5th generation Oakland native and 3rd generation winemaker, Chenoa Ashton-Lewis, and cinematographer, Will Basanta, got fully bitten by the winemaking bug in October of 2019 when last minute they raced up to Sonoma Mountain from Los Angeles, on the news that Chenoa’s family vineyard still had unsold grapes that were quickly turning to bird fodder. With the help of family and friends, they jumped right in, picking and crushing to make an experimental Syrah and Pinot Noir co-ferment. The single barrel was then stored in a tent for 8 months on the family’s organic, 50-year-old vineyard, planted by Chenoa’s grandparents in the early 1970s.
In 2020 when quarantine hit, Chenoa and Will once again escaped to Glen Ellen. In the early spring, while wandering the remains of the Pinot Noir vineyard destroyed in the 2017 Nuns Fire, Chenoa and Will found new vines alive and growing horizontally, buried and abandoned in a tall uncut jungle of grass. Inspired, they immediately and painstakingly walked row by row discovering and staking the new vines. To their surprise, by the early summer 160 vines that were once seemingly dead had been reclaimed and were bearing clusters of grapes.
Through this magical discovery of fermentation and natural renaissance, they became even more fascinated with the resilience of nature and connected with neighbor Tony Coturri on Sonoma Mountain. For harvest 2020, Chenoa and Will were shepherds to their first commercial vintage at the historic Coturri Winery, introducing their label Ashanta Wines.
Ashanta Wines abides by zero:zero, traditional winemaking practices and makes a full range of bespoke wines. From experimental multi-fruit co-ferments, pét-nats, skin contact whites, field blends and elegant California reds. The fruit is sourced from family-operated vineyards and growers who farm with organic and/or biodynamic practices. All grapes are manually harvested. Sometimes, Chenoa and Will forage for wild fruit in both the wilderness and urban spaces.
Instagram: @zaazzzii, @willbasanta