Sea Monster rose from the briny depths of seafood obsession – as surfers and a Navy veteran respectively, Christian Tietje and Adam LaZarre needed acid-driven, racy white wines to wash down the ocean’s bounty. When you’re a winemaker with an uncontrollable need for a wine, you make it.
Picture harvesting oysters from shallow flats in Washington’s foggy, craggy inlets, or pulling lobster traps from the crystalline sea on a sunny Maine morning.
These experiences shaped both men. The call of the ocean has been so strong that it brought them both to the West Coast. Christian, a lifelong surfer, chased waves to California, while Adam joined the Navy, which anchored him in Seattle.
The two are a winemaking match made in heaven – both can make wine in their sleep, put in 18-hour days consecutively and both march to the rhythm of the waves.
The only issue – LaZarre’s ideal seafood pairing is with the high-acid, flinty Sauvignon Blancs of the Loire Valley, while Christian loves the steely Chardonnay found in Chablis. So why not make one of each, and a third wine, called Octopussy, an irreverent marriage of varieties unlike any wine you’ll ever find out of France.
Christian found a Chardonnay site that would make a Chablisien’s jaw drop – Los Alamos Vineyard on the Santa Barbara Coast. You can’t find a more marine-influenced terroir without going underwater, and Los Alamos Vineyard, chockfull of preserved oyster shells, once was.
LaZarre sources Sea Monster’s Sauvignon Blanc predominantly from the alluvial, river bottom soils in the Camp 4 vineyard on the eastern edge of the Santa Ynez Valley, at the foot of Happy Canyon. The site is ideal for fully ripening Sauvignon Blanc, and developing the grape’s diversity of flavors.
Octopussy brings together Riesling, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, and Chardonnay from in and around the Star Lane Vineyard in Happy Canyon. It doesn’t mimic any pre-existing style. Instead, it’s built to wash down seared scallops and anything octopus.
Tietje and LaZarre pick early to maintain acidity, and they focus on tank ferments and as little oak influence as possible to keep the wines fresh and mouthwatering, and to retain the identity of fruit’s source.
Sea Monster truly is a labor of love the result of the ultimate crustacean pairing wine. Tietje and LaZarre are both winemakers by day (Christian is the co-owner and winemaker of Cypher winery, and Adam is the winemaker at Cycles Gladiator) and Sea Monster by night.
If you catch them in their free time, you’ll find them taking down two dozen oysters, grilling up freshly-caught Mahi Mahi, or maybe steaming mussels, listening to rock ‘n roll, metal or the latest indie band; and certainly drinking, and sharing, their Sea Monster wines and sea stories.