As a wine critic, I find it very advantageous to be based in the midst of the region I write about most, California. Rather than spending several weeks annually out here, I am always around and can either be walking a vineyard, tasting with a new producer, or picking up samples with relatively little planning or fanfare. I get to talk informally with a lot of winemakers as well as engage with people on wine chatboards. Through these resources, I sometimes learn of new projects just as they are being released, and because of the relatively simple publishing I do, the wine can get to me, be tasted and written about in a week.
That is what happened recently with a wine I have only know about for ten days. I learned about wilde farm on the Wine Berserkers website, a chatboard started within the last five years by mostly the banned exiles of another wine board. The brand new wilde farm wine label is owned by Loren Grossman, one of those passionate wine lovers who falls hard for the idea of being a vintner yet approaches it from a very high level and seeks out some of the top talent to help him execute the plan. Loren chose well by tabbing Pax Mahle to craft the wines. Pax and I are both alumni of Dean & Deluca’s Napa Valley Wine Hall (aka, The Incubator) and actually worked there at the same time in 1999. I call it The Incubator because there were several of us who arrived there in the late ’90s from around the country and made it into the finest selection of domestic wine in the country and possibly the world before we grew our wings and eventually flew off to do other things. Pax made an immediate impact as a winemaker in the early part of the millennium with his original eponymous brand and now Wind Gap Wines, a brand dedicated to restrained, terroir-driven wines from up and down the california coast. His philosophy matches well with Grossman’s vision of letting distinctive mature vineyards express themselves in their own time by utilizing natural yeasts, neutral oak vessels and treating the wine as gently as possible by not fining or filtering.
The premiere wines from wilde farm are sourced from three sites:
Chardonnay from Brosseau, Chalone
Pinot Noir from Donnelly Creek, Anderson Valley
Heritage Field Blend, Bedrock Vineyard, Sonoma Valley
92 2012 wilde farm Chardonnay
Chalone, Brosseau Vineyard, 13.2%, $36
Aromas of lemon drops, salt, mineral, tea, and pineapple with nuances of butter cream. Tasted at room temperature, the palate offers a honey, chamomile and bright, vibrant lemon quality persisting into the finish with clean acidity. When chilled, it primarily accentuates crispness and brings out more grain and licorice on the finish. Drink 2013 - 2017.
93 2012 wilde farm Pinot Noir
Anderson Valley, Donnelly Creek Vineyard, 12.7%, $42
A nose of cranberry, graphite, red cherry, blueberry, strawberry and a whiff of honey. The palate is extraordinarily delicate with currant, strawberry, rose petal, mineral and subtle spice. The main allure of this wine is the texture - a silky yet tactile structure that weaves its way through all parts. This is one of those wines I find hard to put down, and as evidence, it is the only one of the three samples that is now empty. Drink 2013 - 2025.
92 2012 wilde farm Red Wine Heritage
Sonoma Valley, Bedrock Vineyard, 14.5%, $36
A nose of dried florals with an over-arching spice box of licorice, orange peel and cherry. The palate is sharply defined by a crisp cherry, violet and fine-grained cocoa and curacao-flecked spiciness. Over a 2 hour period in the glass, everything integrates with a blue plum and blackberry streak adding extra dimension. Drink 2013 - 2019.