Credit: Sylvester Rovine Selections

Evan Lewandowski: Utah's Wine Missionary

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A common trajectory among US winemakers is to attend college somewhere, fall in love with the area's wine, travel the world to gain winemaking experience, and return to make wine in the area where their vinous passions were initially kindled. Evan Lewandowski’s story is no different, but setting up shop in Utah (a state more associated with restrictive alcohol policies than wine) is unique among US winemakers.

With an Air Force father who bounced around every couple years, the young Lewandowski grew accustomed to traveling. After visiting Utah's Salt Lake City on a college visit, he fell in love with the local skiing, and attended the University of Utah. While attending college, he fell in love with wine after tasting a glass of Robert Mondavi's 2001 Fume Blanc. This zeal was furthered after working at a Park City wine bar owned by his future distributor, Zev Rovine, who introduced him to a higher-up at Communicating for Agriculture, a group that places interns on farms and in other agricultural businesses.

Evan travelled extensively the following years - including winemaking stints in California, Australia, New Zealand, and Australia - but moved back to Utah to start planting vines and make his own wine. While scouting potential sites in the Beehive State, Evan decided to get started making wine by using obscure varieties from organically farmed, old vine sites from California's Mendocino County.

He begins fermentation in California and then transports his fermenting juice in a refrigerated U-Haul truck to his home in Salt Lake City, where he completes the fermentation, aging, and bottling process. This transport process might seem complicated, but the end result is simple: natural wine from grapes not treated with pesticides or herbicides, neither fined nor filtered, without added yeasts or acidification.

I recently tasted the wines at the RAW Wine Fair in November and at Evan's in-store tasting here at Chambers Street in December last year, and was floored by how expressive and transparent his wines were. The "Naomi" Grenache Gris has a shimmery, ethereal texture, while the "Boaz" Carignan posseses bright acidity and a litheness on the palate. I greatly look forward to tasting Evan's wines when he finally establishes a vineyard in Utah, but am certainly happy to offer these wines today. -Jonas Mendoza

Credit to the Heritage Radio Network's podcast with Evan Lewandowski for background information related to this article.

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Ruth Lewandowski 2014 Mendocino Gibson Ranch 'Naomi'

Evan Lewandoski has accumulated winemaking experience all over the world, but decided to return to Utah to explore the potential of its climate and variegated soil types. The fruit is sourced from Gibson Ranch in Mendocino County's McDowell Valley, trucked to Utah, whole-cluster pressed, and fermented in concrete tank. On the nose, there are notes of lemon rind and peach skin notes; on the palate, flavors of white flowers, creamy pineapple, and ripe nectarine mingle with saline and leesy undertones. Angular and bright, this Grenache Gris would be pair well with roast chicken and even fleshier fish like cod or turbot. Jonas Mendoza

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  • white
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  • $29.99

Ruth Lewandowski 2014 Mendocino Testa Vineyard Boaz

Testa Vineyard was founded in 1912 by Italian immigrants Gaetano and Maria Testa, and now farmed by 4th generation wife-and-husband team Maria and Rusty Martinsen. The grapes come from 65 to 80 year-old organically and dry-farmed vines. The wine envelops the nose with macerated black cherry and dried black raspberry notes; on the palate, black cherry skin and licorice stick. The texture is light and lithe with firm tannins and bright acidity. Jonas Mendoza

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  • red
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  • $32.99

  • Organic