Friday, November 22, 2019

Healthier, lab-tested, lower in alcohol: the appeal of Dry Farm Wines

You will know immediately if you are the kind of person who would like Dry Farm Wines.

The wine club, founded by a real estate investor who lives in the heart of Napa Valley, is the largest buyer of natural wines in the world. It's ironic because these wines are the antithesis of everything Napa Valley stands for. They're recommended on the website by a who's-who list of biohackers and people who espouse keto and paleo type diets, because they're healthier than most commercial wine. It hasn't made Dry Farm Wines founder Todd White popular with his neighbors in Yountville.

"In 2009 I founded a street festival in St. Helena that became the largest gathering in Napa Valley," Todd White told me. "In 2009 I was named citizen of the year in St. Helena. Today I barely get my calls returned by anybody. My social calendar in the Napa Valley has run dry. It's OK, it's a price I'm willing to pay for helping people live a healthier life."

These are not just natural wines. The company has a very specific aesthetic: low alcohol (12.5% or less), clean wines (despite minimal sulfur) and no residual sugar.

The special feature is that it lab tests all of its wines, so they are what they claim to be. I'm a rather well-known skeptic, but I believe in Dry Farm Wines.

I have no desire to argue about this story with people who like high-alcohol wines. These wines are not for you; you don't have to drink them. I also know the term "natural wine" puts some people into a frenzy. But I tasted nine of these wines and all were fine: the lab-testing program seems to assure it. They are similar to each other, especially the reds: they are lean, fresh and juicy, without oak flavors. I enjoyed all of them.

"These wines aren't for everybody," White says. "They're not big enough, they're not bold enough. They're for people like me."

As for them being healthier than most (not all) commercial wines, I think that's a fair statement. I'll let White elaborate.

Todd White
"I have a tenuous relationship with alcohol," White told me. "I spent most of my adult life drinking too much. I think most regular wine drinkers think they drink too much. Most of them believe they should drink less. But they don't want to. That's my customer. My customers are people who want to drink healthier. This is really about brain health."

White said he discovered the kind of wines he now sells completely by accident, and not before tasting a bunch of truly terrible natural wines.

"I was drinking 15% alcohol wines in Napa," White says. "I don't want to poopoo on Napa. The same thing is happening in Bordeaux. I quit drinking for a while, in 2014, in a period I recall as suffering through sobriety. Didn't enjoy that. I thought it was just the alcohol. I didn't know about the additives or anything like this. I started mixing tea and wine, in the winter. I'd put an ounce or so of wine in the teacup, and have a cup of tea with it. You know what? I felt a lot better. I'm not drinking as much alcohol, and I feel a lot better."

A friend recommended that he try some low-alcohol wines produced in Europe, so he went to a wine shop and bought a case.

"Most of them were undrinkable and I poured them down the sink," White said.