Dirty and Rowdy Family Winery
The Un-Familiar California
Location: Calistoga, Napa Valley, California
Owner & winemaker: Hardy Wallace & Matt Richardson
Vineyard area: variable – the grapes are sourced from carefully selected growers in California
Vineyard management: practicing or certified organic, depending on the source vineyard
Soils: depending on the source vineyard – limestone, granite, decomposed granite, sand
Main varieties: Mourvèdre, Petit Sirah, Sémillon, Melon, Chenin Blanc
Winemaking: spontaneous fermentation only, often as whole clusters. Neutral barrels and concrete eggs.
Annual production (approx.): 54,000 bottles in average years, but can go as low as 8,100 bottles due to fires, as in 2020
- Hardy Wallace doesn’t come from a winemaking background; he used to work in technology sales in Atlanta, which brought him plenty of opportunities to taste expensive bottles at fancy business dinners and fell in love with wine
- In 2009, he got “A Really Goode Job” in Napa Valley’s Murphy-Goode winery as its social media manager and thus started his journey in the wine industry.
- Dirty & Rowdy’s breakthrough (and still perennial favorite) wines are their Familiar red and white, made with varieties typical for France rather than California and techniques like whole cluster fermentation, paradoxically rather “unfamiliar” to Napa at the time
- Hardy loves music just as much as natural wine – even his fermenters sport pictures of prodigious American musicians like Miles Davis, Phil Lesh or Duane Allman as their “spirit animals”. Tune in to his vibe with the Dirty and Rowdy playlist that Hardy created especially for us on our Spotify, full of Grateful Dead and other American classic jams.
- The name Dirty & Rowdy comes from Wallace’s and Richardson’s nicknames: Dirty refers to Hardy Wallace, born in the “Dirty South”; his old wine blog was also called Dirty South Wine. Rowdy is Matt’s nickname.
- Matt’s brother Marcus is a graphic artist, who created the labels for Dirty and Rowdy wines. Every new cuvée has a slightly different label, all of them playful and witty. “There is serious wine inside, but with a joyous spirit behind it,” Hardy explains.
Although neither a winemaker by birth / formation, nor Californian, Hardy Wallace is one of Napa Valley’s natural-wine history makers. His path to the wine industry actually began in Atlanta, GA, where he used to work in technology sales in the early 2000s, a job that offered ample opportunities to taste the best wines at fancy business dinners. But, with the economic downturn, the dinners became a bit less fancy and Hardy had to find wines that were more affordable, yet still pleasant. “It’s much harder to identify a good Cru Beaujolais or a wine from the Rhône. Because I was forced to cut my budgets, these were the wines I started to get acquainted with – and eventually fell in love with them,” Hardy recalls.
Leaving the technology sector in 2009 was “a blessing in disguise”, as he calls it. Hardy started a wine blog at the time and met another (food) blogger Matt Richardson, who helped Hardy shoot an application video for “A Really Goode Job” – a stint as a social media manager in the Murphy-Goode Winery. Hardy’s directness and humor won him the opportunity, so he moved to Napa for what was his very first job in the wine industry. After six months there, he went on to work with several other winemakers, such as Kevin Kelley from the Natural Process Alliance and Salinia.
In 2010, he decided for the first time to make a wine of his own, and the Dirty and Rowdy winery was born. “I couldn’t afford to make the wine on my own, so I went to Matt and said, what if we go in on just two barrels of wine – which means only having to purchase a ton of grapes – I can’t promise the outcome, but I think trying could be worth it.” The duo originally wanted to make a Muscat, but the vintage turned out awful and the grape wasn’t available. They ended up with Mourvèdre, a bold red variety typical for southern France rather than California. And, as one would expect from a lover of the silky Cru Beaujolais wines, he did things his own way, including whole cluster fermentation with native yeast. “I did things that nobody would do with Mourvedre back then, but you know what, when the wine was finished and bottled, it was delicious,” Hardy laughs.
Sémillon, D&R’s first white, came about in a similar way a year later. “We had a certain plan in 2011, but that fell through due to the weather, and what was available from a beautifully farmed vineyard that we loved was Sémillon. I never had any intention to make one, but that’s what the universe provided to us at that time, and we fell in love with it.” Luckily for them, so did the audience, and their half-skin-macerated, half direct-press concrete-egg-fermented Sémillon (unfined and unfiltered of course) met with quick success.
So much so that Hardy decided to become a full-time winemaker in 2013. The “Familiar” range was born in the same year: red and white (and later also a skin-contact one) perennial favorites, pleasurable wines made to be enjoyed with your family at a table full of great food – hence the name.
After a couple of successful vintages, 2017 proved to be a real “Plagues of Egypt” vintage for Dirty and Rowdy: first, Hardy suddenly lost his sight at the very beginning of the harvest. He, fortunately, regained it two weeks later, but every day counts during the picking season, so they were already seriously behind schedule. Soon after that, the heatwave came; with temperatures climbing up to 114°F (46°C), Hardy’s brother-in-law decided to come and help, but tragically died in a car crash on his way to Calistoga. And then, as if there hadn’t been enough disasters for one season, the wildfires hit. Hardy and his wife and daughter had to evacuate, leaving the winery and wine in the middle of fermentation. Upon their return a week later, they found all the wines either stuck mid-ferment or with ridiculous levels of volatile acidity. With their insurance claim denied, they had to finish the wine to find a way out: “To stay in business, we had to roll up our sleeves,” Hardy explains what led them to resort to techniques he’d otherwise eschew, such as restarting the stuck ferments with added yeast, removing the volatile acidity with reverse osmosis or filtering. To mark the atypicality of this year’s crop, the wines were labeled “Unfamiliar” as an opposite to their regular “Familiar” programming.
“These trials made us examine who we are, why we do what we do, and what is most important. With these reflections, we are stepping into 2018 stronger, more compassionate, and more resolved in our mission to make wines that are beautiful, joyful, and worth passing on,” Hardy at the time reflected on these trying times in a letter to his fans. He kept his word and, thanks to his and his family’s resilience, we can still enjoy the D&R bottled joie de vivre.
The wines all come from a wide range of sites (all certified or practicing organic) that he selected over the years in different parts of California, and you can taste the different terroirs and climates in every sip. The wines are light, energic, and have a depth of earthy flavors and well-placed tannins. “What I love about the taste of natural wine… first of all, with every sip, it tells you that this wine is alive, it’s happening, there is this energy. It’s irreplaceable. There is freshness, the electricity you can only get from natural wine,” he says. “I love making natural wine. You are sitting on the edge of your tank and watching something happen,” Hardy says, his eyes widening with the joy and enthusiasm that makes him follow the path he’s chosen, come rain or come shine.
More from Hardy:
- some things Hardy likes about natural wines
- two podcasts he did with Levi Dalton on the I’ll Drink to that Podcast: Part I (Episode 160) / Part II (Episode 396)
- Adam Teeter’s article on Vinepair
- Dirty & Rowdy Spotify playlist created for us
- Yountville, Napa Valley Skin and Egg Fermented Semillon
- Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard Mourvèdre
- “Especial” Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard Mourvèdre
- California Mourvedre “Familiar”
- Antle Vineyard Mourvèdre
- Alder Springs Vineyard Chardonnay
- Shake Ridge Ranch Mourvèdre
- Familiar Blanc
- Fred and Dora’s Petit Sirah
- Alder Springs Merlot
- Alder Springs Viognier
- Chenin Blanc
- Enz Vineyard Mourvedre
2014 Yountville Napa Valley Skin and Egg Fermented Semillon — Back to the top
Grapes: 100% Semillon
Elevation: <400 feet
Total Production: 430 cases of the wild and wooly.
Two suggestions (“rules” sounds too harsh) for our Semillon:
- 1. Do not serve the Semillon ice-cold / straight from the ‘fridge (cool, is ok. Cellar temp is “wayyy ok”).
- 2. A 1-2 hour decant is ideal. If unable to do so – even 15 minutes of air makes a significant difference.
Atomized river stones, fennel bulb, basil lemonade, and Belgian sour aromatics – lightweight, with a broad palate filled with sweet and sour citrus, and cool rock. Though savage in appearance, there is a line of focus that runs from snout to tail, stone to stars… It is as if Copernicus himself was raised by wolves!! This Semillon is a wine for those who stare into the depth of the universe and say “ohhhh yeah” vs “ohhhh no.” 75% of this wine was fermented on its skins for 16 days. 25% of the wine was direct to press fermented in a concrete egg tank (no skin contact).
Vinification Method: 80% of the fruit was fermented on its skins in an open top tank through primary fermentation (about 2wks) and pressed off into old oak barrels. The other 20% of the fruit was pressed off immediately upon arrival to the winery into a concrete egg shaped tank where it fermented and rested until being blended with the skin fermented lot before bottling. Native fermentation. Unfined and unfiltered, with minimal effective sulfites.
Elevage: Two barrels (100% neutral French oak) and one 160 gallon concrete egg (racked into 3 neutral French oak barrels post fermentation)
2014 Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard Mourvèdre — Back to the top
Grapes: 100% Mourvèdre
Elevation: 3200+ feet
Total Production: 44 cases
At 3200ft, on a clay loam and sandstone slope in the middle of nowhere, someone was crazy enough to plant a vineyard, “because it looked like Napa.” I do not want to burst anyone’s bubble, but Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard may have more in common with Death Valley than Napa Valley. Extreme in its location, it produces a distinctive Mourvèdre; it is a wine of lift and light. It was the vineyard that got us started. It is the vineyard that keeps us going.
The sadness with this wine is that there are only 44 cases. The joy is that there is anything at all. Spice and stone, it has more polish than the Familiar. The lines are more defined, the finish more elegant. It is still the Mourvèdre for Gamay lovers. It has its unmistakable mashed raspberry notes and its flavors will convince the skeptics that wine is food. It is delicious.
Vinification Method: 100% Whole Cluster Fermentation. Native yeast. Lightly tread by foot, pumped over 1-2x a day. Racked only at bottling. Unfiltered, unfined. Minimal sulfur.
2014 “Especial” Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard Mourvèdre, — Back to the top
Grapes: 100% Mourvèdre
Elevation: 3200 feet
Total Production: 65 cases
If the Semillon is our white wine of choice of Cosmonauts, the Especial is our red wine of choice for time-travelers. Amber-ish red in color, this is wine looks like a CA Pinot Noir from the ’80’s. For those not familiar with the “Especial” it is the same fruit from the same pick as the Santa Barbara Highlands Mourvèdre. It is a separate fermentation where we leave the skins and stems in contact with the juice for approximately 6 days (about 1/2 the length of the regular SBH Mourvèdre). At the end of the 6 day maceration, we press the still fermenting juice into a concrete egg fermenter and the wine finishes fermentation away from the skins and remains in the concrete egg until bottling. We were nervous when we released the ’13, as it colored way outside of the lines. The ’14 continues in the same tradition.
Savory and stoney aromatics. A round palate, framed in gentle, gripping tannins, and at the wine’s center is blood orange juice, herbs, and incense. The ’13 did some wine-bending acrobatics; it often remained fresh and improved after being open for often more than a week- segueing its flavors from mountain music from some far off place, to becoming almost classical in composition. Will the ’14 make the same changes? We do not know. It is tighter than the ’13 and still maintains the wild juicy core.
Vinification Method: 100% Whole Cluster Fermentation. Pressed at 12 bris into a 600L concrete egg tank. Native yeast. Lightly tread by foot throughout fermentation (1x a day). Racked only at bottling. Unfiltered, unfined. Minimal sulfur.
2014 California “Familiar” — Back to the top
Grapes: 100% Mourvèdre
Total Production: 431 cases of happiness
In 2013 our Familiar was the happy result of an unfortunate mistake (blending in some Petite Sirah into a tank of Mourvèdre). In 2014, there was no error. We wanted to make the most friendly, Dirty and Rowdy table wine possible. Familiar- Spanish for “Family.” A wine to be put on the table, to be hoisted up lovingly with toast after toast, and to be paired with whatever finds its way to your table.
The 2014 Familiar is 100% Mourvèdre and a blend from 5 of our 7 Mourvèdre vineyards. Santa Barbara Highlands, Shake Ridge Ranch, Antle Vineyard, Skinner White Oak Flats and Skinner Stoney Creek (Amador, El Dorado, Monterey, and Santa Barbara Counties). In this bottle is a long road- one we drive week in and week out. Like a constellation, this wine joyfully connects the dots on the map between here and there, you and us.
The Familiar smells like exotic perfume and (clean) hippies. Musk, sandalwood, frankincense, and is that a hint of myrrh!? Tart cherry and cranberry fruit. Minerality like the slopes of Fleurie? No, this is one long mother-lovin’ stretch of California Mourvèdre! This wine will get you moving, and you may just hear it say, “Yeah, you do!”
Vinification Method: 100% Whole Cluster Fermentation. Native yeast. No temperature controlled fermentation. Lightly tread by foot throughout fermentation (1-2x a day). Racked only at bottling. Bottled without filtration.
Our Familiar bottles are closed with Nomacorc Select Bio corks. They are made from sugarcane, are recyclable, breathable, and 100% carbon neutral. Drink ’em before the end of 2017!
2013 Antle Vineyard Mourvèdre — Back to the top
Grapes: 100% Mourvèdre
Elevation: 2000 feet
Total Production: 90 cases
Scene From the 1982 classic “Conan The Barbarian” Mongol General: “What is best in life?” Mongol soldier: “The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.” General: “Wrong!!!!” The General never spent time on the Antle Vineyard- Because it would be best in life to be at Antle Vineyard on horseback with a couple of falcons, and some breeze heading up the slope. It is rugged, open, and remote. The vineyard sits on the rocky slopes just below Pinnacles National Park (the US’s newest National Park). The top of the block is a remarkable blend of limestone and granite scree with almost nothing capable of growing through the rocks. It is a different planet. The nose on this Mourvèdre is driven by purple floral aromas with ripe red fruit and sweet apple skin. It is instantly alive in the glass and runs through the palate with fleshy fruit and gorgeous acid wrapped around the beating limestone heart of a mythical giant bird. This is very serious wine. Flesh n’ bones n’ stones. (Dirty’s favorite Mourvèdre to date).
Vinification Method: 100% Whole Cluster Fermentation. Native yeast. Lightly tread by foot at the start of fermentation (1-2x a day) and then gentle pump overs 2x a day. Aged in 5-8 year old neutral French Oak barrels Racked only at bottling. Unfined. Unfiltered.
2013 Alder Springs Vineyard Chardonnay— Back to the top
Grapes: 100% Chardonnay
Elevation: 1700-2000 feet
Total Production: 50 cases
Note: Please give this wine some time to relax or a super long decant. At this stage it is a little wild, wound, and paces the cage just waiting for a couple of fingers to reach in. If decide fyou must poke the beast, decant the wine for an hour or two, re-bottle, and drink day 2 (or 3). It will be worth the wait. This wine has California texture and old world crunch and acidity. It is Asian pear, chalk, chamomile tea, Spring carrot, and after a day or so, faint notes of mocha (?). The wine is medium+ bodied. It is mouth coating, with lemon viscosity- balancing on a laser. The finish is powerful and electric, and if you drink it outside as the sun goes down you might just feel the trees breathing. This is not a cocktail Chardonnay. It calls for fried chicken from the depth of its soul. Lobster tacos, Oyster po’ boys, and roast chicken with butter beans are acceptable substitutes. We did not ease our way into Chardonnay. This wine tested our mettle. We gave it everything we had (in a hands off way)- worry, time, distance, and never-ending love.
Vinification Method: The fruit was tread gently before being whole cluster pressed. The wine fermented and aged for 7 months in a concrete egg. In Spring of 2014, it was racked to 5 year old neutral, French oak barrels for an additional 8 months of rest. Bottled without fining or filtration.
2013 Shake Ridge Ranch Mourvèdre— Back to the top
Grapes: 100% Mourvèdre
Elevation: 1700-2000 feet
Total Production: 90 cases
Each vintage, Shake Ridge Ranch produces the darkest flavors of any of our 7 Mourvèdre vineyards. Flavors that creep up on you while lost in the forest at sundown, rustling in the brambles with Blackberry- (fruit, leaf, and stem) cinnamon, and cedar. Our Shake Ridge Ranch pounces juicy, wound, with ample acidity and the pecks of short beaked tannins that would tear you apart if they weren’t on some sort of freaky three-eyed baby devil-bird. The wine finishes with a clear path-out of the woods and towards home, led by fruit and granite driven relief. As many of you know- Shake Ridge Ranch is our home away from home. Kate and Hardy lived / worked on the property in 2011 and were engaged there. It is also the inspiration for our label (with the weedwhacker, cat, and snake) and for many other things.
Vinification Method: 100% Whole Cluster Fermentation. Native yeast. No temperature controlled fermentation. Lightly tread by foot throughout fermentation (1-2x a day). Aged in a 5-year-old neutral, French Oak barrel and one 7-year-old, neutral French Oak, 600L Demi-Muid. Racked only at bottling. Bottled July 2013 without fining or filtration.
2013 Familiar Blanc— Back to the top
“Psychedelic Nepalese honey!!”
At a mere 12.3% alcohol, the ’16 Familiar Blanc is mysteriously powerful, deep, and leads to a complex maze of flavors both classic and primordial…
Popped and poured, this wine pulls up to your pallet like a late 80’s white limousine– Retro-cool. Comfortable. “Them good ol’ days”- but after a few sips, the privacy screen goes down, and you realize the driver is actually a giant grouper wearing a tuxedo with a pastel cummerbund… Though perhaps not what you expected, you play it cool, cuz heck, this is a choice ride… The wine builds depth on the palate with luxurious texture and lip-smacking acidity funnels its way to a searchlight-like finish- Scanning the night sky for creatures both familiar and previously unseen…
Flavors of lime oil, flint, orange, and rock- or in summer terms, the wine equivalent a of a thirst-quenching, top-shelf margarita.
Is this one fancy?: Kinda fancy!
Is it fun?: Super fun.
If it is hot and muggy, would you put an ice cube or two in it?: He** yes!
The 2016 Familiar Blanc is clear and even does well at cooler to even cold serving temperatures. Decant it if you’d like, but this one is good to go. The wine has the acidity needed for the summer with enough texture and body to take you into the fall and winter.
Grapes: 31% Melon, 26% Chardonnay, 22% Chenin Blanc, 8% Viognier, 7% Riesling, 6% Muscat
Elevation: 1700-2000 feet
Total Production: 700-1000 cases
Vinification Method: Native fermentation with zero winemaking additions. 31% skin fermented (melon), 59% whole cluster direct to press. Native fermentation. Filtered before bottling. Minimal effective sulfites.
Unfamiliar — Back to the top
“For reds, 2017 threw us into unfamiliar territory, and we fought like hell to produce the best wine possible. This required us to put on modern winemaking hats — some fermentations were restarted, some volatility cleaned up and removed, and then nearly everything was blended together and filtered. Our 2017 Unfamiliar is an emotional wine. It is a blend of 100% of the following vineyards: Shake Ridge Ranch, Rodnick Farm (formerly Antle), both Skinner vineyards, Rosewood, Wonderment Rd., Alder Springs, and Brosseau. The final wine, the 2017 Unfamiliar, brings aromatic healing, salvation, and redemption. “Have you ever listened to The Devil Went Down to Georgia? Really, really listened to it?
The devil confronts young Johnny and makes a wager with him for a fiddle of gold against his soul in an old timey fiddle duel. The devil goes first and unleashes deep, demonic funky lines, and lays down some nasty grooves.
Instead of surrendering and losing his soul, Johnny jumps up and caws, “Fire on the mountain run boys run!” while delivering some blistering fiddle of his own.
Defeated, the devil, hands over the golden fiddle, and Johnny triumphantly belts out,
“Devil, just come on back if you ever wanna try again, I done told you once, you son of a b****, I’m the best there´s ever been!”
The Unfamiliar is light red, and drinks like an exotic cross between our Familiar and Especial Mourvèdre wines. You may never see this wine from us again so buy and drink with gusto!
- Grapes: 85% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah, 5% Grenache
- AVAs: Monterrey, Mendocino, El Dorado, Amador Counties
- Alcohol: 12.5%
- Winemaking: 100% whole cluster. Stuck lots restarted. Volatility reduced. Gently filtered. We made the …. out of this wine.
- Farming: 90% Organic / 10% Sustainable
- Production: 1971 cases of happiness
- Price:$23 – 750ML
- Closure: Sealed with a NomaCorc Select Bio closure. It is a plant based, carbon neutral, breathable, recyclable, cork alternative.
Alder Springs Viognier— Back to the top
Scents of pink rose and orange oil reach up to the places that tickle behind your ears. On the palate you drop directly into the deep sea where luminous creatures blink their fruit and spice laden lights. As you ascend to the surface, you look around, pause, take a deep breath, and dive back for more.The Viognier does it again!
Grown-up and switched on. This is a medium+ bodied wine perfect for pork loin, empanadas, and full moon dinner parties.
- Grapes: 100% Viognier
- Vineyard / AVA / Elevation: Alder Springs Vineyard / Mendocino County / 2400FT
- Soil: Sandstone, Shale
- Alcohol: 13.0%
- Winemaking: Native fermentation with zero winemaking additions. Gently whole cluster pressed to neutral barrels. Minimal effective sulfites. Gently filtered.
- Farming: Sustainable
- Production: 150 cases
Chenin Blanc— Back to the top
Cool and clean rocks – early peach with flavors of persimmon, quince, and the forest’s tasty nectar shoot.Maps to lost cites of gold. An expansive wine with prickly acidity that leads to daydreams of white tigers gnawing on pineapple cores.
This is a bold Chenin Blanc. Serve with food. If out of fried chicken, find a seafood pasta, lobster BLT, or oyster po-boy. In terms of structure, this may be one of the most grand Dirty and Rowdy wines to date.
- Grapes: Chenin Blanc
- AVAs: Mendocino County
- Alcohol: 12.8%
- Winemaking: Native fermentation with zero winemaking additions. Minimal effective sulfites. Filtered.
- Farming: Organic, dry farmed
- Production: 541 cases produced
Enz Vineyard Old Vine Mourvedre— Back to the top
Vineyard: 100-year-old, dry-farmed, organic, own-rooted Mourvèdre on decomposed limestone and granite soils in Lime Kiln Valley AVA, San Benito County. 1200ft Elevation
Winemaking: 100% whole cluster, spontaneously fermented and aged in neutral barrels. Like the 2017 Unfamiliar wines, the winery did have to filter this wine for volatile acidity. It received a more gentle / shorter filtration than the Unfamiliar Red.
Personality: Licorice, orange peel, raspberry, spices with a Mediterranean hint. Distinctive tannic structure, best after some time spent in the carafe.