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wilde farm | The premiere release 2012 wines, by Pax Mahle

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.


MacDonald Vineyard video with Graeme MacDonald and Tom Garrett

purely domestic wine report spent Friday afternoon at MacDonald tasting the new releases from cousins, neighbors and vintners, Graeme MacDonald and Tom Garrett. After finishing the tasting, we hiked to the top of the knoll for some video. Enjoy. Please click on the image below.




Highly recommended; the launch of an excellent new website

Aaron Pott (from years ago I became acquainted with a fellow named Bret Lyman who owns a video production company in Napa Valley called B. Napa. The work that he created for wineries was state of the art and I was impressed by his skills, however as a critic I don’t go to winery websites to look at the videos. Recently Lyman did something that caught my attention big time, he introduced a new website along with Marcus Krupp, called I highly suggest checking it out as the concept is producing short video spots of some of Napa’s most exciting and creative winemakers discussing wines that they love to drink (that they didn’t make). 

It is exciting to watch winemakers such as Aaron Pott, Kale Anderson, Helen Keplingler, Kirk Venge, and Chris Carpenter who I know and respect portrayed in a space where they have the freedom to discuss producers they admire. It adds a new wrinkle to their personalities that most people wouldn’t expect. 


Tasting the Dyer Vineyard Vertical 1996 - 2010

On May 4th, 2013, I spent time with Bill and Dawnine Dyer at their Diamond Mountain property tasting every release of their wine. Please select the image below to learn about how the wines are doing.



First taste of 2009 and 2010 Hobel Cabernet Sauvignon

April 6, 2013, Calistoga

After a couple months of trying to get on each others schedules, i was finally able to get together with Cameron and Bahenah Hobel and growerDick Engelhard at their vineyard today. The property is situated on a gentle slope just off Franz Valley School Road not more than 5 minutes from my house. In addition to Hobel, Engelhard grows for several other high profile producers that even though he didn’t ask me to mention, I choose not to. The wines are made by Thomas Brown who has been responsible for some of the most sought after wines made in California. 

The vineyard blocks used by Hobel are primarily divided among See Clone, 4 and 6. Premeiring in the 2009 vintage it was one of the wines (along with Luscher Ballard) I needed to learn about from Carl Studer in Lucerne, Switzerland. 

2009 Hobel Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley, Engelhard Vineyard, 14.5%, 193 cs., $75

Typical of the 2009 vintage the nose is forward with round, ripe impressions of spice, blackberry and supple stone fruits. The palate is beautifully supple with red currant, blackberry concentration and intensity on the mid-palate finishing with impeccable balance. Drink 2013 - 2022. 96 points.

2010 Hobel Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley, Engelhard Vineyard, 14.1%, 313 cs., $75

The nose has outstanding red fruit and blackberry coupled with underlying black walnut and whiffs of juniper. The palate is firm blackberry on entry showing just stunning purity in the fruit. It is very dialed in for balance with a supple, polished finish of plum, blackberry, carbon and black walnut. Drink 2013 - 2022. 94 points.

The wines are available from the winery, or within Napa Valley at 750 Wines in St. Helena