Vine Path Blog 8/19: Ruth Lewandowski 2018 Release is Here!
If you’re a natural wine fan you probably are already in love with the crazy beautiful wines of Ruth Lewandowski. For several vintages Evan Lewandowski, the one man operation behind Ruth, has been working vineyards in California and trucking them back to his home and winery in Utah of all places. This insane journey to make wild and category defining wines is captivating and confounding to most wine fans who first discover him. Why would anyone go to that trouble? Why Utah? And what’s up with these weird varietals? All of these questions point to the passion, dedication, and philosophical poignancy of Evan’s work. Each year we get the opportunity to buy some of these hyper limited bottles and we’re excited to get to share them with you.
First, a note on the name Ruth. There is in fact no Ruth. It’s a reference to The Book of Ruth in the Old Testament, and a rather interesting, if not morbid, quotation, “death is, indeed, the engine of life”. Evan’s philosophy around this is well put, “From the wreckage of death and tragedy at the beginning of the book of Ruth, a young woman finds life, finds beauty and is able to truly live....not simply in spite of the death, but because the death occurred at all. The regeneration of the life of our soils occurs only through organic matter...all completely dead, broken down carbon-based items. A natural fermentation is the building up and dying off of multiple strains of yeast and bacteria, each paving the way for the next strain to take over (and each leaving their altogether unique signatures of flavor, aroma, and textural compounds).”
Beautiful! This is the kind of thoughtfulness and personal connection to the work that makes us swoon! For Evan, a bottle of wine and what had to occur for it to be the way it is, is directly connected to his spiritualism. When I drink Evan’s wines I can’t help but feel like there is something to this connection. His wines are simultaneously fun to drink, pleasurable, and depthful, complex, and intriguing. And if the lesson contained in the Book of Ruth is that this cycle of death is not merely a sad tale but required to perpetuate the evidently ecstatic nature of being alive then of course we’d be faced with wines that were at once serious, reflective, intellectual, fun, enjoyable, and euphoric.
Enough with philosophy, onto the wines!
We’ve reserved three different bottlings from Evan for you this month: Feints, Rose Cuvee Zero, and Mahlon.
Best to start with Feints since it’s his iconic bottling and the one he makes the most of (a whopping 875 cases). Sourced entirely from his friend’s Fox Hill Vineyard in Mendocino County, a vineyard that has become somewhat famous amongst wine aficionados in the past few years since it’s almost entirely planted to Italian varietals. For the cuvee Feints, Evan co-ferments Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Arneis, a white Piedmontese varietal that typically makes up 30%-50% of the blend. The wine goes through full carbonic maceration to keep the tannins down and the freshness pronounced. Feints is the best gateway into Evan’s world, since it is confounding, category defining, and delicious. You can serve this with a slight chill (it’s are preference here) but it’s fine close to room temperature as well.
For Rose Cuvee Zero Evan sources Portuguese varietals from Matthew Rorick’s Rorick Heritage Vineyard in Calaveras county at almost 2000 feet of elevation in the Sierra Foothills. This vineyard site is unlike anything in California. Planted to dozens and dozens of different varietals across a myriad of aspects and soil types, the Rorick Heritage Vineyard is one of the most ecologically diverse locations in California to find grapes. For the Rose, Evan takes Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo) from Matthew’s site and blends it with Souzao and Touriga Nacional from Fox Hill Vineyard. The resulting Rose is deep in color, massive, textual, and intensely flavorful. Like Feints, this wine is defiant of the rose category but still remains refreshing and thirst quenching as any rose on the market.
Lastly we come to Mahlon, a 98 case production skin contact Arneis, and maybe Evan’s best wine. All sourced from the Fox Hill Vineyard, Arneis is a Piedmontese varietal whose name translates to “the little rascal” since it’s notoriously finicky in the vineyard and in the cellar. A challenge to keep at high enough acid levels and prone to oxidation, the grape deserves this name and it only made into Mahlon in roughly 50% of the vintages. When it’s good though, it’s really good and 2018 is a great year for it. Simultaneously taught, powerful and broad, this vintage is quite unlike previous vintages. The wine is deeper hued, spicier, and generally more intense than it has been in the past but still oh, so good in it’s own unique way.
As of the 2018 vintage, Evan Lewandowski has finally moved his operations closer to the source and set up shop in California. We’re excited about what this will mean for him (and his Wild Ruth Ranch project) though we’ll miss telling the story of a crazy man driving grapes from California to Utah so he can make a wine like Feints. Keep your eyes peeled for this man’s easy to spot bottles and grab them when you can, they’re alway an eye opening treat.
Oh, as an added treat for you, our beloved Vine Path members, we’re also throwing in a bottle of Martha Stoumen’s Nero d’Avola. Martha is another rock star like personality in the California natural wine scene and this Nero speaks to why. Check out this excellent article in SevenFifty Daily about Martha and her Nero if you get obsessed. We feel like Martha and Evan’s wine share a kinship that make sense once you’ve tried them all together and we didn’t want to leave you red deprived during grilling season.