Nithya (Raj Parr), Cabernet Franc/Malbec “Massa Vineyard”
Nithya (Raj Parr), Cabernet Franc/Malbec “Massa Vineyard”

Nithya (Raj Parr), Cabernet Franc/Malbec “Massa Vineyard”

California, United States 2021 (750mL)
Regular price$52.00

Nithya (Raj Parr), Cabernet Franc/Malbec “Massa Vineyard”

We should’ve seen “Nithya” coming. Its combination of free-spirited deliciousness and terroir-reflective soul—a one-two punch we find most often in the best “natural” wines of the Old World, not California’s Central Coast—was a welcome system shock. But it shouldn’t have been; “Nithya,” after all, is made by Rajat Parr, maybe the world’s most accomplished wine professional. Hailing from some of the oldest organic vines in the Carmel Valley, this blend of Cabernet Franc and Malbec feels crafted by a master’s hand, despite Raj being only a few years into his fulltime turn to winemaking. It combines the best aspects of natural wine—the aromatic lift, the vivacious fruit, the deep sense of refreshment—with a classic structure any lover of Loire Valley or Burgundy reds will adore. As a celebrated sommelier, Raj was as apt to promote cutting-edge natural wines as he was blue-chip benchmarks, and “Nithya” is analogously fun and serious in equal measure. Throw a chill on it and drink it on its own, decant and drink with dinner, lay a handful down for a few years’ aging, this Loire-inspired beauty will do it all. So be sure to grab plenty!

For most wine lovers, Raj Parr needs little introduction. For more than two decades, he’s been at the forefront of the wine world in basically every role possible. First he was an industry-leading sommelier, running some of the most important wine programs across the country. Then, both in his position as organizer of the pivotal “In Pursuit of Balance” events and as the founder of the Sandhi and Domaine De La Côte wine labels, he helped a generation of California winemakers move toward more elegant winemaking styles. During his time at Evening Land in the Willamette Valley, he helped kick off the Oregon Chardonnay craze we’re currently living through. Now, with Phelan Farm, Raj is at the vanguard of another movement: regenerative agriculture. Farming and winemaking are his sole pursuits these days. No surprise that now that someone of his talents and experience is making some of the most compelling wines in the Golden State.

Raj’s Brij label is his opportunity to work with other organic farmers working special sites across the Central Coast. “Nithya” comes from the iconic Massa Vineyard in the Carmel Valley. Located about halfway between San Francisco and Santa Barbara, this is a rustic, mountainous region with less than 300 acres under vine. Massa was originally known as Heller Estate, and was one of the first organic vineyards in the region when it achieved certification in 1980. It’s home to a host of Bordeaux varieties, but Raj looks elsewhere for inspiration. In particular, the invigorating and spice-laden blends of Cab Franc and Malbec found in Touraine in the Loire Valley serve as Raj’s jumping-off point. “Nithya” captures these wines' sense of brisk freshness and joy married to an imitable sense of place, but with every aromatic and detail cranked up a notch thanks to the California sun.

The 2021 “Nithya” is an even split between Malbec and Cabernet Franc. The varieties were fermented separately, 100% whole-cluster, in stainless steel and then blended after pressing. The wine rested in neutral barrels for eight months before bottling. This is true “natural” winemaking: no commercial yeast or additives, no fining or filtration, just a tiny dose of sulfur added before the wine went into bottle. And like the best natural wines, it’s a sensory joyride from the get-go. The nose announces itself with enticing brambly fruit—crushed blackberry, blackcurrants, raspberry liqueur–underpinned by spicy tones of cracked peppercorn, cedar, and jalapeño. A granitic minerality runs through it all. It’s firmly medium-bodied on the palate, energetic yet satisfying, dusty tannins closing out the layered finish. There’s plenty of upfront fruit-driven pleasure to be had here, but “Nythia” will really show off if you give it some air and sit with it for a whole evening. This is something you’ll want to have plenty of on hand, no matter the weather or setting. Cheers!

Nithya (Raj Parr), Cabernet Franc/Malbec “Massa Vineyard”

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