The first mystery to clear up about Ruth Lewandowski is that she’s a man.
Or rather, “Ruth” is the name of the winery. The wines are made by Evan Lewandowski, who chose his favourite book from the bible to name the project. Ruth has a lot to do with the cycles of life and death, something very pertinent to farming and viticulture.
The second mystery is where this wine actually comes from. For the course of a whole evening, I thought I was drinking my first ever (orange) wine from Utah. Well, almost. The Cortese grapes for Chilion are grown in Mendocino county, California, but after harvesting and the start of fermentation, they’re then trucked in large egg shaped tanks to Evan’s small winery in Salt Lake City, where they’ll stay for the rest of their upbringing.
Lewandowski fell in love with Utah while at University, and decided to return after a stint working in Alsace, France. Listening to him talk, Evan has a geeky enthusiasm (perhaps it’s those glasses) mixed with a deep, deep passion for natural winemaking.
His Chilion 2015 is a real stunner. After popping the cork it was a bit shy and reduced, but after only minutes in the glass (and a decanter that was pressed swiftly into service) it started to reveal generous ripe fruit. As Lewandowski would be the first to say though, this is a wine that’s far more about texture and mineral notes than fruit. Cortese’s creaminess comes across loud and clear, but the greatest joy is the firm, grippy structure. This isn’t a wine for wimps!
This 2015 remained with its skins for a whole six months before being pressed. It is unfiltered, unprocessed in any way in fact. No sulphites were added, and none appear to be needed – it’s solid as a rock, and beautifully clean, focused stuff.
I discovered this beauty in one of Amsterdam’s newest and most fun locations for wine – 48 50 is the brainchild of sommelier Daniel Schein and chef Rikard Andersson (Both of Scandinavian Embassy fame). They’ve put together a relaxed, minimalist space with a treasure trove of a winelist and all day opening. Whether you want to drink natural orange wine from Utah, or a top Burgundy, everything is catered for. Their enthusiasm and dedication to good service is notable, and prices are very reasonable for what’s on offer. Sad to say, I got the last bottle of Chilion. (Don’t look for it – it’s not there anymore).
Back to Evan. After eight years making wine in Utah, he’s now finally planted his first vineyards in the state, a terroir he steadfastly believes could yield great results. So future developments are going to be very interesting – and the story of Ruth Lewandowski’s provenance might get a little simpler.