2019 Gearhead Princess Pet’Nat
Region: Love Ranch Vineyard < Madera < California (Marsanne)
Lolonis Vineyard < Mendocino < California (Valdiguié)
Grapes: 80% Marsanne, 20% Valdiguié
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Marsanne from Love Ranch: CCOF-certified organic farming, dry-farmed vineyards on thin soils of granitic schist; grapes came in cold and took 3 days to ferment carbonically because the yeasts needed to warm up; Valdiguié from CCOF-certified organic, dry-farmed Lolonis Vineyard in Mendocino, fermented carbonically, no treading or adding of Co2; 15 day fermentation process before bottling at 1.5 brix, unfined/unfiltered with nothing added (zero-zero); 11% ABV; 18 cases
Winemaker: Craig West
Our buddy Noel of Purity turned us on to his buddy, Craig West, who makes wine at Noel’s Richmond facility for his upstart natural wine label, Gearhead. Craig was a fisherman and a baker for Acme Bread, but when he met Noel and started helping him with production, he decided that this was his calling and pivoted to wine. Now he makes tiny lots of wine from organic farming, all foot tread, many with carbonic maceration, and all sans sulfur.
Craig is scrappy like most of the new natty crew in California, and searches high and low for organic fruit to purchase. For this wine, he struck gold with pristine Marsanne from the CCOF-certified Love Ranch Vineyard not far from Yosemite, which was established in 1994 by Diana and Steve Love and planted to Rhone varieties. He planned on making a straight Marsanne, but one day Craig disgorged a bottle of this alongside a bottle of Valdiguié and started playing mad scientist. He topped up the Marsanne with some Valdiguié, and upon witnessing the alchemy of savory Marsanne with high-acid Valdiguié -- not to mention to glorious orange Tang color of the blend -- he knew he had to marry the two grapes into this fizzy red/white mashup. For the whimsical label art, he turned to his talented 10-year old daughter, who drove a hard bargain and charged dad $50 for the rights to her princess drawing. And thus the Princess Pet’Nat was born. We tasted this wine before it was bottled, and fell in love with the salty grapefruit juice that glows a neon orange and tastes just like a Salty Dog cocktail. In fact, we tried to convince him to call it Salty Dog and throw a nautical pup on the label. Princess, Salty Dog, whatever its called, if you’re a Pet-natty drinker, this crazy delicious wine is calling your name. But Craig only made 18 cases total, and we got 4, so there isn’t much to go around. Go forth and order before it’s gone.