I believe I first met Eric Laumann during his tenure at Bonny Doon. He has since launched his own label, Cambiata. For me, these are tasty, interesting wines at quite reasonable price points. Here is what his website aptly says—
“Cambiata is not your average California winery. We are a little more unconventional and iconoclastic than our compatriots around the Golden State. I launched Cambiata in 2002 after making wines for other people for nearly two decades. My intention was to make distinctive wines that go beyond the Franco triumvirate of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone. Today, we are vinifying a handful of compelling wines from some of California’s scarcest grape varieties including Albariño, Tannat and Dornfelder. We also make limited quantities of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands.”
From what I can best make out, Eric was working for a large vineyard owner down in Monterey, making wines for them under various labels, including Poppy. Through his knowledge of the vineyards & his relationship with them, he was able to find some interesting parcels to work with AND even have some parcels planted for him.
I first tasted his very own Cambiata wine, an Albariño, based upon a recommendation from fellow Master Sommelier, Peter Granoff, at his Ferry Plaza Wine merchant store some years back. I was instantly quite taken by the wine because of its lovely, enticing aromatics & its vivacious, refreshing personality.
2015 Cambiata Albariño—the 2015 marks the 11th vintage of this wine. Not only is it hard to find such wonderfully perfumed, well made, tasty, delicious & buoyant white wines, the very reasonable pricing makes it a no brainer to work with on our wines by the glass list. If our staff can serve a Sauvignon Blanc, why can’t it instead be this wine? Same kind of mouthfeel & crisp refreshingness, BUT with more wonderfully dynamic aromatics which create a much more interesting food pairing. Wines like this are hard to come by, especially when one considers there were only 205 cases produced of the 2015.
2012 Cambiata Tannat—this was the second eye catching wine for me—a BIG, bold, provocative BLACK wine, which greatly overdelivers for the dollar. I admit I was quite leery of tasting the 2004 back then. My previous experience with the Tannat based red wines of southwest France was dark, gnarly, highly tannic, higher acidic red wines, which they said would finally open up after 20 to 30 years of cellar time. Who could wait? And, who would want to wait? Well, the 2004 was in fact a bold, wildly rustic, full flavored beast, which was still however quite an interesting drink & far more interesting than many of the Zins & Petite Sirahs I was tasting at the time. I loved its intriguing, provocative, soulful core!….& how well textured it actually was! I haven’t unfortunately had the pleasure of having too many vintages since. I happened to reach out to Eric a short time ago & he sent me some of his new releases to try. OMG!!!! Here is what he had to say about his 2012—
“We planted our small Tannat vineyard in the rocky and well drained soils of the Santa Lucia Mountains. The cool growing conditions allows us to harvest grapes that are fully ripe yet still possessing an appropriate amount of food worthy acidity. Tannat has an incredible ability to absorb oxygen. Technically speaking, the wine is full of procyanidin‐type tannins, which slow the aging and development process to a crawl. While today’s technology has given winemakers aggressive tools to introduce oxygen, at Cambiata we do it the old‐fashion way – extended barrel aging. For our 2012 Tannat it took 28 months before the wine had reached an appropriate balance between fruit and tannin that allowed us to put it into bottle. We fermented the black juice in small open‐top fermenters and pumped over twice a day during fermentation. The wine was then pressed straight to 60 gallon barrels (100% French, 40% new). Our 2012 Tannat is incredibly deep and concentrated with notes of earth, blackberries, saddle leather and licorice. On the palate it is thick and chewy with bold, well‐integrated tannins. Big wine. Good wine”, well worth trying!!!!!!
Cambiata Pinot Noir Estate 2015—surprise, surprise, now a Pinot Noir!! Why? Because he is working with a very old vine parcel! Yes, don’t expect any of that snazzy, flamboyant, showiness one associates with Dijon clones here. This a very pretty, natural beauty who needs no make up to be what it is—pure, delicious, refined & quietly captivating. At $16 a bottle, it is also quite a steal for the price that’s for sure!!!! “The grapes come from the oldest Pinot Noir planting in Santa Lucia Highlands, planted 1973. Because the vineyard is old and somewhat virus led, the morphology is inconsistent and fairly unique vine to vine. I make the wine because it has the flavors I remember from Pinot’s we made in the 1980s. (1983 was my first professional harvest.) With everyone moving like lemmings to Dijon clones, this selection stands out as a viable option for a unique, old school experience. This is why I include the wine in the Cambiata portfolio. I always want people to drink different, I’m not out to follow the crowd and this selection gives us a moment to reflect and reevaluate what we’re doing with Pinot Noir and with our bulldozers. It’s a hillside vineyard about halfway up the ridge. The grapes are certified sustainable (SIP) but I don’t put it on the label because as a one person operation I don’t have time to do everything. Soil is typical SLH decomposed granite. No stems. I do a bit of thermo maceration to enhance and stabilize color as well as denature esterases giving the wine (particularly when young) some carbonic macerated character. Oak is 30% new, French/American 75/25. I think a bit of American oak adds complexity. I don’t leave it for too long in oak, about 5 months”.