Licorne Méchante ‘Le Phoque Plongeur’
Region: Mendocino County < CA
Grapes: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, French Colombard
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Organic farming; alluvial, schist + slate soils, old vine, dry-farmed, all varietals fermented separately in a mix of fiberglass flex tank & used barrel; Blended prior to bottling, returned to barrel to rest then bottled then rested again; unfined/unfiltered; zero-zero; 12.5% ABV
Winemaker: Shaunt Oungoulian and Diego Roig
Shaunt Oungoulian and Diego Roig are one of the OG natty California winemaking duo, making Les Lunes and Populis wines for nearly a decade. They farm and manage over 8 acres of vineyards in Napa and Sonoma themselves, in order to ensure 100% organic, zero-input fruit. And their production facility is literally the basement of Shaunt’s parents’ house in Orinda, just east of Berkeley, which allows them to produce wine without the interference of other wineries’ yeasts or influences.
This tiny-production wine is outside of the normal Populis box. They say, “The idea of the Licorne Mechante (the wicked unicorn) is to have an outlet for our (Les Lunes) wilder and more experimental wines. And also to house the lemons-to-lemonade situations that come with each harvest. Like this 'troublesome youth' bottling in which fermentation got stuck and they just let it ride until it unstuck itself and turned into a delicious light skin-contact blend that they call 'Phoque Plongeur' (the name means, randomly, ‘the diving seal’) Perhaps the suggestion is to dive right into this fun bottle?
We're in! Because this baby orange is aromatic, fun, & lively. It smells like a mix of bitter orange peel and almonds, with tart stone fruit, yellow plum, more bitter orange and herbal tea on the palate. There's a touch of dry tannin on the finish, but in the end, the fruit and aromatics win out, making this an excellent intro into skin-contact wine for all.