Samuel Louis Smith functions as a micro-négociant based in Salinas, California. Organic viticulture, mountainous sites, and minimal intervention in the cellar are tenets of the brand. SLS presents a compelling cross-section of the Central Coast, focusing on Sta. Rita Hills chardonnay, Monterey pinot noir, and Santa Cruz Mountains cool-climate syrah. The wines are made in a neoclassical style where light handling, wild fermentations, and stem inclusion in the reds create wines of place and purity, aroma and structure.
In the future, the core of SLS will be made with dirty fingernails and estate grown grapes. For now, Sam is dedicated to sourcing fruit from the most distinctive honestly- and sustainably-farmed vineyards. He is also head winemaker at the historic Morgan Winery, a pioneer of organic viticulture and traditional winemaking in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA.
Sam studied Economics, French, and Spanish at UC Santa Barbara. A nagging desire for wine knowledge and proximity to good surf led Sam to Bordeaux- the perfect place to spend a semester abroad. Coinciding with the iconic vintage of 2009, it opened his eyes to the world of haute cuisine and fine wine. Though somewhat reticent and cold, Sam’s Bordelaise host family ate and drank quite well; their pairing of confit de canard with ’89 Margaux on a cold Sunday afternoon in November still serves as an epiphanous moment for him.
Wine and everything it embodies are still the most cerebral and inspiring experience for Sam. Making pinot noir in the Willamette Valley and cool-climate syrah in the Northern Rhône, and cutting his teeth as assistant winemaker for Margerum Wine Company gave him the opportunities to find where his palate and California’s cool, mountainous Central Coast terroir converge.
Watercolor paintings, also found in black and white on the labels, are Sam’s originals.