Meeting Idlewild Wines
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With inspiration of Piemontese, husband and wife team Sam and Jessica Boone Bilbro launched Idlewild Wines with the 2012 vintage.
As they describe it, Sam and Jessica are both fans of texture and acidity. What is found in their wines is a marriage of delicacy and strength. As a portfolio, the 2012 wines express pretty floral aromatics with a driver of acidity and persistent tannin. Sam credits Jessica’s winemaking with a talent for holding onto delicacy, while Jessica points out the ways Sam pushes her to take her approach to the edge of what she’s used to.
An example can be seen in their Cortese (my favorite of these 2012 wines), an intensely uncommon grape for California vineyards. After locating the fruit, the couple decided to take a couple tons and just see how it developed. Wanting to make something more than the typical Cortese, Sam researched the grape’s treatment in Piedmont. Eventually, he located an obscure Italian text describing three winemakers using skin contact techniques in their approach, something Jessica hadn’t used in the same way on whites. They split the fruit into two lots, putting one on skins for 10 days, and the other straight to press. The straight to press lot brought acidity and drive, a linear presentation to the fruit, while the skin contact added texture and depth with ripe, almost musky flavors.
Sam and Emilia checking fruit in Foxhill Vineyard, Mendocino, August 2013
Sam and I travel to the Mendocino, and Fox Hill Vineyard to walk through the fruit. In the Cortese parcel, he explains the difference in sun exposure between bunches. One side of the row receives more consistent light creating riper, darker skinned clusters that go into the skin contact lot to express the walnut and apricot flavors given by the sun. On the more shaded side, greener clusters go right to press for incredible juiciness. The blending of these two lots creates a showcase of Jessica’s expression of delicacy with depth.
Asking them to describe what they see in their own wines, Sam responds. “The drive is acidity, or tannin in the case of the Nebbiolo, but texture gives interest and a little tension.” In this description the pair find the sort of relationship they seek to express through Idlewild, something that can even be seen in the label’s name–a sense of contrast, two distinct, even opposing, pieces working together.
Jessica and Hudson talking Idlewild, June 2013
This sense of contrast with harmony can be seen in Jessica’s account of her own winemaking as well. “As much of a control freak as I am, I’m not as a winemaker. I make wine very much by feel.” The control comes in at the beginning–making sure tanks or barrels are clean, that the press has happened properly, but the rest occurs through what Jessica describes as listening. “When I stop, and really learn to listen to gut and intuition, it’s more real. The wine feels right.”
Thank you to Sam and Jessica. Nice to spend time with you Emilia and Hudson!
These wines were tasted through multiple visits over the course of the summer and fall.
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