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Country of Origin: USA
Location: Mendocino, California
People: Sam Bilbro, Owner & Winemaker
Viticulture: Practicing Organic
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 Winery 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 Lost Hills 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 additions of sulfites.
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. As in Italy, where wine is an intrinsic part of culture and dining, Sam’s elegant and gulpable Piedmontese varietal blends strike a perfect balance between joy and depth.
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."
Wine Enthusiast: Top 100 Wines of 2018
Wine Enthusiast: 40 Under 40 Tastemaker
San Francisco Chronicle: How to get a taste of Italian wine in California
Forbes: How To Restore Your Faith In California Wine
Wine Enthusiast: Rosés and Fizzy Reds Are The New Light Winter Wines
Food & Wine: How the Bilbro Brothers Found Their Own Way in Sonoma
Sonoma Mag: The Big Punch: The Dirtiest Job in Winemaking
Vinous: The Undiscovered California
The New York Times: 20 Wines Under $20: The Savory Side of Rosé
Facebook: Idlewild Wines
"It’s always fascinating to taste with Sam Bilbro, even virtually, as he has such a passion for all things Piedmont. Bilbro’s Ildewild label is all about exploring the potential of Piedmont’s indigenous varieties in California. This year I thought the whites were terrific."