Graham Tatomer's Exceptional and Ephemeral White Wine
Graham Tatomer is a towering giant in his very small corner of California winedom: dry Austrian style whites.
The wines he crafts from traditional Austrian varieties Gruner Veltliner and Riesling have taken the critical world by storm and are featured on the best progressive and classicist wine lists the world over. Always dry, textured and mineral laden, these exceptional wines are amongst the best values in California, often available at retail for under $30.
But as Graham can tell you himself, no matter how good his wines are, it's always been a bit of a hassle to get them on retail store shelves. While we are always proud to show them off on our shelves, there's not a lot of people coming into wine shops asking for Santa Barbara Gruner Veltliner. With their poise and complexity his wines are highly prized by sommeliers, thus most of his business has been through restaurants, which brings us to the wine below.
As stated earlier, Graham's wines are always a steal, but his newest cuvee has to be California's best value right now. “Hinter der Mauer” loosely translates to “against the wall” in the local dialect of the village in Austria where Graham lived and worked for many years. This was one of the places he acquired the skills and knowledge that would eventually serve him well on the West Coast. The term refers to the grapes that grow closest to the village's walled terraces. Because of the radiant heat from the stones, these grapes were always the ripest and considered the best, yet difficult to work with because of their proximity to those walls; a metaphor for making something beautiful out of that which is challenging.
Hinter der Mauer is his COVID Cuvee of sorts. As restaurants began to close in early 2020, he saw the writing on the wall and knew he needed to do something to keep his winery thriving. Many chose to slash prices to get their wines on retail shelves and in customers’ hands. Graham saw this as a temporary solution with a lot of potential for downsides. So he came up with something a little different. He took five of his 2019 single vineyard wines and blended them together and priced it just above his cost. This has kept cash flow humming during the pandemic while not devaluing the individual, site specific wines that he painstakingly produces every year.
Sourced from Kick-on Ranch, John Sebastiano, Paragon, Oliver’s, and La Estancia, Hinter der Mauer is 80% Gruner and 20% Riesling. Immediately upon opening you know this is a lot more wine then the price suggests. Aromas of lime peel, honeysuckle and crushed ocean rocks immediately jump out. There is textural viscosity that speaks of its exceptional provenance with more lime peel, orange peel along with cameos from thyme and Gruner’s signature white pepper. Sea mist freshness through the long, piquant finish.
The one downside of this bottling is that it's too good to last. This is a one off, existing only this one vintage, a creative answer to a daunting problem. While he plans on continuing to make a cuvee in this price range it will more than likely be from less expensive fruit sources of varieties he works with such as Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc. Its ephemeral nature only adds to this wine's immense charm.
This is the type of wine you want to have with you all summer long. Grab yourself a few, a case or maybe two. Wine this good at this price is amongst the rarest of oenological creatures.