2016 Los Chuchaquis by Stirm Wine Co., Old Vine Mataro, San Benito County.
This wine is a part of a joint project lineup by Ryan Stirm, Andrew Paul Nelson and Jehan Hakimian that focuses on natural wines from interesting old vine sites. Chuchaqui is a Quechua word that literally means “without legs” and used colloquially in Ecuador to refer to someone who is “perpetually hungover”. The three initially connected through their joint love of Riesling and California’s historic vineyards, they brought the Chuchaqui dream of making their own idea of natural wine from California’s historic varieties to life in 2016. Inspired by some of the most successful European (think Occhipinti & Lapierre) and California natural wines, without the old hippy absolute dogma that led to dirty and funky wines that weren’t pleasant or stable, there is a clarity and action to detail here, though there has never, nor will there ever be, any commercial (industrial) yeast used at the winery, relying on native strains only and now new oak barrels, no additions or aggressive handling during production. Other than a minimal amount of S02 (sulfur) that was added to their Rosé, the wines are made without any sulfur and exclusively 100% organically grown grapes. To make this style of wine, and not end up with weirdness you need to have extreme cleanliness and top your barrels with a fanatic sense of purpose to make sure you don’t let volatile acidity run rampant and everything I’ve tried from Stirm shows to dedication and pride in hard work, especially in this old vine Mourvedre (Mataro) which shows wonderful purity and fresh form, it is joyous on the medium full palate and refined in texture and has juicy ripeness without harsh tannin and a long dry finish. The 2016 Chuchaqui Old Vine Mataro is vibrant, spicy and has a nice array of spice, mineral and earthy tones that you’d expect from this grape with layers of vivid black raspberry, plum and candied cherry fruit that come across at first as crisply focused, but gains density and firm structure with air which balances the up front expressiveness of this red, and even though it doesn’t quite get the full mouth feel or richness of a Bandol or some of the better and more complex Mourvedre offerings in the state, like Sandlasnds, Alban, Tablas Creek, Ian Brand, who’s Enz Vineyard version is one of my personal favorites as is Randall Grahm’s Old Telegram and or Ridge’s Lytton Springs single varietal bottling, to name a few I’ve loved recently as I really love this grape, while (This Chuchaqui) still being a fun and well made wine, and it really grew on me when it’s full presence come through in the glass. It’s dark garnet/purple color is exciting and when enjoyed with food it is allowed to deliver it’s best qualities which include hints of lavender, dusty stones, a touch of primary red peach and blood orange is the only hint at it’s naturalness as well as minty herb, anise, flinty/pepper and lingering cinnamon, cedar, dried flowers and tangy currant/mulberry. This wine shows lots of promise, it has a lot of admirable character and I’m excited to see where this label goes, I love Ryan’s own label Riesling, which is right up there with Tatomer and Joyce in a dry style, and I also liked their co-ferment nouveau field blend as well. Drink this old vine Mataro by Chuchaqui (Stirm Wine Co.) sooner v. later, it excels for it’s youthful charm and with no added sulfur you’ll need to be extra careful and keep it away from light and heat if you cellar it, best from 2018 to 2021, I think it has more than enough class, potential and style to surprise and hope to drink a few more bottles over the next few years.
($35 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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