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Wines like this tiny-production oddity are becoming increasingly trendy in California, and it’s a welcome trend: affordable, easy-drinking, low-alcohol refreshers have not traditionally been a California specialty (high-octane “fruit bombs” being more the norm), but a new generation of winemakers—like the young team behind Outward—are showing off California’s lighter side. Achieving the “affordability” piece means using a non-mainstream grape variety that doesn’t command an exorbitant price, and in this case, it’s Valdiguié. Once planted widely throughout France’s Languedoc, Valdiguié, like a lot of hardy Southern European varieties, found its way to California and has maintained a foothold. This wine comes from a heritage vineyard in the Paso Robles Highlands, and it’s a little wisp of a thing that nevertheless makes a lasting impression.
Outward partners Natalie Siddique and Ryan Pace met while rock climbing in California, and their diverse lineup of wines is designed to showcase the “diversity of terroir across California’s Central Coast.” Their far-flung vineyard sources include sites in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey Counties, and they are committed to minimal-intervention winemaking: fermentations are carried out on native yeasts; aging is in neutral oak barrels; and wines are bottled without fining or filtration.
As is the case with many new-generation “glou-glou” reds, this one started with a relatively early harvest of the Valdiguié (at 19.8 Brix, a level of sugar that translates to less than 12% alcohol). Fermentation was carried out using 100% whole grape bunches in a sealed vessel (like many classic Beaujolais wines), then the wine aged for seven months in used oak barrels.
This juicy, easy-drinking red is only marginally “red”—it’s more a translucent ruby/violet in the glass, with aromas and flavors of wild strawberry, figs, lavender, leather, dusty earth, and, in the words of the makers themselves, “bubblegum.” Light-bodied and best served with a light chill (50-55 degrees is probably the sweet spot), this is a great choice for outdoor/beachside dining, when both meat and fish are likely to be on the same table.
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