(Bay Area, California)
I get the sense that Brent Mayeaux is never satisfied with his wines. He tends to use hyperbole about them online, but then in person, plays the humility card and speaks about everything that went wrong during harvest. Like many winemakers that I speak to, he’s told me that he doesn’t know what to do with himself after harvest—the prior year of preparation has either gone well or didn’t or lands somewhere in between, and then all one can do is periodically check in with the resulting resting juice, and try to live some semblance of a “normal” life. It’s hard to plan in making wine, and especially in California; one learns from their mistakes of the previous year and then goes head first into a whole new set of problems when the next vintage rolls around. Repeat ad infinitum.
It’s been a few years now that I’ve been following Brent closely, and I feel that we’ve formed a friendly bond towards each other that leads to vulnerability on both sides. I’ve witnessed Brent go from bright-eyed startup to becoming a sort of weary poster child of the new guard of California natural winemaking—say what you will but this was, to me, completely evident at the recent Open Door tasting that Kae Whalen and Sam Zimman’s Gay Wine project presented in DTLA, gathering a cadre of young California vignerons who all work sans distribution channels and have produced less than five vintages. While there were many beautiful bottles being opened that afternoon, I felt that no lineup poured as consistently strong as Stagiaire’s.
Having spent time working in key regions such as the Auvergne and the Jura of France, as well as hours clocked in the Adelaide Hills, Australia, and now after multiple California vintages, Brent’s Stagiaire project is really beginning to take on a voice of its own. I find that Mayeaux is reticent to admit to liking “wild” wines, but then when we hang out, these kinds of bottles are mostly what gets drank, and while I wouldn’t necessarily say that the Stagiaire juice is wild, I do feel a sense of letting go in each successive vintage; a feeling of non-attachment and confidence in the wines that belie their cartoonish and pun-laden labels and whatever ills may have gone down during harvest. Even the turn away from clear glass marks a more grownup feel to me. These are superbly elegant wines for people who like to think a little at the table, and enjoy open conversation with friends.
Sapphire, Samphire, & Saturn Returns 2020
Sauvignon Blanc maceration
An elegant and balanced maceration of Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc with a touch of reduction and an incredibly pleasing mineral component. It tastes fantastic now but will also be a treasure in the cellar come a few years.
Scales and Arpeggios 2020
Sangiovese (direct press)
A rose gold rosé that tastes like still Champagne, made from Sangiovese picked in the Santa Cruz mountains