Winemaking is simultaneously a very precise process and also a very wild one. How do you tame (or ride/or drive) that wildness?
It’s a fine balance. Lagom, a Swedish word for not too much, not too little, the perfect amount, defines the precision of our process. Since we rely on healthy, organic vineyards and native yeast fermentations to guide our wines, there is only so much taming we can do. We listen to the wines, and we allow them their freedom when we believe they are on the right trajectory. They are kind of like children, or teenagers, at some point, when you attempt to tame their boisterous energy, they will rebel and displease you. Rejecting your conformity. When we allow the wines to have a voice, we have to listen very closely to the early stages of that voice. It starts as a faint whisper. But we listen, and the wines will tell us whether they want to be directly pressed, foot stomped, destemmed, crushed, crushed then pressed, fermented for only a few days. The options are expansive and the first day the grapes are pulled from the vines, is the day the wines tell us who they want to be. We do our best to listen, shepherding the wine to its final product, which still develops into a whole new personality once it’s in a bottle.
There is something that feels very... different about the way you approach your winemaking, yet the methodology of gathering, dreaming, and simply *allowing* the ferment is also ancient. How do you balance the revolutionary energy with the patient and ancient?
This balance has been incredibly instinctual for Will Basanta—the other half of Ashanta Wines—and I. Our foraging projects, our native fermentations, our zero s02 additions, harken winemaking from 7000 B.C. Millenia before the industrial revolution widely spread laboratory chemicals such as roundup or commercial yeast into our agricultural land and products. When we forage for wild elderberries deep in the canyons of the San Gabriel Mountains at 6,200 feet elevation, or pick feral Mission grapes from 120 year-old-vines in Sonoma County, we feel humanity’s origins, the hunter-gatherer mentality, at our fingertips. We become an original version of ourselves, far from the technological advances we exist with now. As we grasp onto the tiny, ash blue-purple berries of elderberries, or the 2-feet long green and flushed red, juicy clusters of Mission, we sense that less and less people are currently doing this, while many people have done this before us. We share an intimate secret with the earth, with its antiquity. We approach our winemaking holistically. It consistently interweaves revolutionary moments and teaches us about patience, the earth's primordial soils, and the ineffable spontaneity that is ancestral winemaking.
Radical fermentation in this current moment of climate acceleration is a strange and miraculous enterprise, delivering stories and flavors of both place-specific resilience, aching loss, and pure luck. What are you taking from this tension and what does it give you?
Aching loss and resilience were the essential emotions that inspired Ashanta Wines. After the destruction of my family’s land due to California’s now infamous wildfire season, and the death of my grandfather, I desired to learn and connect with an ancestral craft. A craft that my grandfather spent 50 years pursuing, and a craft his grandfather in Sicily once did. When all was lost, deep guidance ignited and told me to pursue a tradition that could be verbally bequeathed despite destruction. I would have not arrived to this path as soon as I did if it was not for immense loss. Within that, I’m unpacking my ancestry while connecting with ancient humanity that guides Ashanta Wines winemaking practices.