Last week there was a big event in the wine world, the culmination of a very special story, at least to me – the wines of Dirty & Rowdy Family Wines were released upon the world.
Though the grapes couldn’t have been grown further from the south, and the official launch was in a wine shop in San Francisco, the story begins in Atlanta.
The tale has been told many times, but it’s your classic boy loses distribution tech job, wins worldwide hunt for social media champion, does his work dutifully but unsurprisingly quits working for the corporate machine, lands a job with one of the best up-and-coming and super respected wine makers amongst the cool kids of Cali winemakers, makes his mark there and continues on to work for seemingly everyone, all the while plotting, growing, legalizing, and marketing his own wine label, along with a close friend who continues to reside in Atlanta.
Three years later, the first two vintages, three wines, are ready for the world, and a lot of esteemed wine people are excited. The initial release includes a skin fermented napa valley Sémillon, and two vintages of whole cluster fermented Santa Barbara Mourvèdre. You know, the normal California wines you would expect.
But anyone who knows Dirty and Rowdy should know to expect things to be just a little different. And yes, the label does depict them valiantly defeating a cougar with a weed wacker and pruning shears.
Having tried the ’10 Mourvèdre last night, I’ve now tried all of the wines, and I’ll shamelessly say I like them. The 2010 drinks like gamay (think Beaujolais), and if I recall correctly the 2011 has a little more acid, crazy brightness and a little bit of funky edge. But the Sémillon is full on James Brown. Most often used for sweet Sauternes wine, this richly yellowed and cloudy (unfiltered) wine is most certainly dry, but with wild fruit. It’s a wine with a nutso amount of aromatics (which I love), that provide intrigue as they change over time. This one is more of an experience, with rewards going to the patient and open minded.
The Sémillon may be the hardest for the traditionalist to love right away, but I think all of these wines provide a fantastic gateway to the world of the much maligned “natural wine” world. It’s a loose term, applied for various reasons by different people, but to me the goal is for the wine to be a fair and uninfluenced representation of the fruit/land from which they came. Hardy and Rowdy’s wines have the least amount of additions possible, no flavor enhancers or adjustments to alcohol (which is awesomely low by the way, under 13%!), with the least amount of CO2 possible for preservation. The clusters are hand sorted, and the grapes were fermented naturally (no temp control) with native yeasts, using the carbonic maceration method where the juice ferments inside the skin of the grapes, not punctured and pressed, often resulting in a lively texture on the wine. Grapes were tread by foot daily to punch down the cap and mix up the fermentation hot spots. In fact, my feet spent a fair amount of time in the 2010, which may be a selling point for some of you foot fetish weirdos.
If you want to buy some online, you can do so on the website, but you should hurry. There are only a few bottles of 2010 left, and my understanding is that more than 70% of production has been sold.
Ed Thralls, Hardy Wallace, and Me - July 2009