2018 Los Chuchaquis, Rosa del Peru, Wirz Vineyard Cienega Valley, San Benito County.
The tiny production of Rosa del Peru, better known as the Mission grape, by Ryan Stirm and his Los Chuchaquis is an earthy/leathery light bodied red wine that has a kick of dusty spices and very quiet fruit with macerated strawberry, dried cherry, spiced plum and grilled orange in a natural styled stony and peppery wine that is best served slightly chilled. The Mission grape, also called Listan Prieto or Pais was the first European grape in California, coming with the Spanish missions in the late 1700s, which was the first wine in the state, with this Los Chuchaquis being a fun retro version. I had planned to drink this one a few years back, but I somehow forgot I had it and it was used in an educational tasting of California Mission grape wines, where it proved more interesting than pleasing with raw red chili flakes, dried raspberry and savory sous bois notes coming through at this stage. Coming from the old vines at the Wirz Vineyard planted in the Cienega Valley, according to the winery, this vineyard boasts some vines well over a century old, and has black limestone soils which help the grapes retain acid in the day time heat here, in fact they even have gnarly ancient head trained and dry farmed Riesling here. The Los Chuchaquis, Rosa del Peru wine was bottled without added sulfur, which may have lessened the freshness of this bottle that I probably didn’t store perfectly, since I had planned to drink it much earlier. For those looking for something less esoteric should definitely check out Ryan Stirm’s fine selection of Rieslings, including his crisply dry Kick-On vineyard bottling, as well as his Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot.
Los Chuchaquis (choo-CHA-keyz) is a small subsidiary label of Stirm Wine Co., known for dry Rieslings, and a joint project by winemaker Ryan Stirm, Andrew Paul Nelson and Jehan Hakimian. The group explain that “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, hatching this experimental project and doing some wines very far from the norm, with a sparkling Pet-Nat and most recently a Negrette (sometimes called Pinot St. George) red from just down the road from where they got the grapes for this wine in the San Benito County, which has many old unique varietals not found too many other places. They brought the Los Chuchaqui dream of making natural wine from California’s historic varieties to life in 2016 and for five vintages have done some cool stuff. Stirm notes that, there has never, nor will there ever be, any commercial yeast used at the winery and to preserve clarity and freshness only a minimal amount of s02 is ever added to he wines and 100% made exclusively from organically farmed grapes. The Mission grapes that came to the new world back in the 1500s, first planted in Chile, consisted of mainly Listan Prieto, a little Listan Nero (both called Pais locally) and Listan Blanco, which is Palomino, a grape still found in Spain and the main grape of the Sherry region. Though its been in the state for a long time, it never really made great wine and had almost been forgotten until a small band of winemakers and famous sommelier Raj Parr basically incited a revival in the last 10 years, which is cool, and kept us from losing part of our history.
($38 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive