Populis & Les Lunes: Natural Cali Wines made in the East Bay Hills
In a basement, somewhere in Orinda, California, two close friends are crafting some of California's most exciting natural wines. Diego Roig and Shaunt Oungoulian toil with a singular focus: to harness this state's unique abundance to produce great natural wines for the masses.
They do this by hunting down exceptional sites in Northern California. Always organic and old-vine with complex, world-class terroir, these sites are lovingly cared for by farmers committed to leaving their little plot of Earth better off after they are gone. Once they find a site they do everything in their power to not f**k it up. No additions or subtractions, except the occasional touch of sulfur if absolutely necessary. Just pure, unadulterated fermented grape juice.
Diego and Shaunt make wines under two labels. Populis is their successful attempt at conjuring that rarest of creatures: affordable and delicious natural wine from California. Each wine is, in a word, crushable. They are each unique and interesting with enough complexity to keep your taste buds and brain cells enthralled. Simply put Populis is about
Les Lunes wines are Diego and Shaunt’s interpretations of California’s classic varieties and blends. The grapes come from land they lease in Sonoma County and farm themselves as well as trusted sources throughout Nor-Cal. They work their own vines like the farmers they partner with. Proper pruning, precise suckering, well-timed treatments and thoughtful weed management let them minimize input in their vineyard. They do this to preserve the indigenous microbes on the grapes and in the soils, which leads to healthier and more complex wines that don’t need adjusting or stabilizing.
Whichever label the bottle bare the wine within will be atetamnet to the purity of flavors one can achieve with low intervention winemaking. True to the varieties and the land they come from with nothing getting in the way of what these wines are truly about: pleasure. They are pleasure to drink on their own, and being low in alcohol and high in focused, high toned flavors, an absolute pleasure to pair with the diverse food offerings we are so lucky to have in the Bay Area. Whether it's a taco from your favorite truck or a feast from Kin Khao, the wines below are a perfect choice for spicy faire.
With Les Lunes and Populis, Diego and Shaunt have shown what you can achieve when you combine talent and technical expertise with a die-hard commitment to non-intervention: honest, terroir-driven, natural wines available at an affordable price.
As you can imagine, production is tiny and the wines are in high demand. Don't hesitate to grab some bottles of these unique and soulful wines.
Populis, California White, Mendocino Rosé”, 2020
Carignan, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Muscat and French are the culprits behind this master class in summer rosé. Bramby berry fruit comes up against pithy tropicality, and fresh spring blossoms. All the fruit from this comes from the cool corners of Mendocino County with large chuck coming from the biodynamic Venturi Vineyard. Crisp and light yet concentrated and complex, the citrusy, juicy acidity makes this perfect with cochinita pibil tacos served poolside.
Les Lunes Mendocino Red Wine Astral Blend 202
The 2020 Astral blend is a slightly different interpretation of Les Lunes’ estate vineyards in that the intention of the wine is to be light, fresh, and quaffable. Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc, Sangiovese, and French Colombard come together, Voltron style, with each individual grape lifting up its vinious brethren. Together they cross the line between white, orange, rosé, and red. Everything except the Chenin Blanc is from Les Lunes' farmed vineyards throughout Sonoma County. Meant to be served chilled this light, ethereal and lively red wine is brimming with bright, fresh berry fruit balanced by lovely acidity and minerality. Pairing possibilities are through the roof but the idea of this with some southern fried chicken is making me very hungry.