Anthony Escover founded Idyll Time Vineyard in Hollister in 1999. But it was not until this year, under his daughter Joan Escover, his grandson Nathan Chang, and Nathan’s wife Alexia, that the vineyard released wines under the Idyll Time label.
“My grandfather had an old saying that idle time is nothing more than poor imagination,” said Chang. “He looked at it as a hobby and as something to do during his retirement. He used the spelling that means ‘picturesque,’ so there was more of a dual meaning to the name.”
Anthony started with plantings of zinfandel and syrah, four acres of each, and added two acres of pinot noir in 2002. He was joined in the grape business by his brother Dave, who founded Spring Grove Vineyard. They sold their harvests to wineries in the area, including Pessagno Winery in Gonzales, owned by Chang’s uncle, Steve Pessagno.
Chang remembers helping to plant the first vines when he was 10 years old and later took viticulture classes at CSU-Fresno.
“You take the hand that you’re dealt, and I was dealt grapes,” Chang said. “When my Uncle Dave passed away in 2014, I started taking over and learning the art of farming, the cultural practices that are meant for professional farming. But farming is as much an art as it is a science.”
Following Anthony’s death in 2016, Chang bought the vineyard and continued selling grapes until the market suddenly dropped.
“In 2019, we had a hard time selling the grapes,” said Chang. “We decided to pick them for ourselves and create our own label. We now use 100% of the grapes we grow just for our wines.”
The wines are produced with guidance from master winemaker Al DeRose of DeRose Winery in Cienega Valley. Idyll Time debuted this year with three 2019 releases: ZinFest Zinfandel, Que Syrah Syrah, and their flagship wine, a syrah-pinot noir blend called Syrapinot.
Part of the charm of Idyll Time wineries comes from the packaging, which is as distinctive as the wines. Joan owns JP Graphics, a commercial printing business, and she teamed up with Colleen de la Torre of ShantiArt Design to produce colorful and fun labels.
“We named Zinfest for Zinny-Zin, Grandpa Anthony’s Golden Retriever,” said Alexis. “Going forward, each year, we will have a different animal on the label of that wine. We will vary the other designs each year according to their theme so that Syrapinot will have court jesters and Que Syrah will feature masks and music.”
There are several gift boxes available in different combinations. The Signature Wine Gift Box ($150) is Idyl Time’s premier sampler and contains all three wines and framable artwork based on the labels. It’s also the only way to get the syrah, as only 850 bottles were produced.
The three current wines will see a 2020 release next year, along with a pinot noir, a chardonnay sourced from DeRose, and a zinfandel-pinot blend.
“The new blend is Joan’s latest creation,” said Alexia. “It’s a surprising combination that I think people are going to like. She said she had never tried a blend like that, and she wanted something new.”
I was present at the blending of the 2020 Syrapinot at DeRose winery and can testify to the spontaneity behind this new blend. Joan proposed the combination, and though caught somewhat by surprise, DeRose effortlessly put the two wines together in a way that instantly made sense, creating a bright, light-bodied wine with complex fruits and a smooth finish. It was a successful experiment, and I look forward to tasting the finished product on release.
The beauty of these wines and the elegance of the packaging make them perfect gift wines for special occasions or when you want to make an impression at a dinner party.
“I think of our line as everyday wines with a touch of class,” Chang said. “They are memorable wines and we hope you will be creating great memories while you are drinking them.”
Besides tasting the upcoming wines during the blending, I had the chance to try the 2019 Syrapinot, which the Changs refer to as “The Beginning.”
The 2019 Syrapinot of Idyll Time Wines
2019 Syrapinot (14.1% – $25 per bottle, $250 per case) The wine is 35% syrah, 65% pinot noir and was aged 12 months in French oak. The winery produced 733 cases of Syrapinot, and this is the only Idyll Time wine you can buy as individual bottles or by the case.
It’s a beautiful ruby red wine with an open aroma of dark cherries and ash. The tannins provide a subtle base to a light acidity, with buoyant fruit notes of tart raspberry and fig. It finishes with an uptick of oak and an earthy mushroom tone. It’s an eminently drinkable wine that would go well with anything you want to serve with it. Pasta with cream sauces are a no-brainer here, but it could take on spicy dishes as well.
Idyll Time wines and gift boxes are available through the vineyard’s website. The company is now expanding its distribution to restaurants and stores. It will be doing tastings at the upcoming B&R Farms winter festival, Holidays on the Farm on Nov. 27, Dec. 4 and 5, and Dec. 11 and 12.
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