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February 03, 2020
New Producer Alert! Idlewild Wines
The youngest son of Marietta Cellars’ Chris Bilbro, Sam Bilbro grew up tending vineyards and hanging out in his father’s old cow barn-turned winery. While Sonoma would always be home, it was through working in the restaurant industry that Sam garnered a passion for Piedmont-grown varieties. Inspired to bring the spirit of Northwest Italy to the rugged hills of Mendocino County, Sam founded Idlewild in 2012 as a side project while working for a local biodynamic winery. He quickly found his stride, quitting his 9-5 two years later to focus entirely on Idlewild.
Sam practices minimalist intervention in both the vineyard and the cellar. Fruit is sourced from Wild Ruth Ranch and Fox Hill Vineyard, both managed by the collaborative venture between Idlewild and Ruth Lewandowski Wines, Wild Ruth Farming. These small vineyards are progressively-farmed with a holistic approach, ensuring that both the site and vintage are allowed to speak. While not dogmatic in practice, this honest and sustainable approach is fundamental to the winemaking at Idlewild. In the cellar, wines are made naturally, with nothing added other than minimal sulfur additions.
As in Italy, where wine is an intrinsic part of culture and dining, Sam’s elegant and gulpable Piedmontese varietal blends strike that sought after balance of joy and depth. Uniquely fresh and focused, with notable vibrancy in fruit and savory qualities, Idlewild’s single varietal and vineyard wines have gained a following for their varietal typicity, energy, and balance.
Sam has also been instrumental in the organization of the “Seven % Solution,” a coalition of like minded small North Coast producers dedicated to celebrating and encouraging the cultivation of varieties other than the 93% of vineyards planted to the eight mainstream grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Encouraging the diversification and progression in New World wine, these wineries defy the divide between old world and new world wine making and embody the spirit of the movement defined in Jon Bonne’s book “The New California Wine.”
Idlewild 2018 ‘Flora & Fauna’ White, North Coast
The explosive aromatics of Muscat Canelli fill the cellar, but upon tasting the juice, the balance of the early take of Arneis shows the structural bones. The wine is highlighted by honey, wildflowers, wet stones, salty air, jasmine, and orange blossoms. The mouth feel is shaped like a diamond: lean on the front, a touch of oiliness and richness through the mid, and then racy and driving through the finish.
Idlewild 2018 ‘Flora & Fauna’ Rosé, Mendocino
This vintage of Idlewild’s rosé shows all the bright and fresh sides of rosé we all love with an added depth to pair with food. There is a play between savory versus fresh and subtlety versus power that make this wine very intriguing. The aromas are wound up around orange peel, celery salt, grapefruit, alpine herbs, wildflowers, blood orange, and sea spray. The three varieties can all be seen in the structure: Nebbiolo lends the crunchy minerality, Dolcetto lends a delicate softness, and Barbera lends firm acidity.