At the heart of the Craft Wine Association’s mission is celebrating small, family-owned wineries like Old World Winery, and owner and winemaker Darek Trowbridge is a true pioneer: Relying on finely honed intuition, he has been practicing “natural winemaking” since before the popular trend even had a name.
“One of the difficulties of making natural wine,” says Darek, “was trying to sell it for 20 years when no one knew what it was. I nearly gave up. I don’t have a PR budget, so connecting my wines with people has been a real challenge. The Craft Wine Association is helping to tell my story, and that means a lot to me.”
Located in California’s iconic Sonoma County wine region, Old World Winery has access to some of the area’s finest vineyards and produces just 2000 cases of natural wine a year. Darek’s family has grown grapes in Sonoma County since the late 1800s, including the biodynamically farmed A.J. Duckhorn Vineyard, which Darek’s great grandfather planted in 1890.
Centuries in the making
Beyond his family’s history in California, Darek takes inspiration from his European ancestry by using centuries-old winemaking practices. At Old World Winery, all of the grapes are stomped by foot before fermentation, avoiding any mechanized methods, like a destemmer. Instead of inoculating the grape juice with yeast, Old World Winery allows the different wild yeasts already present on the grapes to naturally begin fermentation; that way, each yeast strain helps to develop the wine’s aromas and flavors.
“To me, it makes sense that yeast plays a primary role in whether or not a wine has terroir,” says Darek. “That’s when you get into the minutia, the fine details of how something tastes. Each yeast creates a different flavor component, and that creates complexity and originality in the wine.”
Each year, Old World Winery produces a variety of wines, as well as a barrel-aged hard apple cider made using winemaking techniques. The Abundance wine features the unadulterated mix of red and white grape varieties from the historic A.J. Duckhorn Vineyard: muscadelle, abouriou, zinfandel, mondeuse noire, trousseau gris, and chasselas. Instead of processing each grape variety by itself and, then, blending them together, Darek co-ferments the grapes all at once. This lets the grapes integrate from the beginning of harvest. “It adds a synergy,” he says.
Another rare wine from Old World Winery, Luminous is made from the only 4-acres of abouriou grapes left in the U.S., which Darek himself farms. Originating in the Basque region of France and Spain, abouriou grapes tend to create wines that are dark scarlet in color, and Luminous has aromas of deep, dark fruit, with vivid ripe plum and blackberry on the palate.
Growing up in a multigenerational Californian winemaking family, Darek says he draws wisdom from the family history and equally depends on his innate intuition and artistry to direct his innovative approach to winemaking. Guiding instead of manipulating fermentation, he allows more of the pure character of the grape to come through on the palate.
“Winemaking and farming are a sacred ritual,” says Darek. “It’s all about purity and transparency in fruit and form. That is my guiding principle.”
Learn more at http://www.oldworldwinery.com/