Jul 20, 2023Welcome to Darling Wines from Sonoma

modified 9 months ago
by Roland Benedetti

I discovered Darling Wines a couple of years ago when visiting the Bay Area. We stopped at the winery, where we met Tom and Ashley Darling, and we tasted their entire lineup. Nine wines! 

It was obvious the wines were excellent, very well made, but also telling us something real and unique. We’d put these on our tables often if only they were in New York. We can’t say this very often about wineries we explore in “established” regions such as Napa, Sonoma or other well-known appellations.

Ashley and Tom at the winery in 2021.

The experience was as if Tom, the winemaker, had been in wine for at least a couple of decades - working with such prestigious vineyards, delivering flawless yet alive wines, and having such a clear idea of the direction. It seemed like this was a result of a slow process fed by many years of exposure to wine. It struck me to learn that Tom and Ashley had only started in 2016 and had no winemaking experience or even exposure prior! Indeed, before Darling Wines, Tom was on a different journey. He flirted with becoming a pro tennis player, being a few steps from the pro tour (although here as well, he discovered Tennis on the late side). But when Tom and Ashley got bitten by the bug, it was clear it would be wine. These two know what they want and go for it full throttle, and it’s pretty impressive what they’ve achieved in only a few years! 

We kept in touch, and although Living Wine ’s focus is more European, talking with Tom a few months ago after tasting some of his recent releases, we decided to consider collaborating. More precisely, it was the Turnstone Vineyard 2021 which hit the chord. Ironically, the first bottle of it arrived corked. Tom was kind enough to resend a bottle across the US, and oh my, when we pulled this wine, it was clear!

This is very personal, too, but it is very much my style of Pinot Noir. Some of it undoubtedly reminds me of Montebruno's best vintages, or some Cameron. It also brought me to totally different memories reminding me of some Pinots from Germany - Enderle & Moll or the Holy Chapell from the Brand Bros, and of course also some old school Côte de Nuit or Côte de Beaune. No doubt New Yorkers deserve to be able to put these wines on their tables!

The type of vineyard Tom likes to work with.

What defines Darling’s wines: a clear, light touch in the cellar to the service of outstanding vineyards. Wine’s identity comes from the vineyard. In the cellar, it’s all gentle: natural fermentation, low or no SO2, foot-trodden and whole cluster fermentation, neutral oak or stainless aging and nothing else - the vineyard prime. For that, Tom sources from small organic growers working on some of the best vineyards of the region. It’s unusual to get that type of “low intervention” winemaking applied to grapes of such vineyards. 

Flat Iron SF write very on point:

The ultimate synthesis of natural winemaking and premier California vineyards, Darling Wine is the most exciting producer you have never heard of

Generally speaking when we are talking about natural winemakers, it's usually a story about vineyards and appellations off of the beaten path but the Darlings decided to take a different approach. They wanted to work with some of the most well regarded sites on the Sonoma Coast and with help of their connections and natural charm, they were able to get a small amount of coveted fruit. .... We rarely get to try wine from these spots that are produced in such a naked fashion. …. these are amongst the most transparent expressions of these sites ever produced.

So, we are glad to offer a tiny drop of these outstanding wines to the New York market. Available from August 1. Pre-orders are welcome and advised.

Furthermore, Tom will be joining me for a little NYC visit on the 27th and 28th of July and if any of you reading this letter want us to visit you, please let us know.  The schedule is tight, but we’d love to make this happen. 

We’ll also be taking over the BTG program of June BK (thanks Ben) on the 27th in the evening, so if we can not visit you, you are more than welcome to come visit Tom and I at the zinc of June BK!