Prima Materia is about a few unique things:

  • Respecting historical grape growing and winemaking methods, so we farm without herbicides and pesticides

  • Crafting wines that are "natural" and taste like age-worthy, old-school gems

  • Growing unusual grapes that are important to California's future, such as Negro Amaro, Sagrantino, and Aglianico 

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Prima Materia’s Wine Style

We love: good acidity, organic practices, unique grapes, balance, texture and tannin, modest alcohol, transparent winemaking, a sense of tradition, and authentic intentionality. Our style is informed by an earlier career spent cooking in professional kitchens, exploring cuisines and new methods, and then pairing down to a narrow and deep focus. Wine is an extension of the kitchen for Prima Materia, like charcuterie or cheesemaking, and making only 1-10 barrels of at at time allows for total focus.

Our Winemaking Philosophy

We grow our own grapes. This is very unusual for small wineries, and our wine philosophy is also vineyard philosophy. Be gentle, encourage independence, treat the vines with wine in mind while respecting their individual nature, and intervene as little as possible. Less technology is often better, and vigilance is better than oak or additives. Natural acidity and tannin is your friend, minimal sulfur lets the wine protect itself, too much sun is bad and steals character, and raisins aren’t for wine. 

Inspired by Italy, guided by California

While I was moved by Burgundy, the sun-drenched spirit of the Rhone Valley, and the whites wines of the Jura, it was the earthy elegance, focus, and fearless depth of Italy’s Taurasi, Barolo and Montefalco that I fell in love with. Each of our wines is a grape-specific case study, a living adventure in trying to find the historical voice of each grape in our high-altitude, volcanic vineyard. And the wines all are very, very different.

Prima Materia’s lighter reds

Our Dolcetto and Grenache are radically different from each other. Inspired by Gamay, our Dolcetto has pretty and meaty qualities, all plum and pepper, is cofermented with white grapes, and can stand up to charcuterie, light but hearty. The Grenache however, is pure strawberry and cherry bliss, sunshine in a bottle, Apollonian in the extreme. Sangiovese is a true passion though, bettering Pinot, delicious young, incredibly layered and textured in middle age, and savory in the extreme with notes of pine and earthy saline minerality after a few years in the bottle – pure Dionysian revelry. We employ a little stem and whole-cluster winemaking here as well.

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Prima Materia's mid-weight red wines

Our Zinfandel is an attempt to capture what Zin field blends might have been like in 1900. Negro Amaro is the opposite, unknown in California twenty years ago, here bottled young for striking aromatics of fig, olive, and black cherry making it the ultimate BBQ wine. Barbera, another grilled-food winner, is treated very differently to keep the focus on its acidity, pomegranate and purple fruit, along with longer aging. Many of our wines are made from multiple vineyard blocks, different clones, training, and rootstocks for complexity. The Barbera is actually three different types for example, all made separately.

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Prima Materia’s Bolder Reds

The big reds are where our altitude and volcanic soils really shine. We grow some of the only Sagrantino and Refosco in California, and while both are pretty serious, the Sagrantino is a face-ripping beast with big fruit plus roasted herbs, huge tannin and lilting floral tones. Our Nebbiolo pays homage to the wines of Barbaresco, full of beauty disciplined by tannin, and I push that fermentation as far and long as it can possibly go in the old Piemontese tradition, and even train our vines in the same way. Our biggest and baddest red is Aglianico, the ancient Italian grape that can shame gravelly Bordeaux and mountain-side Cabernet, needing at least three years in barrels and ageable for decades in the bottle with Old-World minerality and that sense of history we so love. I move those grapes exclusively by hand and employ very long fermentations. With grapes like these it is best to embrace the beast within.

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