Chenoa Ashton-Lewis & Will Basanta
In the arena of co-ferments, Ashanta is light years ahead of the competition. Take Mawu (70% Merlot, 30% Chardonnay), which offers a polychromatic view of Grebennikoff Vineyard, a 3.5-acre organic site located at the foot of Sonoma Mountain. But, truthfully, co-fermentation is only part of the story behind Mawu’s reverberant style. The rest is a matter of inspired cellar work — a marriage of traditional technique and fresh ideas. Let’s break it down. Half of the Merlot is foot tread and direct pressed (which is to say, handled like a rosé — all juice, no skins). And as for the Chardonnay, only the skins and stems go into the fermenters (à la orange wine) — no direct-pressed juice. Finally, the remaining 50% of the Merlot is handled in a more conventional red wine fashion (equal parts whole cluster and crushed/de-stemmed), providing a firm and satisfying structure. In short, Mawu is more than a co-ferment. It’s a new perspective. 96 cases produced. Zero sulfur additions. 12.5% abv.
Deep roots and new ideas. These are the defining traits of Ashanta, which has arrived on the scene with the galvanizing force of a movement. It also helps explain its founders’ combination of chutzpah and unfussy grace. Don’t blink: Chenoa Ashton-Lewis and Will Basanta are about to change California wine as you know it. The Ashton-Lewis wine story begins in the 1970s when Chenoa’s grandparents plant a vineyard atop Sonoma Mountain. Fast-forward to 2017, this 50-year-old family legacy is critically endangered when the Nun’s Fire ravages the property. But from hardship comes new beginnings: Having learned of a few surviving vines in 2019, Chenoa and Will drive up from LA, where both work in the film industry, to harvest the fruit. The resulting wine — an experimental co-ferment of Syrah and Pinot Noir — marks the birth of Ashanta, and sets the tone for their deeply personal, mission-driven project. The couple produced their first commercial vintage the following year at the Glen Ellen facility of natural wine pioneer, Tony Coturri. They share Coturri’s uncompromising philosophy — their wines are zero-zero (no SO2 additions), unfined, unfiltered, and fermented with native yeast.