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.
The 2017 Vintage: It would be an understatement to say things went horribly wrong for Hardy during the 2017 vintage. Right at the beginning of harvest, he lost his sight, first in one eye, then in both. It returned after nearly two weeks, but they were already behind. Then came the first heat-spike. Temperatures climbed to an astonishing 46º for four days which exacerbated the vines. Hardy’s brother-in-law decided to come down and help manage the chaos but tragically died in a car crash en route. Grief stricken and ill, they persevered through another ludicrous heat spike. Then came the fires. Hardy, along with his wife and daughter had to abandon the winery and head to safety while wines were mid ferment. When they returned eight days later, the wines were fucked. Virtually every wine was stuck mid ferment or had ridiculous levels of volatile acidity. They tried to file an insurance claim and sell off the wine in bulk but were denied. “To stay in business, we had to roll up our sleeves and make the wines”. They restarted the stuck fermentations, volatile acidity was removed with reverse osmosis, and the wines were filtered. Winemaking is never easy, but few people have had to face the challenges Hardy did last year. I adore this charismatic, gifted, humble, and uplifting weirdo more than I can express in words.
2017 UNFAMILIAR MOURVEDRE
This cuvée is a blend from all of Hardy’s best vineyard sites: Shake Ridge Ranch, Rodnick Farm (formerly Antle), Skinner Vineyards, Rosewood, Wonderment Rd., Alder Springs, and Brosseau. Mourvèdre (85%), Syrah (10%) and Grenache (5%) were co-fermented with 100% stem inclusion. Volatile acidity was reduced by reverse osmosis and the wine was lightly filtered before bottling. It is sealed under a recyclable, carbon neutral, plant based NomaCorc. 12.5% ABV.
(1971 Cases Produced) 805707
2015 SKINNER STONEY CREEK MOURVÈDRE
Skinner Stoney Creek Vineyard is located just east of Sacramento in the foothills of El Dorado County. At a dizzying 2400’ the vines thrive in decomposed granite as well as loam and sandstone. Farming has been organic here for a couple years now. Whole clusters and indigenous yeasts were used during fermentation. As always, additives were avoided like the plague and the wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal SO2. 12.3% ABV
(83 Cases Produced) 787406
2014 SHAKE RIDGE RANCH MOURVÈDRE
Amadour County is located just south and east of Sacramento in the Sierra Foothills and is home to the highly revered Shake Ridge Ranch Vineyard. It is roughly 2000’ above sea level and features decomposed granite soils as well as a plethora of large rocks like soapstone and quartz. The vineyard has been organic since 2013. Whole clusters and indigenous yeasts were used during fermentation. As per usual, additives were avoided and the wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal SO2. (Matthew Rorick sources Barbera from this vineyard for his San Hercurmer Delle Frecce cuvée) 13% ABV
(291 Cases Produced) 787407
The grapes for this cuvée come from a half dozen vineyards ranging from Santa Barbara to Amador County. Half of the vineyards are sustainable and the other half are organic. The wine was completely whole cluster fermented with indigenous yeasts; including the stems adds freshness and an herbal spice. No additives were used during winemaking. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal SO2. They use NomaCorcs to seal the Familiar because this closure is carbon neutral and recyclable, yet breaths like a traditional cork. 12.7% ABV
(1087 Cases Produced) 787405