Known as Rhone Rangers, Paso Robles producers like Saxum, Tablas Creek and TH Cellars forged a path for California Rhone varietals and opened doors for the next generation.
One such story comes from an emerging family winery where everyone involved has another full-time job. Following a pedigree in wine production, Nenow Family Wines combines the unique characteristics and skills of a blended family to produce high quality, terroir-driven Rhone blends and varietals.
At the core of the effort is Drew Nenow, a young winemaker who believes in exposing what he describes as “the truth of the fruit” and has learned to trust the terroir.
Drew currently serves as the full-time winemaker at Onx Wines, another local producer of California Rhones. He is a graduate of the Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo enology program and met his wife, Andie, while he was there.
Drew speaks of his close family, knit together through divorce and remarriage. As children, he and his step-sister, Tracie, were always surrounded by family in the wine industry. Following a tradition, Drew and Andie Nenow partnered with Mike and Tracie Roesbery in 2017 to start Nenow Family Wines
Their wine labels honor an ancient art form and also serves as a metaphor for their family. They depict Kintsugi, the centuries-old Japanese art of piecing together broken pottery pieces with gold and transforming it into something new.
A love of Alsatian wines was the inspiration for the 2018 Nenow “Tightrope” Viognier ($30), a vibrant single varietal from the nearby Willow Creek District, rich in limestone. The name pays homage to Tracie, whose life, while raising three children and managing three businesses, is like walking a tightrope.
Grenache is Drew’s favorite varietal to work with and is one that I also favor. Fruit for the 2018 Genache Alta Collina Vineyard ($50)is sourced from a highly elevated vineyard with maximum sun exposure and diurnal temperature swings that allow the fruit to fully ripen. The grapes are 25 percebt whole-cluster pressed, which gives the wine a nice mid-palate fruitiness. The flavors and opulent texture are balanced with natural acidity.
The Alta Collina Vineyard sources the grenache for the 2018 Nenow Elevens ($45) to blend with syrah and a hint a viognier. Spice and baked fruit aromas lead to concentrated fruit flavors and healthy tannins that remain through the finish.
Nenow “Elevens,” Bien Nacido Syrah and “Tightrope" Viognier.
The number eleven, like the wine, is balanced, and serves as a reminder that everyone at Nenow Family Wines has more than one job.
The last wine tasted was the 2017 Nenow Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah ($50), sourced from iconic Santa Maria vines. The smokey licorice notes on the nose are classically Bien Nacido. There is an earthy quality to the palate with balanced flavors of ripened fruit and pepper spice.
The family team plans to grow their business with a deliberate and sustainable approach while Drew continues his relentless search for the perfect fruit. They have recently opened a tasting room on Peachy Canyon Road in Paso Robles and their membership program will expand with the growth of their portfolio. Teamwork and Drew’s commitment to liberate the “truth of the fruit” will serve them well.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of Lyle W. Norton.