DIRTY & ROWDY
Before we started importing Dirty & Rowdy, I would wait patiently for the bi-annual email from the winery, purchase what I could, and would drive down to Montana to pick up my loot. The wines were so confounding I could hardly contain my joy and confusion. They were unapologetically Californian, yet low in alcohol, and had all the drinkability I craved.
Hardy Wallace, the winery’s co-founder and helmsman, started his winding professional life as a classic East-Indian musician. Despite his skill and passion, the limited work he could obtain led him to the tech industry. Here he schmoozed clients at fancy dinners, ordering bottles of wine he himself desperately wanted to try. This gave him a unique opportunity to taste glamourous wines without breaking his own bank account. Eventually, his love of wine took over and he entered a contest to win a year-long job as a winemaker – needless to say, his charisma won him the opportunity. From here he learned some essential technical skills and made powerful friends. Fast forward a couple years and he was able to exploit these relationships to start his own project with his wife and best friends.
The winery’s mantra is to question everything and make wine they want to drink. This meant a focus on more balanced wine (lower alcohol, brighter acid, well placed tannins) that still translated terroir. They wanted to work with organic and sustainably farmed fruit from a wide range of sites. This led them to many incredibly old vineyards in the underrepresented nooks and crannies of old California. In this vein, they have also thought about their packaging, using carbon neutral Noma Corks for some of their cuvées.
Their winemaking is equally analogue. All the reds are fermented as whole clusters, are crushed by foot, settle naturally in neutral vessels, and are bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with judicious levels of SO2. These old-school techniques somehow capture the energy and purity of the sites from which they come. I’m seldom has happy as I am with a bottle of the Familiar Mourvèdre by my side.
2018 FAMILIAR MOURVEDRE
About: This cuvée is Hardy’s introduction to Mourvèdre. It is a multi-vineyard blend spanning Monterey, Mendocino, Contra Costa, El Dorado, and Amador Counties. Each of the vineyards is farmed organically. This year, thanks to less substantial heat spikes, they were able to let the fruit hang longer to obtain extra intensity and depth. This wine was fermented in open-top vat with 100% stem inclusion. It was raised in neutral barrel before being bottled, unfined and unfiltered. Hardy uses NomaCorc on this cuvée to ensure the wines are TCA free. 13.2% ABV
2018 FAMILIAR BLANC
About: Like the Familiar Mourvèdre, this is a blend of all their white cuvées. Vineyard sources include Mendocino, Napa, and Monterey. This is a quirky blend of Semillon (55%), Chenin Blanc (16%), Pinot Blanc (15%), Viognier (10%), Muscat (3%), and Marsanne (1%). 40% of the grapes were fermented on their skins anaerobically for a short period of time before being pressed off. The rest was direct pressed into neutral barrel. After a short élevage, the wine is racked and bottled without fining nor filtration. Hardy uses NomaCorc on this cuvée to ensure the wines are TCA free. 12% ABV
2018 SKIN & CONCRETE SEMILLON
About: This cuvée is a celebration of the uniqueness and beauty of Semillon, one of California’s unsung heroes. The grapes were harvested relatively early at roughly 18-20 Brix. 70% of the grapes were destemmed and fermented on skins for 24 days. 10% was fermented as whole clusters for 15 days before being pressed off. The remainder was direct pressed to concrete egg. It was eventually bottled unfined, and unfiltered. 11% ABV
2016 PETITE SIRAH
About: Hardy’s daughter Maple was born in 2016 and he wanted to make a special cuvée just for her. He decided to use a tiny vineyard in St. Helena (Napa Valley) as his muse. The Petite Sirah vines are planted in sandy clay loam. Whole-clusters are fermented in open top tank for a short period of time before being pressed off into 5-8-year-old French oak barrels. After a long élevage, the wine is racked once and bottled. 13.5% ABV
2016 ANTLE MOURVEDRE
About: Way up in the Gabilan Mountains, in the Chalone AVA, you’ll find Hardy’s prized Antle Vineyard. This organically farmed site is 1700ft above sea level on limestone and granite. The wine is fermented as whole-clusters in open-top tank. Élevage takes place in 5-8-year-old French oak barrels before being racked and bottled, unfined and unfiltered. 12.6% ABV