I’m not a religious man. In fact, I’m not a man at all. But Evan Lewandowski makes me want to be. This guy is clever, and smart as hell. And should you spend five minutes with him, or happen to glance upon his chiseled man-chest, you will see the light.
We first met Evan while researching our story on the Charming Beard Roasting Co. -- they're next-door neighbors. Josh Rosenthal [a charming beard] and his wife, Becky, graciously invited us to a wine-and-cheese-pairing cocktail party dubbed Meet the Cheesemongers [learn more at theslcfoodie.com]. The event, held at The Grand America, is one of many put on by the couple in celebration of great, local eats and the people behind them. It also served as our second run-in with Evan, and the spark for this story. An obvious practitioner of that which he preaches, it's hard not to get excited right alongside him. This guy has a serious enthusiasm for his craft. Evan is the sommelier at Pago and creator of Utah-made Ruth Lewandowski Wines [and thus, the man of your dreams]. Who's Ruth? She's Evan’s favorite book in the Bible, and she happens to hail from a little place called Moab. Ruth also has three men in her life: Mahlon, Chilion, and Boaz. And wouldn’t you know it, Ruth Lewandowski has three wines by the same names. See? Clever. Evan gave us a little run-down on the merits of each, so pay attention, devoted wine disciples:
“The Mahlon is 100% Arneis (grape variety) from the Fox Hill Vineyard in Mendocino County. It’s the bright, refreshing, and crisp one with white flower, lemon curd, almonds and a stony minerality. An obvious summer white. Chilion is the enigma. 100% Cortese, also from the Fox Hill Vineyard Fermented with its skins (like a red wine). It’s orange and full of ripe, golden-apple baking spice and citrus rind with a sneaky amount of tannin (from said skins), which makes it really versatile with food. Lastly, Boaz is 100% Carignan and its great claim to fame is that it comes from the Testa Vineyard in Mendocino county, a very highly regarded spot (if you're into ~75-year-old, organic, dry-farmed vines). Like the others, Boaz fermented naturally, i.e. no yeast, no nutrient, no sulfur, no acid, no water, no nada. Aged in old, neutral oak, it is all bright blueberries, huckleberries and sweet green herb with a little cocoa nib on the nose. The palate, for being a fairly big wine, is immensely fresh and vibrant with juicy acidity and rustic tannins. It’s a bit of a paradox, both masculine and feminine, funky and fresh (insert favorite early-90's rapper here).”
Ruth Lewandowski Wines are backed by years of study [both stateside and abroad], trial and error, curiosity, world travel, hands-on experience, intrigue, and romance [wait for it]. After graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in Exercise Physiology and a minor in French, Evan moved back to France, where he had studied as an exchange student [see? Romantic]. Upon returning to SLC, he began working at the now-extinct wine bar known as The Spotted Frog. This is where he met Zev Rovine, a natural wine distributor and mentor who encouraged Evan to accept an internship at Ferrari Carano. An this is where his love of farming, agriculture, and machinery was merged with his love of wine [more romance]. From there, he pursued a degree at The Walla Walla Institute for Viticulture and Enology in Washington state. This begat some extended world travel to study winemaking in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Italy, and France, where he eventually landed a job working for Domaine Audrey et Christian Binner in a village called Ammerschwihr. To say that they had an influence on Evan would be the utmost of understatements. He told me so in a moment of [possibly-drunk] divine honesty: “They are ultimate. Ultimate wine-growers, ultimate people. I learned more about myself and how to go about farming and winemaking and business while melding the 'quotidien,' the daily life of family, and friends and leisure time (very little) than all of the other places I've worked...combined. More than anyone, they cemented in me a new notion of the word 'good.' In wine, in food, in life. They became family to me. I love them so fucking much and miss them more everyday. I could get emotional, right here, right now. Their wines are, hands down, the most direct reflection of the people that grew them that I know of. I'm the luckiest young winemaker ever because I got to work for them.”
As it runs today, Lewandowski grapes are grown on an organic farm in Mendocino County, California, while the winemaking process takes place right here...home sweet Zion. Ultimately, Evan’s looking to plant and grow 100% of the product in Utah -- he would like to implement dry farming, but with our climate, some irrigation would likely be needed. Ruth is all natural, unfiltered, and certified organic. Why does this matter? Well, according to Evan, we as a society are now, more than ever, aware of what we put into our bodies when it comes to food. We think local, we think organic -- why should things be different when it comes to wine? You may be shocked to learn what companies today are allowed to put in wine [Google it]. It's really the perfect time for an organic, unfiltered wine to come out of Utah. For the time being, we're perfectly thrilled with Evan's divine work; we're betting his efforts will secure Utah's spot on the wine map. How rad is that?
Ruth Lewandowski wines can be ordered by contacting Evan directly via phone at 801.230.7331 or via email at [email protected]. If you simply can't wait to get your paws on the wine [or the man], make an appointment to meet him at his wine store or go visit him at Pago. When you see him, ask if you can touch his chest -- I’m sure he’ll let you.