Wines with individuality from Sonoma and beyond

Most winemakers would feel “married to the job,” but Dashe Winery, founded and run by husband and wife team Michael and Anne Dashe, gives new meaning to “labor of love.” Michael studied at UC Davis and gained experience at Ch. Lafite-Rothschild, Far Niente and Ridge Vineyards, among others, while Anne trained at the University of Bordeaux and worked at Ch. La Dominique as well as in the Napa Valley. A shared passion for wine brought Michael and Anne together and led them to start the winery just months after getting married in 1996. But what they really shared was a desire to create something new: California wines with a European personality. Their wines would be made “naturally,” so they would express the pure flavors of their fruit and the terroir of the vineyards. 

 A small 10,000 case winery, Dashe Cellars has not followed the typical script of a wine country start-up. They do not own any vineyards, preferring to obtain grapes through long-term contracts with growers of older, low-yielding vineyards in the cooler appellations of Sonoma County. And the winery is located in downtown Oakland – with neither a barn nor tractor in sight. Yet these decisions have allowed them to focus on perfecting an artisinal approach to winemaking, including small-lot fermentation, the use of indigenous yeasts, and little-or-no fining or filtration. They also seek to limit the influence of oak on their wines by using large-format oak vessels including 900-gallon foudres and 120-gallon puncheons, as well as older traditional French barrels. 

 Ultimately, where the story of Dashe Cellars has really moved off script has been in styling a new personality for an old California stalwart, Zinfandel. While their portfolio includes Grenache, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Riesling, it emphasizes single-vineyard Zinfandel. Yet Michael and Anne Dashe have refuted the belief that great California Zin must be massive and port-like in alcohol content. Not one Zinfandel among their current releases reaches 15% in alcohol; these wines emphasize balance, elegance and perfume over power, and (refuting another notion about the power and preferences of critics) they are routinely awarded high scores. In a recent blog post, Michael Dashe set down his goal for this archetypal California grape, saying “Zinfandel needs to compete—and should compete—on the world stage, with other great varietals from other countries. It needs to taste good on its own, with fruit, acidity, alcohol, and structure all in balance.”

Wine Maker

Rene Calderon





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Wines from this Winery

DASHE Dry Riesling McFadden Farm

On the eastern side of Mendocino County, the Potter Valley is a high-elevation viticultural area, where hot summer days turn into crisp nights and mornings. Grapes that favor cooler climates develop complex characteristics over a long growing season. Dashe’s Dry Riesling is the product of the McFadden Vineyard, where 30-year-old vines grow on white, chalky soil on a steep hillside - not unlike the Rieslings of Alsace. Because 2021 was a vintage in the middle of an extended drought, conditions were hot and dry throughout northern California. Yet, Dashe Cellars produced a delicate Riesling they describe as  “bone dry with a beautiful characteristic fruit and mineral aroma, a firm structure, lush midpalate, and a dry long fruity finish. With its lovely aromatics and mouthfeel, good acid/fruit balance, and complex minerality, this wine is ideal to drink right now and can also be saved for mid-term aging in the cellar.” Try this excellent white with summer salads, roast pork, sushi, or Thai curry.

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¥5,060 (incl. tax)

Delta Reds is a luscious, vibrant wine, offering tangy fruit (red cherry, raspberry), light tannins and fresh acidity. It’s an intriguing blend of about 50% Carignane, a hefty share of Mourvèdre, Teraldego, and Tannat, and small amounts of Zinfandel, Barbera and Petite Sirah. The fruit was sourced from old vineyards planted in the sandy delta soils in the region where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers meander toward the San Francisco Bay. Overlooked in recent decades, the delta was once a significant wine region. More recently, the delta is recognized as having a beneficial climate of warm days and cooler nights, and old, neglected vineyards are being revived. Try this wine with appetizers or lighter entrees. 

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¥4,730 (incl. tax)
DASHE Zinfandel Vineyard Select

Dashe Cellars sees Vineyard Select Zinfandel as a great “bistro wine” that can accompany a wide range of dishes and bring pleasure to friends and family around the table. The winery sources fruit from favorite vineyards in three appellations: Dry Creek Valley, Contra Costa County, and Clarksburg. In 2021, the blend is 76% Zinfandel, 15% Teroldego, and 7% Tannat. The latter two are not well known in California. Teroldego is a local favorite around Trentino in Northern Italy, while Tannat is limited to Madiran in South West France (but is well-established in Uruguay). These grapes combine wonderfully with the Zin, adding depth, color, spice, and texture. Each variety was fermented separately on indigenous yeasts, and the wine aged in 100% 1-year-old or older barrels in order to emphasize the natural flavors of the fruit. The wine impresses with bright aromatics, a lush and lively texture, gorgeous pomegranate and black cherry fruit, and bright acidity. Suggested food pairings include Penne with Fennel Sausage & Lemon, Herb Spiced Meatloaf, and Tandori Chicken.

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¥4,730 (incl. tax)
DASHE Zinfandel

Red wine lovers who won’t accept rosé as a summertime alternative, look no further. The Mendocino Cuvée is a Zin that’s complex and structured yet bright, aromatic and suitable lightly chilled. Inspired by the great “crus" of Beaujolais, this Zin is made via a technique called carbonic maceration, which produces a light ruby-colored wine that’s reduced in alcohol, intriguingly aromatic, fresh and full of flavor. Unlike your typical Zin, it has zip instead of weight, and structure without much tannin, making it a quaffable red for warm summer evenings. The grapes were sourced mainly from the Signal Ridge Vineyard in the Mendocino Ridge AVA, a high-elevation region near the Pacfic Ocean. Indeed, this vineyard is the highest in all Mendocino County, where the vines are bathed in sunlight while being cooled by maritime winds. This climate as well as the rocky soils keep yields down and produce complex and compelling wines.

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¥5,060 (incl. tax)
DASHE Zinfandel Reserve Dry Creek Valley

In 2016, in order to mark 20 years of making Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, Dashe Cellars decided to craft a special reserve cuvée from select barrels of wine from the most distinctive vineyards they work with. This was a wine that showed off the very best characteristics of the region - the complex spectrum of flavors, and a balance of pure fruit flavors and bright acidity. The result, a complex, lovely, and fruit-forward wine, inspired them to try it again in 2017. Aiming for bright acidity, they harvested early and were able to avoid the wildfires that afflicted the region later on. About 10% Petite Sirah was added to the blend for additional texture and structure. They say it’s one of the most intense and complex Dry Creek Zinfandels they’ve made, “with dark chocolate and black pepper spice underlying the velvety, intense mid-palate and the balanced, sweet red-fruit finish.” 

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¥6,270 (incl. tax)
DASHE Late Harvest Zinfandel (375ml)

Like dark Belgian chocolate, Dashe Late Harvest Zin is a seducer of nose and palate - or indeed, mind and body - with its rich, intense flavors of raspberry, blackberry, chocolate and spice. As with all of Dashe Cellars’ wines, it all starts in the vineyard – in this case, the Lily Hill Vineyard in northern Dry Creek Valley. Because the vines struggle to survive in the shallow, rocky soils, they produce just small amounts of concentrated fruit. When the grapes are harvested about a month later than usual, the sugars and sweet fruit flavors are potent yet balanced with beautiful acidity. As a result, this dessert wine is decadently sweet yet focused and crisp. Blue cheese would pair nicely with this late harvest Zin, or try it with cheesecake with berries, fruit tarts, apple pie, or carrot cake. You won't go wrong with chocolate, either. 

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¥5,060 (incl. tax)