2019 Ruth Lewandowski Wines, Naomi, Grenache Gris, Gibson Ranch, Mendocino County.
The Naomi is 100% Grenache Gris, with grapes coming from the ancient vines at Gibson Ranch, is a skin contact white that has the appearance of a blush or Rosé wine, but with more earthy tones and aromas and with a supple, concentrated palate and textural mouth feel, making for an intriguing dry wine that gets better and better with each sip. With some brambly spice and fleshy stone fruit the Naomi Grenache Gris is freshly with tangerine, muskmelon, white plum and a hint of ruby grapefruit. Grenache Gris, similar to Pinot Gris and Clairette Rose with darker pigment, though usually made as a white wine, is the pink-skinned cousin of Grenache Blanc and a Rhone varietal. Most people say that Grenache Gris is an ancient pinkish-grey grape with small to medium sized clusters that was originally a mutation of the red Grenache grape and is quite rare, grown to a limited extent in the south of France, though has been found here in California, like here in the wilds of Mendocino. Interesting too, Grenache Gris is also called Garnacha Roja in Spain and may have first mutated there or in the Mediterranean border zone between Spain and France this Spanish clone is still found in the Côtes Catalanes and the Roussillon Sometimes Grenache Gris is just co-fermented with the Grenache Noir in the reds, which is how I have mostly had it, as I recently did with a sample of Randall Grahm’s estate Grenache from his Popelouchum Vineyard.

The Gibson Ranch Vineyard, farmed by Scot Bilbro, who is the owner/ winemaker at the famous Marietta Cellars, is located in an upland valley just east of of the town of Hopland in a remote section of Mendocino County and Lewandowski’s Grenache Gris comes from old vines that were likely planted around 1900, making them the oldest examples of this rare “Grey” Grenache in California. The winery notes that these historic vines, that are now being farmed completely organic, are set on well drained sedimentary soils, adding that they are both colluvial and alluvial gravelly loams, which help give fruit density and intense minerallity. Evan Lewandowski, known as one of America’s top natural winemakers, calls his label Ruth Lewandowski, not after a real person, but it comes from one small but very significant text in the Old Testament of the Bible, The Book of Ruth, which has the line “Death is, indeed, the engine of life.” which has has a special meaning to Evan. As it relates to wine and the cycle of life, from the seasons to the soils, each vintage is a new birth that begins after the death of the previous year and all the organisms that live and die to keep this process going. The Lewandowski wines are all hand crafted using native yeasts, no additions and see neutral barrels for aging with this one seeing some skin contact with adds structure and that pretty pinkish hue. Lewandowski ’s Naomi Grenache Gris, while rosy in color, drinks much more like a white wine and is great with soft cheeses, it has some rustic savory elements, but is overall it is very pleasing.
($32 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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