Together, Hardy Wallace and Matt, along with Kate Graham and Amy, have started and today release Dirty & Rowdy [Family] Wines. Hardy and Matt share the overall demands of the business, and all of the high level wine making decisions, while Hardy is on site through the year to maintain the hands on wine making. The family is of affection. In June, I was lucky enough to spend time with Wallace and Graham, tasting their Mourvedre and Semillon, while talking about how they understand the work they do.
Tasting Dirty & Rowdy Wines
The 2010 Dirty & Rowdy Mourvedre
The 2010 Dirty & Rowdy Mourvedre comes in at 12.8% with a lighter bodied presentation of the dark elements classic to the grape.The wine carries a dusty fineness of dark berries, with a balance of freshness and earthiness both, very light petrol and powdered sage, and a long toast with light tang finish.
Wallace explains his inspiration for this wine is the lighter style of Cru Beaujolais, with its combination of refreshing body carrying a depth of stoniness and character. At the same time, his interest in making the Mourvedre comes from his love of whites, with their ability to offer a transparency of the dirt from which they originate. His goal, then, is to create a wine with rich flavoral components, a transparency of the place in which it is grown, and at the same time a lighter weight in the mouth.
Wallace illustrates that his favorite wines can be understood as an analog to sushi. “The wines I love most have had the least amount of touch. Every time a wine is touched [in production], it is one step further from where it’s from.” Sushi, on the other hand, offers the least intervention for food–as raw fish, it is dealt with only in as much as will make it safe to consume, and as much as it takes to cut and place it on the plate. The paradox of this wine arises in that Mourvedre, as a variety, offers a great weight in its character, but Wallace manages to draw on the heft of the Mourvedre in a lighter frame of presentation. Traditionally the grape has been dealt with in red blends to bring darker notes. It is less often treated as a straight varietal.
To deliver his vision, Wallace created the 2010 Mourvedre with Santa Barbara Highlands fruit, 100% whole cluster, and only enough punch downs to push the cap during fermentation.
The 2011 Dirty & Rowdy Mourvedre
For the 2011 vintage, Wallace wanted to create an even lighter presentation for the Mourvedre. He chose to pick the fruit earlier for a little more freshness, and during fermentation was even lighter in his pushing on the clusters. He’d push the cap down once a day in 2011, “just enough to see my feet in there.”
In getting Wallace to discuss his views on wine, conversation comes around eventually to a profoundly spiritual heart focus. In the way he discusses wine and wine making, what shows is a belief that inasmuch as any of us have a spiritual life, it is right here in our everyday. The choice comes in whether we be open to it. “When fermentation gets going… [he pauses] I want to be present for it. That process… the center of the earth is connected to the center of the universe, hopefully with gentle hands between.” Wallace’s devotion and focus comes too from more than 17 years studying, and playing North Indian Classical music, a form that brings together incredible discipline and clarity with the understanding that any of us are, and can be conduits for that spiritual life force just mentioned.
Wallace explains that his views of wine overlap his understanding of music. “Music communicates the things we don’t have language for. Wine does this as well.” Kate agrees, nodding, “What Hardy is doing, it’s all about the heart. [Engaging in wine and music, or any of our other projects] they’re a way of noticing, what does it do to you? And, also, of paying attention to, what are you doing?” Revealed in these questions is a simultaneous awareness of surrender to what can’t be controlled, and recognition of the power of personal choices. It is in the midst of this understanding that the seriousness shows something more. Wallace spells it out. “We’re trying to make it as fun as possible, by taking a light hearted approach. It should be fun. It is our life.”
The 2011 utilizes fruit of Shake Ridge Vineyard, and carries a greener, toastier nose, with light green melon and wild berry. The palate again shows that powdered touch on an earthy pepper palate and a berry tang finish. This wine is juicy in the mouth, with a drying finish. It does drink with the lightness of white wine, showing, compared to the 2010, a younger, stronger structure with pleasant lift, and a freshness and liveliness pumping through it.
The 2011 Dirty & Rowdy Semillon
In 2011 Hardy & Matt added Semillon from Yountville to their portfolio. Interested, again, in generating a wine with the mixed qualities not necessarily typical of the grape, they chose to do two separate fermentations that would be blended after.
The ton of Semillon was split into two lots, half de-stemmed and fermented in an open top with vigorous tred. The wine fermented easily and was never racked generating a lot of juice. The second lot was half pressed, with everything going into a concrete egg. The fermentation, however, was slow to start so Wallace took a small portion of juice from the first lot and added it in. Fermentation then took off, and when complete the wine was racked into barrels. After, both lots were blended back together.
The 2011 Semillon shows a nose of dusty, citrus brightness with apricot, and very light pineapple hints. The palate is vibrant, totally avoiding Semillon’s potential for fattiness in the mouth. The wine carries a dusty, grippy finish.
Congratulations to the Dirty & Rowdy family on the birth of their wine label TO-DAY. (p.s. Yours is my favorite wine t-shirt. I wore it all over Oregon yesterday to boost the love in anticipation of your release.)
If you are interested in purchasing Dirty & Rowdy wines they are available via mailing list. You can sign up with your name and address via email to: info (at) dirtyandrowdy (dot) com.
They are also being distributed in New York by Jenny & Francois Selections.
Thank you so much to Hardy Wallace and Kate Graham.
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