Lewandowski: Fainting For Feints, Swooning For Rosé
Ruth Lewandowski's most crushable bottles are back
There are few wines that signal the start of Spring to me like the Ruth Lewandowski wines. Twice a year we get Evan's wines, usually in tiny quantities. In December we get his wines like Chilion, Mahlon, Naomi, and Boaz. In the Spring we get his rosé and a light carbonic co-ferment called Feints, which Evan has said is inspired by the Cornelissen Susucaru Rosso. The Spring releases are typically in better quantity, though not quite in relation to how much I'd like to drink them myself throughout the warmer weather. I could easily drink one a week, but I typically end up with one a year.
In 2021, Evan and his team were forced to source fruit from outside of their Mendocino County plantings, as a drought caused very low yields. Though I was nervous about this changing the wines for the worst, I was very relieved to find that they are actually some of the best versions I've had yet. They are also in slightly better supply. Either way, I wouldn't wait too long. Typically these go quickly enough just stocked on our shelves for a week or two.
Evan Lewandowski — there is no Ruth, the name comes from Evan's love of the redemptive narrative of life from from death in the Biblical book of Ruth — got my attention years ago as a natural winemaker from Utah attempting to actually make wine in Utah. He had worked for Alsatian natural wine legend Christian Binner and returned to his home in the Beehive state on a mission to plant Alsatian varieties.
As his Utah vine dreams were in the works, he would get fruit and begin his fermentations at the Fox Hill vineyard in Mendocino, California, before driving them back to Utah. These days, he is all in on California, after the owner of Fox Hill passed on his vineyard to the close stewardship of Evan and his good friend Sam Bilbro of Idlewild Wines. They share a winery and even an assistant winemaker: Michael Dmytrenko. This unique vineyard, planted to all Italian varieties in the late 1970s, has formed the core of both Evan and Sam's winemaking for the better part of the last decade. Monica Palenzuela, a former staff member of Vanderbilt Ave Wine, also made wine there while interning with Sam in 2020. Her own Cultivo 'Monterito El Grande' is a great example of the fantastic Italian-inspired wines that Fox Hill fruit can deliver.
Evan has never been afraid to explore the wild side of natural winemaking, typically using zero sulfur. Sometimes the wines are really out there, only for the dyed-in-the-wool natty fans. They are never boring, and they are always conversation starters. These are typically the profile of the Winter releases.
The Spring releases are often crowd-pleasers and hit you in the most raw, primal, thirst-quenching spot. This vintage of the rosé and the Feints, despite the challenges, is true to this typical dichotomy. I never pass up either wine, but each year I feel like one has the edge over the other. Sometimes the Feints is the winner, but this vintage the rosé probably has my vote. It feels a little darker and a little looser than past vintages, and is about as gulpable and versatile as rosé can get.
I'm always excited when these wines arrive and I'm even more encouraged by this vintage, which shows that Evan and his team can still pull off the style we all love, even when confronted with the seemlingly endless obstacles being thrown at California winemakers these days. It's getting to be Biblical out there, but I sense that Evan is game for the challenge.