Courtesy of Naked Wines
Many small-scale California winemakers claim that their wines are born from a marriage of Old World and New World techniques, suggesting a desirable blend of technology and restraint, of trusting science but believing in (sorry) the poetry of winemaking. Most winemakers making this claim say it because, let us be honest, it sounds nice (even if most of us do not know what it means.) Michael and Anne Dashe, on the other hand, say it because it is true. It’s one of the truest things you can say about their wines because Anne has a degree in Enology from the Old World (The University of Bordeaux), Michael has a master’s degree from the New World (UC Davis, in California), they got married, and then promptly started a winery and made amazing wines as a team.
But what does that marriage of technique really mean to the Dashes from a winemaking perspective?
"When we started out, we decided to make wines as 'old school' as possible without using additives or specialized industrial winemaking techniques. Instead, we used classic old-world techniques such as fermenting using the native yeasts brought in on the grapes (instead of added yeasts) and using no additives other than SO2. We always strive to make wines with balance and complexity, without being high in alcohol. We are proud to make wines with great texture and mouthfeel, bringing an 'Old World' style to the beautiful fruit that we can work with in California."
Michael and Anne may perfectly complement each other now, but their paths to winemaking were quite different. Michael started his journey into fermentation when he started helping part-time at a local Santa Cruz winery while studying plant biology as an undergraduate. He approached winemaking using his biology and botany background, excited to get his hands dirty. On the other hand, Anne took up a degree in enology after switching from her pharmacy studies (and her one-time dream of making perfumes) as an undergrad. When making wines, a practice that benefits from both mindsets, they love to find a balance between science and art.
The pair opened their own winery in 1996, which operates out of an old Naval Base in Alameda and overlooks the San Francisco skyline. Pretty idyllic, huh? Since their first harvest there, they have focused on low intervention winemaking. To them, if the right attention is given to the fruit in the vineyard, the winemaker only needs to gently guide the fermentation along its natural path, with minimal manipulation in the cellar. They are proud believers in natural fermentation, meaning they do not add any cultured yeast to aid the fermentation, and their wines see very little new oak, which lets the true flavors of fruit shine through in each one of their bottles. Stylistically, they love picking their fruit a little earlier and working in cooler climates, which makes them popular with chefs and foodies. Preserving acidity allows their wines to stand up to even the most decadent of dishes!
"We loved the concept of Naked Wines, of getting such close contact with the Angels and making wine just for this specific group of people. It allows us to establish a dialog with the people drinking our wine, which is one of the most fun parts of making wine. It is so liberating to concentrate just on making wine — and only on making wine — instead of all of the business aspects of a winery!"
The Dashes were in a tight spot during COVID, and realized they needed to expand into DTC (direct to consumer) sales if their business were going to survive in a world where restaurants and tasting rooms could close for months without warning. Sadly, in the wine world, shipping directly to consumers means dealing with a “three tier system that’s basically rocket science.” Enter, Naked Wines! With the help of Angel funding, Mike and Anne can produce Zinfandels in a style that is true to their roots and share it with customers across the country.