Darek Trowbridge has been at this for a while. One of the natural wine pioneers in the Russian River Valley, his own history among the vines goes back over a century. The man who taught Darek how to tend to vines – how to enjoy and fall for the life in the vineyard – was his grandfather, none other than Leno Martinelli of famed estate Martinelli Winery, known for some of the best Pinots and Zinfandels to ever come out of California. The vines that Darek tends to are indeed the ones first planted by his great-grandfather, Giuseppe, back in 1890. In addition to being so amazingly old, the vines have been pristinely conserved and farmed for their entire lives – a rare feat anywhere in the world let alone the Russian River Valley where conventional wine has consistently won the day. Since 1998, Trowbridge has been in charge of crafting his ‘natural’ wines here, and they are as pure as they come. The honesty of his stewardship – he foot stomps all his grapes, that is, no presses! – in conjunction with the deep roots of the vines yield inimitable art-pieces that run the gamut, from glou-glou, low-ABV Cab. Sauv fizzers, to brooding varietal takes on “Abouriou” a native Basque grape whose only New World-planting happens to be here at Old World Winery. Carefully crafted, with a tendency to age the wines either in barrel or bottle prior to releasing, these are some of the most tried-and-true, kick-ass natural wines from a winemaker who has such expertise, quite literally, in his blood.
Vinification: 30 year old Alicante Bouschet grown on shale and benchland soils from Hopland, Mendocino. Organic and biodynamic. Hand-harvested, followed by whole cluster fermentation using native yeasts in open-top neutral French oak with periodic punchdowns. The wine then spends 48 months on the lees (!!!) in neutral french oak before bottling, where it then spends another 4 years (!!!!!!!!!).
Tasting: Aged California Alicante Bouschet? We were confused at first too… Based on the color alone, this would be what my grandmother would call a “teeth-stainer,” but don’t let that inky, deep-purple hue fool you. This is as fresh as any Loire Valley Cab Franc. High acidity, bright cranberry and an earthy backbone. It drinks way lighter than it looks, so throw a slight chill on it and serve it with pizza.