Shaunt Oungoulian & Diego Roig
Populis Wabi-Sabi Red 2020
Populis is Diego & Shaunt’s negociant outfit (purchased grapes), devoted to playful expressions & magisterial dry-farmed vines. All the fruit is organic, hand-harvested and sourced from Mendocino County. The 2020 Wabi-Sabi Red is a blend of Zinfandel and Carignan from Venturi and Hawkeye Ranch — passionately farmed vineyards that date back to the mid-twentieth century. Fermentation was low and slow (cool temps preserve freshness) and included both destemmed fruit and whole bunches. A small portion of the Zinfandel was produced as a rosé (direct-pressed into a stainless steel tank). After nine months of aging in a combination of neutral oak barrels and Flextanks (durable, food-grade polyethelene), the wines were combined: 50% Zinfandel, 25% Zinfandel rosé and 25% Carignan. No fining/filtering, 18 ppm SO2. 875 cases produced. 12.5% abv.
Want to glimpse the future of American wine? Ditch the Silverado Trail and convince your Uber driver to take you over the Benicia–Martinez Bridge into the rolling, oak-covered hills of Orinda. Your destination is Shaunt’s basement — ok, Shaunt’s parent’s basement — home to Les Lunes. Co-founded in 2014 by Shaunt Oungoulian (a Berkeley-trained chemist) and Diego Roig (whose family tree includes both California winemakers and Spanish matadors), Les Lunes marks an important shift in the evolution of natural wine in America — away from the splashy, easy-to-replicate styles of the twenty-teens, towards more durable manifestations of purpose and place. Yes, Les Lunes will outlive even your Instagram account. But before you go barging in, we should probably mention that no one will be home (Shaunt and Diego rarely are). But don’t fret — their absence is precisely the reason the wines are as good as they are. Shall we explain? We shall. Thanks to America’s screwy wine economics, few producers can afford to own vineyards. So what else to do but buy fruit from those who can? Known as the negociant model, it’s safe to say that this is how your favorite wines get made. That is, except for Les Lunes. Dead set on total control from the jump, Shaunt and Diego found an alternative in the form of the long-term lease agreement. For most of us, the phrase “long-term lease agreement” is almost too boring to look at, calling to mind skimmed over apartment contracts and cars we’ll drive but never own. But for Shaunt and Diego it symbolized creative control and limitless freedom — not to mention decades of uninterrupted manual labor. Yes, Shaunt and Diego became farmers — busy ones — responsible for roughly 20 acres of organic vineyards across Napa and Sonoma. And they wouldn’t have had it any other way. So what does this all mean? Well, if you’re as interested as we are in the relationship between good farming and delicious wine — and you want to support people who are investing in practical solutions to wine’s biggest social and environmental challenges — Les Lunes is where you should begin.