$21 Cali Red Blend, Red Lingerie & Humility
I met Michael Dashe sometime last year. I always wanted to meet the man behind the whimsical “monkey-riding- on- the- whale” wine labels, at least I think it’s a whale. I also wanted to pick the brain of the man who makes some of the most compelling artisanal-made California wines I’ve been lucky enough to sample.
Our meeting was short, but channeling the words of legendary NFL coach Dennis Green “he was who, I thought he was” …A really cool dude. I don’t really ever get star-struck, but Michael was a different story. Just having a wine maker of his stature in the store on a random Wednesday (I think was a Wednesday) was pretty cool.
Mike along with his wine making partner and wife Anne have been making delicious non-interventionist, single vineyard wines under their own label in California since 1996. However, their craft and their wines are still relatively unknown in the Delaware market, but this is kind of like wondering why Springsteen isn’t played more in North Korea.
Though many wine makers I meet in my shop have impressive resumes, Mike and Anne have a truly compelling background that I think is worth talking about. In many ways, their career paths underscore the immense humility I found in Mike, and what I can imagine I would find in Anne if I ever get to meet her. It’s hard to believe they have accomplished so much in such a short period of time.
In the mid-80s Mike interned at Schramsberg, then Cloudy Bay in New Zealand (You know, the expensive New Zealand Suav blanc that you buy for your friend because it’s the only expensive New Zealand Sauv Blanc you can find). He followed this up by doing a stint at Chateau Laffite in 1989. He then took the position of assistant wine maker at Ridge, where he worked under the Iconic winemaker Paul Draper and ultimately was tapped to manage Ridge’s Lytton Springs winery in Dry Creek.
Anne completed her internship at Chateau La Dominique in Saint-Emilion, and after receiving her National Diploma of Eneology from the University of Bordeaux, she took a job at the classic Napa estate Chappellet. She later took a position as a research enologist at RMS Brandy Distillery in Corneros before going full time with Mike at Dashe.
Basically, the two of them are a “Big Deal,” and even bigger than a Ron Burgundy like guttural growl.
You know what else is pretty cool? Instead of opening up some ego-palace of a winery, the Dashe’s chose to open a tasting room in downtown Oakland. I imagine they believe as I do that wine should act as an olive branch rather than classist sword.
According to the Dache’s website, “In a somewhat controversial decision at the time, we bypassed the bucolic scenes of lush vineyards for a warehouse in Jack London Square, then transformed it into a world-class facility. We simply believed that people shouldn’t have to travel to wine country to taste exceptional wine.” Mike and Anne, were basically hipsters before there were hipsters.
As of next week, Swigg should have several Dashe wines back on the racks. Frankly, it’s my fault for not bringing these wines back into our core offering after we moved the shop last year. They represent everything we stand for, and everything we will be doing in the future.
This week we bought all 5 cases of Dashe’s 2017 Delta Reds Blend made available for the State of Delaware. A sumptuous blend of: 42% Carignane, 18% Mourvèdre, 16% Terlodego, 15% Tannat, 5% Zinfandel, 2% Barbera, 2% Petite Sirah. Yes, that’s one hell of a blend… and it works.
Michael described the 2017 Delta Red to our mutual friend as “Chateauneuf de Dashe,” and it’s certainly Rhone-y, and lavish in pallet profile. The wine sings with high toned notes of oven baked cherry, smoldering fruit that harkens back to my grandmother’s fresh baked cherry crumble where the fruit seemed to glisten with notes of sweet glycerin and baking spices. There are faint underlying menthol and eucalyptus notes too, that give way to a supple core of plum and black cherry fruit with a silken finish.
This is the vinous equivalent of the red lingerie you wish your wife or girlfriend would wear more often. It’s open knit, quickens the heart, yet leaves the imagination open and finishes with shivering content. The fruit here is really “something”, and it just gushes. It’s linear, direct, and glossy, yet it’s devoid of manipulation and absent of irony. It’s just sexy and strong and wants to be consumed rapidly with Carolina BBQ… while everything is dripping.
Take a breath.