Paso Robles has emerged over the past 30 years as this country’s finest terroir for the production of Rhone blends. Similar to iconic French regions in the southern Rhone Valley like Chateaunef-du- Pape and Gigondas, the limestone rich soils and climate in Paso Robles are ideal for growing grenache, syrah and mourvedre and blending their unique characteristics.
Known as Rhone Rangers, Paso Robles producers like Saxum Vineyards, Tablas Creek and TH Estate Wines have forged a path for California and opened doors for the next generation.
One such story comes from an emerging family winery where everyone involved currently has another full- time job. Following an family 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, the young winemaker who believes firmly in exposing what he describes as “the truth of the fruit.” He understands that the source of the grapes overshadow any winemaking techniques 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 California Polytechnic State University enology program and met his wife Andie while he was there. Drew speaks of his close family as one that was knit together through divorce and remarraige. As children, he and his stepsister Tracie were always surrounded by family in the wine industry including Drew’s father, who operated the Robert Nenow Winery, and other aunts and uncles.
To that end, Drew and Andie Nenow partnered with Mike and Tracie Roesbery in 2017 to start Nenow Family Wines.
The origin of the Nenow Family wine labels honors an ancient art form and also serves as a metaphor for their family. The labels depict kintsugi, a centuries-old Japanese art of piecing together broken pottery with gold and transforming it into something new and different.
Both the inspiration for the label and his stepsister were on Drew’s mind when he produced the 2018Nenow “Tightrope” Viognier ($30), a vibrant single varietal from the Lantern’s Vineyard in 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.
The idea for his viognier was inspired by Drew’s love of Alsatian white wines. He searched for the perfect vineyard and fruit that would ultimately produced melon, orchard fruit and floral aromas with balanced flavors and a rounded mouthfeel.
Grenache is Drew’s favorite varietal to work with and is one that I also favor. Fruit for the 2018 Grenache 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% whole-cluster pressed which, according to Drew, gives the wine a nice mid-palate fruitiness. Neutral barrel aging allows for a full expression of the terroir. 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 from the Willow Creek District. Spice and baked fruit aromas lead to concentrated fruit flavors and healthy tannins that remain through the finish. The number 11 is balanced, considered a master number in numerology and, by some, a message from the celestial gods. It also serves as a reminder to Drew that everyone at Nenow Family Wines has more than one job.
The last wine tasted was the2017 Nenow Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah ($50), sourced from iconic Santa Maria vines. The smoky 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. It’s highly recommended.
The Nenow Family Wines team plans to grow business with a deliberate and sustainable approach while Drew continues his relentless search for the perfect source of fruit. They have recently opened an appointment-only tasting room on Peachy Canyon Road in Paso Robles and the membership program, now at near capacity, will expand with the growth of their portfolio.
Drew’s commitment to liberate the truth of the fruit is at the root of their success. I plan to be watching as it unfolds.
Guest columnist Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 20 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com.