Idlewild Wines - Ruth Lewandowski Pick Up Open House 11/16/2019

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Tom DeBiase
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Idlewild Wines - Ruth Lewandowski Pick Up Open House 11/16/2019

#1 Post by Tom DeBiase » November 22nd, 2019, 2:12 pm

Attended the Idlewild - Ruth Lewandowski Open House last week and tasted through the line up of both. Will go through the Idlewild wines first (still gathering my notes on RL :)) and will post those in a day or so. A little background on Idlewild. When we moved to Sonoma Wine Country in late 2012 I had read that a young winemaker named Sam Bilbro was making Italian wines with grapes grown in Mendocino County. Being a lover of most Italian wines I set an appointment with Sam and tasted through the wines. Even back then you could taste the freshness and purity of the wines and my wife and I became instant fans. Now 7 years later the portfolio is broader and more refined but the attention to quality is exceptional.

I have come to know Sam over the years, always friendly and unpretentious he is also one of the most strategic winemakers you will ever meet. The Idlewild portfolio is not only inspired by Italian wines but further narrowed down to the great white and red varieties of Piedmont, that is it. I would have guessed this type of venture in California would fail miserably, instead Idlewild growth has been incredibly strong and wines become sold out soon after release.
If you meet up with Sam at the Idlewild Tasting Room in Healdsburg he will detail all he does in the winery to attain quality but if you really want to see his eyes light up start talking about soils, climate, vineyard management etc. He loves to talk about what it takes in the vineyard to produce the quality of grapes to make outstanding wine. No doubt this was passed on from father (Chris Bilbro of Marietta) to son. The wines see only old wood, have low to moderate alcohol and are very fresh tasting. Onto the wines.

2017 Idlewild Cortese Fox Hill Vineyard: 25% of the juice was skin fermented for a month+ to add complexity and savory elements, 75% directly pressed. Stone fruit, ripe apple, floral aromas. Spicy ripe apple, dried apricot, chamomile, orange oil, honeysuckle and a slight bitter note round out the balanced flavor profile. Savory with good acidity, some tannins give this a very nice texture and a long finish. With Thanksgiving around the corner this wine would be a perfect match. 12.5% ABV

2017 Idlewild Dolcetto Fox Hill Vineyard: Fermented 100% whole cluster with partial foot treading, this vintage shows the contrast of bright freshness against firm structure that I love seeing in Dolcetto. The 2017 Dolcetto is full of earthy, cherry, herbal aromas that give an indication of whats coming. Flavors of dried cherry, earth, sweet herbs, almond and eucalyptus. The tannin management in this wine is perfect. They enhance the wine without overwhelming the fruit and other flavor attributes. Have some salumi and a glass of 2017 Idlewild Dolcetto and you will soon be smiling. 12.4 ABV

2017 Idlewild Barbera Fox Hill Vineyard: Unlike Dolcetto (all tannin) Barbera is all acid and no tannin... literally, there is next to no tannin in the skins. With this in mind, the grapes were fully foot trodden and all stems were included for added spice and structure. The must fermented naturally via native yeast and bacteria. At dryness, the wine was pressed to neutral puncheon where it evolved and integrated for nearly eleven months. Then, a year in bottle completed its aging.
Black cherry, herbs, flinty, dried meat aromas emerge with some gentle swirling. In the mouth ripe black cherry, violets, dried meat, cedar and minerals. This is medium to full bodied Barbera, the abundant acidity allows for a larger scale wine yet everything is in beautiful balance. Versatile food wine, we enjoy this wine with winter roasts or braised meats. 14.4% ABV

2016 Idlewild Nebbiolo Fox Hill Vineyard: The Nebbiolo very much comes from the thought of balancing tradition reimagined in new soil. One third of the fruit was destemmed, two thirds was left whole cluster and crushed by foot. The wine was fermented natively and then topped and sealed up for an extended maceration of nearly ninety total days on skins (and stems). This is old fashioned, but it yielded amazing depth and spectrum in a decidedly ethereal feeling wine.
Very aromatic. Rose petals, violets, cherries, tar and mint aromas. You can smell this all day and be happy :). Cherries, earth, rose, tar and a touch of citrus round out the flavors. The flavors give way to a firm but balanced structure. Substantial yet elegant, just as Nebbiolo should be. Enjoy this now with a hearty dinner or give it time. Either way, it's all good :). 13.9% ABV

Each of the Idlewild wines in the Fall release show excellent concentration of flavors yet are vibrant and so easy to drink. For several years Idlewild has become our most consumed wine. This release will not change that! If you are in Healdsburg, stop by the Tasting Room - Salumi Bar to sample the wines or get on the mailing list. Lots of fantastic events during the year at the Cantina (Tasting Room) examples are the Alba White Truffle dinner tomorrow night (can't wait!) and "Sunday School" the first Sunday of every month where wines of Italy are tasted and discussed.

Will get to the Ruth Lewandowski wines in a day or so.

Sam Bilbro pouring at the Open House
IMG_20191116_175024.jpg
Last edited by Tom DeBiase on November 24th, 2019, 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Ken Zinns
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Re: Idlewild Wines - Ruth Lewandowski Pick Up Open House 11/16/2019

#2 Post by Ken Zinns » November 22nd, 2019, 8:15 pm

Thanks for the notes, Tom. Both wineries are making good stuff, and Idlewild has been a particular favorite. Thought about going to the open house but just didn’t have the time.
ITB, Harrington Wines & Eno Wines, and Grape-Nutz.com

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Re: Idlewild Wines - Ruth Lewandowski Pick Up Open House 11/16/2019

#3 Post by R. Frankel » November 22nd, 2019, 9:09 pm

Great post Tom. I tasted at Idlewild just this week and agree on your overall descriptions of the lineup. I found the Cortese especially enjoyable - a unique white that was highly engaging and very food friendly. Of the reds I thought the Barbera the most interesting of the reds right now. The Nebbiolo was a bit tight and tannic, I’m very curious how these will age. Idlewild is doing very good work with these grapes!
Rich Frankel

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Re: Idlewild Wines - Ruth Lewandowski Pick Up Open House 11/16/2019

#4 Post by Tom DeBiase » November 23rd, 2019, 9:15 am

R. Frankel wrote:
November 22nd, 2019, 9:09 pm
Great post Tom. I tasted at Idlewild just this week and agree on your overall descriptions of the lineup. I found the Cortese especially enjoyable - a unique white that was highly engaging and very food friendly. Of the reds I thought the Barbera the most interesting of the reds right now. The Nebbiolo was a bit tight and tannic, I’m very curious how these will age. Idlewild is doing very good work with these grapes!
Rich, that Cortese really shows the value that some skin contact can add to the final wine and agree that the unique flavor - savory profile makes for a great addition at the dinner table. We tasted the wines toward the end of the Open House and the bottle of Nebbiolo had been open for several hours which no doubt helped its showing. I don't know about long term aging, 2012 was the first vintage but the Nebbiolo (and others) greatly benefit from some aging, helps knit the flavor and structure together. Sam holds back releasing the Nebbiolo just for that purpose. With Wild-Ruth Ranch coming on board and maturing the future looks very good for the Idlewild portfolio of wines.

Ken, too many wine events and too little time. I know that feeling sympathize with you completely :)

Tom

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Re: Idlewild Wines - Ruth Lewandowski Pick Up Open House 11/16/2019

#5 Post by Tom DeBiase » November 24th, 2019, 2:23 pm

Evan Lewandowski is the Owner - Winemaker of Ruth Lewandowski Wines. In case you are wondering Ruth Lewandowski is not Evan's mother, grandmother, aunt etc etc. Rather it is the name of Evan’s favorite book in the Bible. The book of Ruth is a great depiction of death and redemption. Much of Evan’s philosophy of farming and, in turn, winemaking is derived from this cycle of death and redemption. With that explanation the phrase on the RL Website best sums up the wines "HONEST, HEARTFELT WINES MADE NATURALLY".
I have met Evan and spoken briefly to him about his thoughts on winemaking and you sense immediately that the sky and soil are equally as important as the fruit. I need to get more one on one with him, his experience in the vineyard is extensive and Evan is eager to talk about that experience. He also has a scientific background which he puts to good use making natural wines. He has a great sense of humor, very friendly and engaging, just the type of person you want to spend time with. I need to do more of that.

I tasted the wines in the middle of the Open House, it was very crowded and did not get to see all the % ABV though I am pretty certain they are low. The wines see only old wood and some are unique blends of grape varieties. Each one is distinct. The Merlot and Sangiovese are both outstanding.

2018 Ruth Lewandowski Naomi Grenache Gris Gibson Ranch: From very old vines the wine has aromas of orchard fruit, floral notes, a bit restrained. In the mouth the wine evolves into apple, blood orange, chamomile and bits of flowers and spice. Nice hit of acidity that ties the flavors together. Good texture to this wine, substantial but not heavy. Tasting this I kept thinking "nice Thanksgiving wine". This wine is Sans Soufre.

2018 Ruth Lewandowski Rosé, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Souzão: Sourced from Rorick and Fox Hill Vineyards, a combined trio of grapes not normally associated with Rosé. The nose has some funkiness along with cherry and leather notes. Flavors follow with sour cherry, strawberry, leather and spice. This is a unique Rosé, bigger boned and flavorful than many but every bit as refreshing and thirst quenching. Good acidity and a bit of tannin, this Rosé will likely improve further with a bit more time.

2018 Ruth Lewandowski Feints Fox Hill Vineyard: Feints is a cofermentation of Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Arneis with the white Arneis at 50% of the blend. a true mix of red and white grape varieties. Full carbonic maceration also used here to keep everything fresh. The nose has some funk along with cherry melon notes. Flavors of sour cherry, cranberry, almond and lime, unique flavor profile. Bracing acidity, put a chill on this wine, find yourself a patio or porch and enjoy.

2018 Ruth Lewandowski Merlot "Abandoned Meander" Fox Hill Vineyard: Not sure of the meaning of the title of this wine but I can tell you this is excellent merlot. The wine has everything I look for in merlot. Pure flavors of cherry, cassis, herbs in the perfect balance of green to fruit, cedar graphite complex, earth and bits of florals and spice. Textbook flavors that hit you in perfect balance. Medium body, good acidity and sweet tannins round out this great effort. Bought some. This wine is Sans Soufre. 13.8% ABV

2017 Ruth Lewandowski L. Stone Sangiovese Fox Hill Vineyard: I admit to not being a big fan of Sangiovese, there are princes for sure but also a lot of frogs in between. That said I bought a bunch of the 2017 RL Sangiovese. IMO not just good California Sangiovese but Sangiovese from anywhere. There is purity of flavor here, dried cherry, spice, leathery notes along with subtle notes of violet flowers. Medium body, nice acidity and savory, I was thinking red sauce pizza with my first sip. This wine is Sans Soufre. 13.2% ABV

In some ways this is an eclectic group of wines (Naomi, Rosé, Feints) yet in others it is quite normal (Merlot, Sangiovese). If you are interested in tasting the wines contact Evan to set an appointment. His tasting area is located upstairs in the Idlewild Tasting Room. Here is contact info and general information from the Ruth Lewandowski Website:

https://www.ruthlewandowskiwines.com/

Evan Lewandowski Pouring at the Open House
IMG_20191116_175054.jpg

m. ristev
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Re: Idlewild Wines - Ruth Lewandowski Pick Up Open House 11/16/2019

#6 Post by m. ristev » November 24th, 2019, 3:21 pm

any idea why he ditched utah?
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Tom DeBiase
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Re: Idlewild Wines - Ruth Lewandowski Pick Up Open House 11/16/2019

#7 Post by Tom DeBiase » November 24th, 2019, 5:23 pm

m. ristev wrote:
November 24th, 2019, 3:21 pm
any idea why he ditched utah?
M, I don't know all the reasons but one is that he has a cooperative agreement to manage Wild Ruth Ranch in Mendocino County. That is the combination of IdleWild and Ruth Lewandowski thus the name Wild Ruth

I believe he may also have managing responsibilities for another vineyard in Mendocino County. Plus my guess it's a lot easier making wine in Geyserville Sonoma County than starting fermentations in Sonoma County and literally driving them over to Utah for completion, a distance of 700+ miles.

Tom

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Re: Idlewild Wines - Ruth Lewandowski Pick Up Open House 11/16/2019

#8 Post by m. ristev » November 24th, 2019, 5:31 pm

i thought he had planted or at least was planning to plant a vineyard in utah?
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