This is the full interview with Loren Grossman of Wilde Farm wines, of which snippets appeared in the December 11th, 2013 article, “Rise of the Bi-Coastal Boutique Vigneron” on UndergroundEats.com. Three of Loren’s wines are reviewed in the Underground Eats piece.
JC: Wilde Farm – give me the scoop.
LG: Wilde Farm is in Montclair, NJ. I have lived here with my family since 1995. It was built by Samuel Wilde in 1903. There is a line drawing of it on the newsletter linked to the site. The winery is in Forestville, CA. The reason we named the wine Wilde Farm is because the house itself is very much a metaphor for my wine philosophy: It was always meant to be a home that would endure. It has an edifice that may look plain or foursquare to the casual glance but actually is beautiful in its nuance; the way it captures light and casts shadows; the pegged, uneven oak stave, hand-quarter sawn floors; the hand carved Chestnut moldings; hand plastered walls and ceilings and the slight wave of the hand made glass windows. So it is with Wilde Farm wine.
Growing up in the Marche in Central Italy I knew wine as more of a food stuff than a sophisticated libation. As a child, my step-father and I would go once a month or so to the local wine co-op with empty damijans (not sure of spelling) [me either even though I am Italian too–JC], one for red and one for white. We would fill them with the local Loro Piceno and Verdicchio and then bring them back home to our cantina, where he and I would bottle them ourselves and seal them with metal caps, to be stored for family consumption. Kids were allowed to have some with lunch and dinner, usually mixed with some water.
JC: How did you become a maker of wine?
LG: Because I travel frequently and particularly to California (my day job is as a strategist for a large marketing communications firm with offices in LA and San Francisco), I began to visit vintners in Northern California, which to me bears more than a passing resemblance to central Italy where I grew up. I visited vintners I knew were beginning to make wines in the style I appreciated (higher acid, lower alcohol and more honest expressions of the land in which the grapes grow). It was thus that I met Pax Mahle. I really loved Pax’s wines and really felt that we shared the same philosophy around wine and winemaking. Upon my return home, I found an email from Pax thanking me for the visit and suggesting that someday I should really think about making a wine. The seed was planted. A short while later I called him and told him that if he really meant it, would he consider working with me on just such an endeavor? I took him a bit by surprise I think, but after some quick basic math we both agreed that it could work and shortly thereafter Wilde Farm wines was born.
JC: How much debt have you amassed going into the wine business?
LG: The short answer is there is none. This was the right thing for me at the right time. We are very purposeful about how we spend money. We buy our grapes from amazing, old vine sites. I rent equipment and space from Pax in a bit of a winery commune kind of place (Ryme Cellars, Jolie Laide and Wilde Farm all make wine there. Ryme and JL are made by Ryan Glaab and Scott Schultz both of whom work for Pax and his label Wind Gap as their day jobs. All roads lead to Pax!) in Forestville, just south of Healdsburg. We do not believe in “new oak programs” so we do not waste a lot of money doctoring our wines that way. Not to suggest we cut corners…we do not. I invest significantly in site, variety and in a wine maker that brings out the best in already amazing raw materials. I feel it’s worth it.
JC: You live on the East Coast and make a west-coast wine. Does that make you a carpetbagger?
I’m no “hit-it-big hedge fund manager” who plays chateau owner as a hobby. This is a big deal to me. I realize that there is kind of a clichéd “living the dream” kind of thing (if not stigma) to moving out west and making wine, let alone doing it from a distance, without having paid your dues, without starting as a cellar rat and making your way to winemaker. That said, I’m not trying to fool anyone. I feel like these are good, honest wines that fill a need and will be happily received by those who dig this style. The vision and the mission are mine. These are not white labeled products and this is not in lieu of owning polo horses or something. The enthusiasm and hard work required to realize the potential from grape to bottle are mine. I feel like I am contributing and am anxious to do more as our winery and brand evolve and mature.
JC: You have sons – do they drink wine?
LG: Yes, my boys are already budding wine geeks and truthfully have excellent palates. We have already visited the Maremma in Tuscany and CNdP in Southern France together. They totally get it and I hope someday to be able to offer them something substantive in Wilde Farm that they might consider continuing as they come of age.
JC: What do you think about spending a decent chunk of hard-earned mullah on a bottle of wine?
LG: A decent chunk? Ha. [“Ha” insert by me for comedic affect–JC] Yes I think so, though it is not required always. There are special bottles that could and should be for special occasions. But there should also be everyday wine that is well made, goes with food and isn’t so expensive that you need to really wonder if now is the right time to open it. Wilde Farm shoots for that niche of great, honest not too expensive wine that goes great with food for those that truly love wine. I think there are lots of choices for wines like that from outside the U.S. but not as many domestic. I think we could use more.
JC: Doing any events with Underground Eats? Any dirt on Harris?
LG: Yes, we will be doing a UGE event n the Spring, most likely in NYC and undoubtedly with a fun theme in a great venue. You know Harris! I love him. Lots of dirt…but none I can share without getting both of us in trouble. ;)