Idlewild Vineyards

Sam Bilbro’s outsize passion for Piedmont is the main inspiration behind Idlewild. Bilbro has the rare ability to craft absolutely delicious wines from obscure grapes (in California) and offer them at prices that will make even the most budget-conscious reader happy, a sensibility that he picked up during the years he worked alongside his father at Marietta Cellars. Readers who can find these wines should not miss them, as they are terrific. ANTONIO GALLONI, www.vinousmedia.com, January 2015

Proprietor Sam Bilbro has spent virtually a lifetime around wine. His family owns Marietta, while brothers Jake and Scot are behind the reborn Limerick Lane. At Idlewild, Sam Bilbro focuses on Italian and other less well-known varieties. In addition to these wines, I also tasted the, Arneis Fox Hill Vineyard, Vin Gris Dry Creek Valley and Grenache Gris Gibson Ranch. The best wines in this range are compelling, and point to a bright future. ANTONIO GALLONI, www.vinousmedia.com, February 2014

Having had a relationship with the Bilbro family as importers of the Marietta wines some years ago we were delighted to find youngest son, Sam, was behind this new venture, Idlewild. In many ways the wines are the anitpathy of what so many believe Californian wines are supposed to be. Hunting out heritage stands of Italian and Rhone varietals (mostly in Mendocino County) Bilbro makes extremely interesting wines characterised by texture, savouriness and subtlety. Skin contact is a part of the wines as is a relatively non-interventionist approach; both indicative of the preferences of the younger brigade of Calfornia producers.

Tasting these exciting wines in his Healdsberg kitchen it’s pretty clear that this operation (only in its second vintage) is as much about passion as making money (only a few hundred cases total are produced). The belief in these long-ignored vines and varieties of northern California is the driving factors here for BIlbro and the quality of the wines makes this passion contagious. In our first shipment last year we were only able to get a few cases of three wines from this range however the second shipment has yielded good allocations of some of the most exciting wines Sam produces. Most notably Dolcetto, Carignan and Barbera are all part of this range for the time in Australia. In addition we have also have an allocation of the Cortese (better known as the variety behind Gavi in Piemonte).

These are exciting wines that reboot the paradigm on Californian wine and as Stephen Tanzer writes (in relation to an Idlewild wine): “I’d like to see more Californian wines like this”. We wholeheartedly agree and highly recommend you give them a try. MICHAEL MCNAMARA, PWS