As a born and bred Utah native, I get teased a lot when I travel. Much of that teasing comes in the form of ridiculous questions meant to poke fun at how weird the rest of the country thinks my hometown is.
“Are you a polygamist?” “Is everyone there LDS?” And, “is it even legal to get a drink in Utah?” are just some of the things I get asked on a regular basis when I leave the state.
The last question is my favorite for many reasons. While Utah has plenty of strange liquor laws (and admittedly they are constantly being challenged), I’m always proud to answer that it’s home to award-winning beer breweries, whiskey distilleries and even wineries.
So to answer the question: yes, we can drink in Utah. And you bet we do!
What amazes me about the spirit makers in Utah (the alcohol-based ones, not the religious ones) is that they are not just existing here, they are raising the bar and pushing boundaries in their respective realms. One of those people is Evan Lewandowski, owner of Ruth Lewandowksi Wines.
Ruth Lewandowski Wines are sustainable, all natural wines made with California grapes–for now, until Evan gets Utah-grown vines in the ground. The wine is bottled and aged in Salt Lake City, qualifying the “made in Utah” label.
Evan uses grapes and wine-making practices that aren’t widely seen, creating incredibly unique vino. Instead of taking the easy, everybody-will-like-em route, Evan chose to go the road not normally taken. (Isn’t there a poem about that?)
Purposely unique wine means that not everyone understands or loves them, but that’s what’s great about Ruth Lewandowski wines: they challenge drinkers to expand their wine horizons beyond Chardonnay and Cabernet. Each sip makes you stop to question what it is you like (or maybe not like) about wine and why.
Evan has a wine resume to impress any connoisseur: he’s worked in vineyards from Napa to New Zealand, France to Italy and done everything from labor along the vines to help with the bottling. His expertise is astounding. But he’s so unpretentious that he’s an absolute delight to drink with. Every time I share a glass with him, suddenly I’m learning all sorts of wine knowledge without even realizing it.
This year’s batch of Ruth Lewandowski wines include one called Feints Cuvée Zero, a light red/dark rosé that smells of peppery raspberries and tastes slightly acidic but refreshing. It’s already sold out by the bottle but is available by the glass at Pago (where Evan is the sommelier), Finca and Beer Bar.
The other, Naomi, is my favorite. It’s a Grenache gris grape that was whole-cluster pressed the day of harvest that was fermented solely as juice, with a slightly rocky/citrusy taste that is a perfectly refreshing wine to sip on during a hot summer evening. Naomi is available at Pago, Finca, select wine stores and at Ruth Lewandowksi wines by appointment.
Ruth Lewandowski is also releasing a skin-fermented white wine called Chilion in the near future. It’s technically a white but has the mouth-feel of a red (also known as an orange wine), that’s absolutely stunning.
Keep your eyes peeled for Ruth Lewandowski wines. So next time someone from out of town asks you if Utahns know how to drink, tell them we not only know how to drink, we are experts in making what to drink. And we have the wine makers, whiskey distillers, beer brewers and bartenders to prove it.