In California’s Sonoma county, the brothers Bilbro—Jake, Scot and Sam—oversee three very different wineries. But they’ve never lost sight of what it means to come together as a family…
And Sam has taken a third path, producing his elegant, Italian-variety Idlewild wines that are now sommelier and insider favorites.
Idlewild is a welcome addition to downtown Healdsburg: To tourists, it’s a tasting room offering some of Sonoma County’s most unique wines; to locals, it’s a laid-back bar to come for a glass and a snack.
The accolades have come because Sam is a winemaker who believes that passion for the wine should always be your north star, and his passion for Piedmontese wines is what makes him so unique in such a crowded world.
At one time of year, for one small segment of winemaking, the human touch makes all the difference… Hands, feet, calves, arms up to the elbow, entire limbs even, disappear into tanks filled with fermenting grapes that were only just days ago picked and crushed.
2016 Idlewild ‘The Flower, Flora & Fauna Rose’ Rose ($22): This super juicy blend of dolcetto, barbera, and nebbiolo from Mendocino gets better every year. The winery, founded in 2012, focuses on Italian varieties, and this complex pink wine would be great with the salumi you find at the owner’s wine bar.
“Sam Bilbro’s family is behind the idiosyncratic Marietta winery in Northern California, so it is not surprising that his own project, Idlewild, would also have the idiosyncratic goal of making wines from northwestern Italian varieties in Mendocino. The Flower is a delightful rosé, made of dolcetto, nebbiolo and barbera. It smells like red fruits, flowers and citrus but is savory, almost salty, and delicious.”
“Bilbro has the rare ability to craft absolutely delicious wines from obscure grapes (in California)… Readers who can find these wines should not miss them, as they are terrific. Carignan – 93 points, Barbera – 92 points.”
“Idlewild focuses on Italian and other less well-known varieties… The best wines in this range are compelling and point to a bright future. Carignan – 91 pts; Dolcetto – 90 pts; Cortese – 89 pts.” (Log-in required for full review)
Join us, and meet the trailblazers who are shaping the future of wine, beer, cider and spirits in America. These winemakers, grape growers, retailers, bartenders, educators and more are redefining the alcohol beverage industry as we know it. With an eye on innovation and an impulse to constantly reach for the horizon, each of these honorees is doing their part to lead the conversation and leave a lasting influence on the world of food and drink for generations to come.
“I want to sidewalk chalk the way to Sam Bilbro’s tasting room, just off the plaza in Healdsburg in Sonoma County. I want visitors to find their way there and tease Bilbro about out-hipstering the hipsters. I want him to smile at them. I want him to use the word ‘joy’ fifteen times in two sentences as he talks about these wines, and I want you -visitors- to taste exactly that joy, as I did, in this Cortese and the Dolcetto in particular.”
“All of these wines are great choices for the dinner table. Best of all, they won’t break the bank… This is a huge, overachieving wine and probably the best Dolcetto (2014) I have tasted from California. 92 points.”
“2014 Dolcetto: a medium bodied red with a refreshing sense of levity… with that zingy, stiff tannin/acid/black cherry thing found in every self-respecting Dolcetto. A wine you can drink all day, and into the night.”
“2014 “Fox Hill Vineyard” Arneis. This wine smells beautifully floral and mineral. In the mouth, flavors of Rainier cherries, white flowers, and wet chalkboard are beautifully balanced and positively gulpable. Outstanding.”
“Sam’s vision, which he is so impressively executing upon today, is to use grapes traditionally grown in the region of Piedmon–to produce intriguing and expressive wines from Northern California. It’s a vision rooted in passion.”
“The usual suspect grapes are included, of course… but you will also find on this list proponents of trousseau gris and grenache gris, carignane and cinsault, crafted by brave pioneers of the unusual, even rare grapes.”
“Proprietor Sam Bilbro has a particular fondness for Italian wines and he does a bang-up job with both cortese and arneis, two white wine varietals found in Piedmont, yet his Vin Gris of Grenache is equally delightful.”