Michael & Anne Dashe
The perfect Old World/New World marriage - literally!
Michael and Anne Dashe have worked with many top wineries — Ridge Vineyards, Far Niente, Chappellet, Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château La Dominique — but have developed style all their own. Elegant, balanced wines made with minimal additives, natural yeasts, and grapes from small family farms are their signature!
In their urban winery on Spirits Alley (an old Naval Airbase in Alameda, CA), Michael and Anne are using non-industrial winemaking techniques that allow them to highlight the fruit and emphasize the wine’s balance — crafting California Zinfandels in a unique style.
- Although the Dashes have both worked at many wineries famous for Cabernet Sauvignon, their reputation really began with world-class Dry Creek Zinfandel. “Angels, we’re ready to show you that a well-made Zinfandel can be an absolute picture of sophistication and beauty: visually, aromatically, texturally, and flavorfully,” Mike says.
Michael & Anne Dashe's Story
Many small-scale California winemakers claim that their wines are born from a marriage of Old World and New World techniques, suggesting a desirable blend of technology and restraint, of trusting science but believing in (sorry) the poetry of winemaking. Most winemakers making this claim say it because, let’s be honest, it sounds really nice (even if most of us don’t know what it means.) Michael and Anne Dashe, on the other hand, say it because it’s true. It’s one of the truest things you can say about their wines because Anne has a degree in Enology from the Old World (The University of Bordeaux), Michael has a Master’s Degree from the New World (UC Davis, in California), they got married, and then promptly started a winery and made amazing wines as a team.
But what does that marriage of technique really mean to the Dashes from a winemaking perspective?
"When we started out, we decided to make wines as “old school” as possible without using additives or specialized industrial winemaking techniques. Instead, we used classic old-world techniques such as fermenting using the native yeasts brought in on the grapes (instead of added yeasts) and using no additives other than SO2. We always strive to make wines with balance and complexity, without being high in alcohol. We're proud to make wines with great texture and mouthfeel, bringing an "Old World" style to the beautiful fruit that we can work with in California."
How they got started
Michael and Anne may perfectly complement each other now, but their paths to winemaking were quite different. Michael started his journey into fermentation when he started helping out part-time at a local Santa Cruz winery while studying plant biology as an undergrad. He approached winemaking using his biology and botany background, excited to get his hands dirty. On the other hand, Anne took up a degree in enology after switching from her pharmacy studies (and her one-time dream of making perfumes) as an undergrad. When making wines, a practice that benefits from both mindsets, they love to find a balance between science and art.
How they progressed
With world-class education as their ticket, they quickly racked up an impressive number of high-profile jobs. Between the two, they’ve worked for Roudin-Smith Winery, Schramsberg, Château la Dominique, Far Niente, Cloudy Bay Winery, Chappellet Winery, Château Lafite-Rothschild, Remy Martin (distilling, not winemaking, but still very cool), Lytton Springs Winery, and Ridge Vineyards. As assistant winemaker at Ridge Vineyards for almost nine years, Mike picked up many of the “natural winemaking” techniques that they used as a springboard when starting their own winery.
What it became
The pair opened their own winery in 1996, which operates out of an old Naval Base in Alameda and overlooks the San Francisco skyline. Pretty idyllic, huh? Since their first harvest there, they’ve focused on low intervention winemaking. To them, if the right attention is given to the fruit in the vineyard, the winemaker only needs to gently guide the fermentation along its natural path, with minimal manipulation in the cellar. They’re proud believers in natural fermentation, meaning they don’t add any cultured yeast to aid the fermentation, and their wines see very little new oak, which lets the true flavors of fruit shine through in each one of their bottles. Stylistically, they love picking their fruit a little earlier and working in cooler climates, which makes them popular with chefs and foodies. Preserving acidity allows their wines to stand up to even the most decadent of dishes!
How they came to Naked Wines
"We loved the concept of Naked Wines, of getting such close contact with the Angels and making wine just for this specific group of people. It allows us to establish a dialog with the people drinking our wine, which is one of the most fun parts of making wine. It is so liberating to concentrate just on making wine — and only on making wine — instead of all of the business aspects of a winery!"
The Dashes were in a tight spot during COVID, and realized they needed to expand into DTC (direct to consumer) sales if their business was going to survive in a world where restaurants and tasting rooms could close for months without warning. Sadly, in the wine world, shipping directly to consumers means dealing with a “three tier system that’s basically rocket science.” Enter, Naked Wines! With the help of Angel funding, Mike and Anne are able to produce Zinfandels in a style that’s true to their roots and share it with customers across the country.