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Diving into the Skin Fermented Wine Pool of Two Shepherds Winery #WinePW #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with the May #WinePW skin-fermented event.
Wine samples and wines at an industry discount were provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.

This month Martin, of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog, has invited the Wine Pairing Weekend bloggers to join him in exploring skin-contact wines. Martin actually first introduced me to this genre of wines years ago when he steered me towards Jared and Tracey Brandt of Donkey & Goat Winery in Berkeley.

Since then, my fascination with these kinds of wines has blossomed into a full-blown love affair. Anytime I can get my hands on a skin-contact wine, I do. So, I was very excited to see Martin's theme for this month. You can read his invitation to the Wine Pairing Weekend crew: here.

In previous months, I've poured and paired: Piattino di Polpo e Patate with Skerk's Malvasia; Garides Saganaki + A Traditional Semi-Sparkling Orange Wine; Gingerbread with Lemon Curd + Donkey & Goat's Pinot Gris; and An Unlikely Match: A Thai Favorite + A Qvevri-Aged Wine from the Republic of Georgia.

All of these #WinePW articles will go live between Friday, May 8th and early Saturday, May 9th. If you are reading this early enough, feel free to join us on a live Twitter chat on Saturday, May 9th at 8am Pacific time. You can follow the hashtag #WinePW. If you chime in, be sure to use the hashtag so we can see your comments.

Skin Fermented Wines

So, what are we talking about here? These skin-contact wines might also be called 'skin fermented', 'amber', or even 'orange' wines. That's where some initial confusion lies. Even among our group, initial thoughts might have been that the 'orange' wine event had to do with wines made from the citrus fruit! But Martin explained that skin-contact wines are white wines made like red wines, that is to say they are fermented with the skins on. And the color of the resulting wine might be brilliant orange to a muted peach color with more tannins and a more voluptuous body than a typical white wine.

While skin-contact wines are a fairly new addition to winemaking routines here in America, this process dates back over five thousand years in places such as Georgia where they have been making skin-contact wines in large egg-shaped terracotta pots called qveri.

Martin suggested: "Skin-contact white wines are very versatile at the table thanks to their tannins and acidity. I’d consider trying a skin-contact white with the same types of foods you’d pair with a medium-bodied rosé for starters. I’ve found I enjoy them with Asian flavors, but also consider other ethnic fare, fatty fish and tuna, roasted dishes, and earthy vegetarian fare. Also try with charcuterie, patés and terrines. And if you’re looking for one wine to pair with a variety of mild hard and soft cheeses a skin-contact white wine just might do the try. Let you imagination be your guide!" And with that encouragement, I dove right in!

Two Shepherds Winery

Not only is Martin hosting, but he introduced me to William Allen of Two Shepherds Winery*. A well-known Rhône enthusiast and former wine blogger, he started making wine commercially about a decade ago. William graciously offered me some samples and other wines at an industry discount. Yes, please!!

Before Two Shepherds Winery, he was what you might call a 'garagiste'; the term refers to a group of winemakers in the Bordeaux region who were producing vins de garage, or so-called garage wine. True to his Bordeaux history, Two Shepherds Winery - now a partnership between William Allen and Karen Daenen - focuses primarily on Rhône varietals from unique plantings, cool climate, or old vine vineyards. Their wines are made with native yeasts and minimal intervention, embracing how wines were made in years past without the introduction of chemicals or flavor manipulation. William says that "this old world style allows for the true expression of the variety, vintage, and vineyard" and he aims for brightness, subtlety, and texture.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on several different bottles from Two Shepherds and will turn my eyes to the five skin-ferment pairings that Jake and I did over the course of the past couple of weeks with those wines.

You can visit the original recipe posts by clicking on the bolded (and hyperlinked) recipe titles below photos of the dishes. Note: If the recipe title isn't linked yet, it will be soon. Apologies for the delay in posting all the recipes, but I had a lot of fun cooking and uncorking. Enjoy my dive into the skin fermented wine pool of Two Shepherds Winery!

Skin Fermented 2019 Pinot Gris Ramato
Suggested Retail Price $26 (online here)

Reminiscent of Italian Ramato wines, this skin fermented 2019 Pinot Gris poured a brilliant, burnished copper color. You can see its vibrance, against the sun, in the photos above. But even without being illuminated from behind, its color fell uniquely between orange and a deep rosé. The fermentation started with the grapes destemmed, but skin-on, for five days after which they were pressed. The wine was aged in neutral French barrels.

This was the first wine from Two Shepherds that we poured and Jake and I were both wildly impressed. We found the Pinot Gris lively and festive. It was fresh with nuanced notes of tart cherry and the meatiness of leather. It definitely had all of the makings of wine that will make it back onto our table again soon.

I poured the Skin Fermented 2019 Pinot Gris Ramato with Lime-Poached Salmon Over Pea Pesto.

2019 Rosé of Carignan
Suggested Retail Price $26 (online here)

This Rosé is from a small batch of only 60 cases and comes from a 75-year-old, head trained, dry-farmed, organically-certified vineyard in Hopland, Mendocino.  Despite its delicate color, the wine itself was surprisingly complex with a minerality tempered with a lively fruitiness. At first sip, I thought about fresh baked bread with rhubarb jam. Well, I had the fresh baked bread part...

We paired the 2019 Rosé of Carignan with homemade sourdough demi-baguettes, manchego cheese, and apricot jam. Recipe for the demi-baguettes coming soon, but you can see the evolution of my Adventures of Dough-Ba Fett, my sourdough starter: here.

2018 Trousseau Gris Skin Fermented
Suggested Retail Price $28 (online here)

Trousseau Gris is an obscure grey-skinned grape that is originally from the Jura region in France.  These grapes are the only planting in all of California - from a four decade-old vineyard in the Russian River Valley. Allen fermented the grapes with native yeast on the skins for five days to extract color, then aged in neutral barrels for half a year. This wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered.  Clean notes of summer stone fruit and citrus are grounded by generous minerality and tannins. I really enjoyed this wine.

I poured the 2018 Trousseau Gris Skin Fermented with Ground Turkey and Sautéed Mizuna with Sesame Noodles.

2014 and 2016 Centime Skin Fermented
Suggested Retail Price for the 2014 $32 (online here) / 2016 $30 (online here)

This final pairing started off as a side-by-side comparison of the Centime Skin Fermented bottles - one from 2014 and one from 2016. So, same grape, but different vintages and even different vineyards.

The 2014 is a 100% Grenache Blanc from the Russian River Valley, while the 2016 hails from Saint Ynez. Both wines have a nice structure with aromas of citrus and spice. But it was the sediment and more adventurous mouthfeel and taste of the 2014 that made that our favorite.

I poured both the 2014 and 2016 Centime Skin Fermented with Cajun-Spiced Shrimp Over Creamy Grits. That recipe will be coming soon! But we quickly replaced the cork in the 2016 and kept pouring the 2014 with this dinner. You'll see the 2016 again with a different dinner, but the creaminess of the polenta and slight zip of spice matched the 2014 perfectly.

Well, that's it for now on my deep dive into the skin fermented wine pool of Two Shepherds Winery. Grateful to William for the opportunity to taste and highlight his wines. So excited to have made the acquaintance of a new-to-me winemaker whose creations are simultaneously classic yet adventurous. These are my kinda wines. Thanks to Martin for hosting this month. I adored the skin-ferment topic.

Next month the Wine Pairing Weekend crew will be back wines from the Finger Lakes wine country with Linda of My Full Wine Glass leading the discussion. Can't wait!

Two Shepherds Winery on the web, on Facebook, on Instagram

*Disclosure: I received sample wines and wine at an industry discount for recipe development, pairing, and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.


  1. So glad I could introduce you to William. I feel like I've paid it forward a bit because William was the one who introduced me to Donkey & Goat years ago. Great pairings. I might have to pick up the Two Shepherds Skin-Ferment pack! And I will make your Shrimp and Grits!

    1. I guess I had better write up that recipe for you! ;)

  2. I've also come to love skin-fermented wines! I haven't had many but that just means I'm craving more :) I tried the Two Shephers Pinot Gris and loved it, and the color is gorgeous to boot.

  3. Our wine was delicious, but very hard to find. So good, though! Kinda pricy too, but worth it!

  4. Must get my hands on this Two Shepherds brand! Your pairings seems spot on - bold and meaty enough for these savory "orange" wines. I'll be returning to this post for recipes!

  5. Holy know how to make the best of this sheltering in place....I need to shelter in your house!!

  6. Wow! This post looks like a photo spread in Food & Wine magazine! I love your pairings and am now more motivated than ever to track down a few bottles from Two Shepherds. Been wanting to try them forever.

  7. Cam, you've been well and truly introduced to William and Two Shepherds. So glad you loved the wines!

  8. I love Trousseau Gris. One day I hope to visit Georgia and see the qveri IRL! So much history

  9. Two Shepherds makes lovely wines. I have done as deep a dive as you have into their line up, but I'm feeling inspired! All the food looks great, but the Turkey with sesame noodles was calling to me!


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