 124 cases maximum) each of about 14 different wines, mostly unique varieties from unique vineyards from Monterey counties to Santa Barbara counties.
“So many different microclimates and unique regions, so why not?” he said. “I say to people, ‘We’re going to take a tour of the central coast today with our tasting.'”
The Morro Bay tasting room opened in February 2020, five to six weeks before the state’s first COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. As a new cellar, Absolution Cellars had to be creative to promote its wine.
Neumann said he donated cases to local nonprofits such as Wine 4 Paws and the Christopher Meadows Memorial Fund and reconnected with people across the country via social media. Seeing how stressed everyone was about the pandemic, he offered his wine as a bit of a break – and was flabbergasted at the response he got.
So many people, he said, were interested in supporting his business.
“It wasn’t the ideal way to start the business, but I was able to restore some long-lost friendships and strengthen others,” he said.
As someone who has spent twenty years in the homebuilding industry, Neumann sees winemaking as his second half of his career. When he moved to South Florida’s central coast in 2013, he said he knew he wanted to do something in wine. He just wasn’t sure what that would entail.
Accounting, finance, marketing, product planning, land acquisition, etc., he said, he’s covered it at some point in his career. His goal was to retire on the central coast, but Neumann said he ended up moving here much sooner than he initially thought after realizing he could continue to do independent market research. for builders and developers from anywhere in the country.
In 2011/2012, he was visiting Santa Barbara County and participated in Margerum Wine Company’s one-day winemaker’s program. Neumann said he sympathized with then-winemaker Jason Barrette (who is now managing director and chief winemaker at Hemera Estate Wines in South Australia), and had the opportunity to make a mixing a bottle from the barrels at the end of the day.
“What I liked the most was that I wasn’t sitting in front of a computer. I was working with my hands for the first time in a long time,” said Neumann.
In 2014 he joined a wine cooperative in San Luis Obispo that allowed amateur winegrowers to rent a barrel for a year and work with a winemaker to buy grapes and barrel them. People loved the end product that year, he said, so he decided to start over, attending as many wine events and chatting with as many wineries as possible. And in 2017, Neumann had far too much of his own wine to drink in his lifetime. He had a decision to make.
That year he pledged to produce just under 300 cases of wine. He doubled it in 2018 and in 2019 he made nearly 1,000 cases of wine. So it was time to find a tasting room, which happened to be a location on the Embarcadero in Morro Bay that opened up next to Chateau Margerum.
Neumann sees himself as a sort of niche winegrower. He is interested in producing wines from a single vineyard, a single varietal and small batches that really showcase where they come from.
“I was told, ‘Buy good grapes’. If you buy good grapes and don’t bother them, the chances of getting a good wine are pretty good, ”he said. “One of the things I love about the wine industry is how open, friendly and helpful everyone is, at least in our region.”
His foray into the production of albariño is a good example. Neumann posted a message to a wineries group on Facebook, asking what to watch out for: what to do, what not to do. Portugal’s winemakers responded by sending him all of their protocols, from growing the grape to bottling.
“The joke is if you ask 10 different winemakers you will get 10 different answers,” he said with a laugh.
But he drew what he could from the answers and found a vineyard specializing in Iberian (Spanish / Portuguese) varietals in Monterey County’s San Antonio AVA. The owners of Pierce Ranch Vineyard are of Portuguese descent, which is one of the reasons Neumann chose to buy grapes from them.
Absolution Cellars 2020 albariño is lively and refreshing with an acid minerality on the finish and peach notes on the nose. Neumann said he went out and tasted the grapes with the winery manager before they were harvested, and the grapes grown in different blocks on the property had different characteristics. The characteristics of the stone fruits, he said, come from a block of albariño grown on a hill, which was mixed with those grown in the valley.
“It’s amazing that a grape, just through variations in soil, elevation, orientation, can add such a distinctive characteristic,” he said. Δ
Editor-in-chief Camillia Lanham just poured out another glass of albariño. Send food and drink news to [email protected]