Samuel Louis Smith is a micro-négociant based in Salinas, CA, focused on some of the coolest sites of the Central Coast. Mountainous terroir, organic viticulture, and minimal intervention in the cellar are tenets of the brand. SLS presents a compelling cross-section of the Central Coast, focusing on chardonnay, gamay noir, pinot noir, and cool-climate syrah from Santa Barbara, Monterey, and Santa Cruz. The brand embodies a neoclassical style where lower alcohol and higher acidity, stem inclusion in the reds, and native fermentations with little to no additions create wines of place and purity, aroma and structure.
Over the course of his career, Sam has worked in Santa Barbara (Brander, Tres Hermanas, Margerum), Australia (Mitchelton), the Willamette Valley (Tendril), the Northern Rhône (Villard), and most recently in Champagne (Nowack & Sélèque). He is currently head winemaker of Morgan Winery, a pioneer of organic viticulture in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The future vision of SLS is a program focused on estate grown grapes. For now, Sam is dedicated to sourcing fruit from the most distinctive sustainably and organically farmed vineyards, highlighting the best of the Central Coast’s mountainous sites. SLS produces about 1,000 cases annually.
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 found on the labels are Sam’s originals.