Potek winemaker releases non-alcoholic, all-natural wines
Some would call Dave Potter’s wines oddballs — himself included.
From the inside out, from the complex, vibrant tastes to the abstract, modern corks and labels, Municipal Wines pop out from the shelves and grab the eyes of curious customers.
And once those customers have a taste, Mr. Potter said they remain loyal.
“We’ve always skewed toward younger drinkers,” the winemaker told the News-Press. “And it’s always been younger people with a different kind of approach to wine.”
The winemaker has traveled around the world, studying vine arts in Australia and France, in order to learn how to challenge the status quo. All-natural bottles of syrah, pinot noir, chardonnay and many different blends line the shelves of his Potek Winery on Haley Street in Santa Barbara.
Most recently, he launched a totally unfiltered, chemical-free line called Nowadays, which he described as “crystalline pure expressions of the places they came from.”
Before Nowadays, in January, Mr. Potter released his non-alcoholic line, “January Zero Percent Drinks.” While he said he assumes people drank more alcohol independently throughout the pandemic lockdowns, he sees some people shifting to wanting to experience the “ceremony” of drinking wine without the actual alcohol part of it.
The January Drinks are, he said, a “light body alcohol, wine that was traditionally served to farmers in the field.” By pressing and soaking grape skins in water, the end result in the bottle is a diluted, alcohol-free wine. But it retains the wine’s color, aroma and exciting taste.
“It was like, how do we make something that tastes good and is interesting and complex?” Mr. Potter said. “Because grape juice just tastes like fruit juice — it’s the fermentation that unlocks all the interesting flavors. So we did it by basically layering on flavors that are reminiscent of what we would find in wines that we like to drink.”
Municipal Wines tend to appeal to millennials and Generation X, Mr. Potter said, along with Generation Z as they become of age. All of the label designs are done in house, telling the story of the natural, progressive or traditional wine inside.
He said the natural Nowadays wines aim to “let the microbiology speak as well as the vineyard.”
Mr. Potter graduated from UCSB, and he uses local vineyards located in the Santa Ynez Valley and the Sta. Rita Hills.
“Some of the wines come from the same vineyards, but we just approach the same fruit in different mindsets, and we create drastically different projects,” the winemaker said. “… We’re just trying to experiment and express different kinds of ideas and approaches to winemaking through these different labels and personalities.”
Most Municipal Wines range from $20 to $40 a bottle, with the non-alcoholic bottles running slightly cheaper.
The names of the wines are uplifting phrases, such as “Make the Time,” “You Got This” and “Good Job.”
At the end of the day, Mr. Potter said he just wants the community to engage with his wines.
“This hasn’t been like, come sit down and do a wine flight. I mean, yes, we do flights. Yes, we do tastings,” he said. “But it’s always been more of a hang out spot … It’s been a very vibrant, engaged thing that doesn’t really quite feel like a winery.”