Los Angeles, California, USA
Where the new meets the old
Sabelli-Frisch makes low-intervention wines in an old-world style with focus on historical varieties. Naturally fermented, mostly unfiltered. No chemicals or additives. Minimal sulfites and maximum passion.
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Working with us since: 2022
Viticultural Standards: Organically farmed
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Adam Sabelli-Frisch is who many wine lovers dream of becoming, a neo-winemaker crafting expressive wines from old heritage grapes. An established cinematographer, Adam spent his 25-year career in the commercial and movie business in Los Angeles, California. Passionate about wine, and more specifically natural wines, he started making wine at home as a fun project a few years ago. And with Sabelli-Frisch officially approaching a fifth harvest, his passion and his skills are fully showing: “I’m new still, compared to some families that have been making wine for hundreds of years, but I’ve found my focus and know how to make wine.”
Planning on working exclusively with native American varieties at first, he did his research to see what these wines tasted like: “I tried all the wines made from these varieteies and they were all horrible. So, I thought, well, what’s the oldest European strand of grapes that has been used here? Mission. It had been here since the conquistadors came in 1500s to Mexico. I’ll start with that one.” There and then, Sabelli-Frisch started. Mission it will be.
In order to understand how to best grow and vinify the Mission grape, Adam started by tasting Mission (Pais) wines from South America. He then sought the finest fruit he could find, in old vines of Lodi, California. His Mission grapes are farmed organically, both non-irrigated and own-rooted. He soon began his first production, following the simplest, lowest intervention methods possible. For the first two vintages, Adam made the wines at a local winery where they had an in-house winemaker who helped keep all the fermentations going in the right way. As this setup became increasingly expensive, Adam acquired his own urban winery in the heart of Los Angeles three years ago, with a new set of challenges: “In the beginning, it was kind of embarrassing because, when I got my winery, I had never really been in the cellar on my own. I didn’t know how to attach hoses or anything. I had to call people to ask, ‘how do you put this hose on the tank?’. Things are different now, as the winery has turned into a well-run operation, crafting exceptional wines every year, with the help of his wife.
Aside from Mission, Sabelli-Frisch makes exceptional, low-intervention wines from other grapes, including Tinta Cão, Alicante Bouchet and Zinfandel. Sourcing grapes from select vineyards in California (75% Lodi, and 25% Santa Barbara), each wine is made from single varietal and single site. One of the vineyards, Blodgett Vineyard in Mokelumne River, is farmed organically by Adam himself, to produces a skin-contact rosé from the grape Flame Tokay. His focus is to showcase the true nature of each grape at a specific time and place.
While Sabelli-Frisch started as a side project five years ago, it grew faster than expected. Sabelli-Frisch’ current production is about 1200 cases, up to 1500 cases, with expectations to go over 2000 cases next year. Being able to export his wines to the UK was always in the works for Adam, who lived in Hastings for 8 years: “I wanted to be represented there and Wanderlust was the best importer for Sabelli-Frisch. I saw the website and I spoke with Richard and thought ‘this is an interesting company that had seemed to have the same ethos as me’, caring about the small producers.”
Adam intends to keep Sabelli-Frisch small and not become detached from it. “I want to be involved”, he says. Continuing to shoot commercials occasionally also allows him to pursue his Sabelli-Frisch winery and have the opportunity to spend time with his young family. The rest of his time is now spent at the winery. He is also planning on working more with Zinfandel this year. He recently released a white Zinfandel, very dry and different from the typically big and sweet Zins we’ve come to expect. We hope to bring these ones for you when they become available. In the meantime, we highly recommend the Sabelli-Frisch wines we have available for you!