Dirty and Rowdy Family Wines is the newest label in Napa (or was until John started slapping labels on the Enfield Wine Co. Haynes Vineyard Syrah last night!), and if you’re into drinking the kind of wine that I am, it is undisputedly one of the best.
The wine is a partnership between two couples: DIRTY is Hardy and Kate, ROWDY is Matt and Amy. They all met while living in Atlanta – where Matt and Amy still reside – Hardy was working in tech and writing a wine blog called Dirty South Wine, while his buddy Matt was getting increasingly geeky about cooking as he worked on a blog called Rowdy Food. Their excitement about wine grew and grew and grew, and after Hardy and Kate relocated to Northern California, they decided to give it a go making their own wine. Man, am I happy they did.
Hardy Wallace‘s story is very cool – he first came on the wine scene in a recognizable way as the winner of Murphy Goode’s “A Really Goode Job” competition in 2009 (which I may have sent an application for…). This brought him to Sonoma County to work as the winery’s “lifestyle” correspondent for 6 months. He then started working with Kevin Kelley at Salinia / The Natural Process Alliance (whom I had the great honor to meet yesterday), and the first vintage of Dirty and Rowdy was made in 2010. Hardy poured me both the 2010 and 2011 Mourvedre from the Santa Barbara Highlands, as well as the 2011 Semillon from Yountville (Napa). You wouldn’t believe the elegance in these wines, all three are around 12.5% alcohol, with a fresh acidity and enough structure to indicate a nice long lifespan. The wines had actually been opened for a couple of days when I tasted them, and I would never have known if Hardy hadn’t told me. This is just the kind of wine I want to drink (especially in the summer) – and it’s not a style that is very common in California.
Now, anybody reading this who is familiar with the wine that is generally produced around here is probably saying:
“Semillon from YOUNTVILLE?”
“12.5 % ABV??”
You are not alone in your shock – especially when you consider that these guys are picking their grapes a month before all of their neighbors, who look at them like they’re totally crazy. As I began learning on Monday at Calluna Vineyards and wrote about yesterday, the current status quo seems to be to allow grapes to get incredibly ripe on the vine, knowing that you can correct that and create balance in the cellar. This allows for a kind of consistency that nature rarely provides, and makes a lot of sense for a commercial winemaking operation.
But the romantic in me will always prefer to view wine as an expression of the place where the grapes were grown, and accomplishing this can call for some seriously low-impact winemaking. As Hardy summed it up, the philosophy at Dirty and Rowdy is “nothing added, nothing removed, low sulfur.”
Hardy, Kate, Matt, and Amy aren’t out to prove a point to the world, they’re just trying to make the wine that they want to drink. Luckily for me… I love the same things they do.