Wild Arc Farm

Checking All the Boxes

Quick Facts

Location: Pine Bush, Hudson Valley, New York

Owner & winemaker: Todd Cavallo

Vineyard area: 1 acre estate-owned, 7 acres personally and contract-farmed, occasional purchases

Management: biodynamic on their own sites, organic to conventional on purchases

Main varietals: Marquette, Traminette and other hybrids; Cabernet Franc, Riesling

Annual production (approx.): 18,000 bottles (wine, Piquette, and cider combined)

 

Fun Facts:

  • Todd is an Ex-IT ex-Brooklynite who, after finding the farmhouse of his dreams—a former perennial nursery—in the upstate New York town of Pine Bush gradually shifted to a full-time farming mode
  • The cool, wet climate of the area calls for resistant hybrid grapes like Traminette or Marquette and yields wines with distinct acidity
  • The word Farm plays a proud and important role in the winery’s name—Todd pursues a holistic biodynamic approach, growing his own vegetables and fruits.
  • In addition to wine, Wild Arc also experiments with cider, beer, kombucha…
  • … and the skins left after pressing! Wild Arc has kicked off a whole new era for piquette, the traditional rural French practice of up-cycling the grape pomace.

 

Jump to wines | Wild Arc Farm Website

 

“Yeah, most of my wines are now not getting scoffed at tastings,” Todd Cavallo comments on his boutique production as we follow him from a small shed filled with tanks and barrels to a couple of newly planted rows of vine on his Hudson Valley property. What an understatement: Wild Arc’s stuff has become so popular that, unless you jump on a bottle with the characteristic minimalist white labels right when you see one, you’ll probably risk waiting until the next vintage. 

All this happened very quickly — the former Brooklyn IT specialist and his wife Crystal moved upstate in 2016 without any previous agricultural experience. A couple of years later, they’re growing their own fruit & veg in biodynamic permaculture, looking forward to the first vintages from their recently planted two acres of Cabernet Franc, Pinot, and Chardonnay, all while getting mad props for their current produce.

Their low-sulfur, often carbonic macerated wines offer a generously fruity character with lively acidity, definitely checking all the boxes of drinkability and current tastes. Being a small farm at the beginning of its journey, Wild Arc sources fruit from other people in the area: “Our hope is to establish relationships with growers and help them move towards organic production, which we feel is “greener” and more sustainable than continuing to replace the native habitat with more vineyard plantings. We are also sneaking codes onto all our labels now that delineate growing practices and sulfur usage, so the consumer can know exactly what the differences are in our bottlings,” Todd explains.

But the one thing that has created the buzz around Wild Arc Farm is not exactly wine: it’s Piquette. By adding his own touch to the centuries-old French practice of making a “second wine” for the vineyard workers from the already pressed skins, Todd has hit that soft spot that many of us have for drinks that are light on alcohol but strong in fun, fizz and freshness.

“Rather than a watered-down wine, it’s actually a boozed-up piquette,” Todd explains what has made his endeavor so different and successful. In his method, the skins (called pomace) are soaked in water for a couple of days, pressed, left to ferment, and then blended with some of their original wine. Bottled at about 7% ABV with some local honey that acts as a re-fermentation starter in the bottle, the resulting beverage bears the aromatic profile of the grape but in a lighter version, all accompanied by a pleasant sparkle and an exotic flavor-kick from the honey. It’s the wine cooler that’s actually cool, as the Piquettes’ own labels state. 

Given their instant success,zero-waste, and low-ABV appeal, it’s no wonder that Piquette has become ubiquitous over the last couple of years, with winemakers around the globe willing to put their own skins into the trend. As for the one who (re)started it all, he seems to have his eyes on new horizons again: be it arak, wine’s role in climate change, or PiWis, you can be sure that Todd Cavallo won’t be resting on his laurels. 

 

 Wines

 

FLX Petillant Naturel 2020 — Back to the top

Todd on this wine: “A fun new Pet Nat from the Fingerlakes area. A white blend of hybrid and vinifera grapes including the NY81 – the grape so good it hasn’t even gotten a name yet.”

Grapes: NY81, Aromella, Riesling

Vineyard: Folts Farm, FLX. Sustainable (no herbicide)

Making of: All varieties were vinified separately, with the Aromella and NY81 getting some skin contact. They were then aged in neutral French Oak barrels for 7 months before being blended and bottled under crown cap before they fully woke up and finished fermenting this Spring. Unfiltered and undisgorged, S02: 20ppm added at crush.

Personality: Ripe muscat and melon notes from the Aromella, an herbaceous backbone, and great acidity from the NY81 and Riesling.


FLX Cabernet Franc 2019 — Back to the top

Todd on this wine: A fun take on Finger Lakes Cab Franc aged for 18 months in puncheon. It took on some bright tropical notes on top of the usual cherry fruit and peppery finish of NY Cab Franc.”

Grapes: Cabernet Franc

Vineyard: At Last Farm, Finger Lakes. Sustainable (no herbicide)

Vinification: hand-harvested, 50% whole-cluster and 50% destemmed fruit macerated for 4 weeks with daily hand punch-downs. It was pressed directly to a neutral French Oak puncheon and aged for 18 months without racking or stirring before being racked to tank for bottling. SO2: 20ppm at crush.

Personality: Bright red raspberry and black cherry fruit with some tropical fruit interwoven with peppery and herbal undertones.


FLX Chardonnay 2019 — Back to the top

Todd on this wine: “Like the Cab Franc, we gave this one a little more time to do its thing in barrel, and we ended up with a beautifully expressive (and crystal clear) Chardonnay that we are loving right now.”

Vineyard: At Last Farm, Finger Lakes. Sustainable (no herbicide)

Making of: Destemmed directly into the press for some additional skin extraction. It was then pressed directly into neutral French Oak barrels and aged for 18 months without racking or stirring before being racked to tank for bottling. SO2: 20ppm at crush

Personality: Both oxidative and reductive, pineapple and green apple skin with a lactic roundness from the extended barrel aging and full malolactic fermentation.


Riesling barrel 1 — Back to the top

Vineyard: Nostrano Vineyards
Region: Hudson River Region
Farming: Conventional
ABV: 10.7%
SO2: Minimal

Vinification: The fruit was foot-tread and whole-cluster macerated for
48 hours with a 20ppm S02 dose. It was then pressed directly into
neutral oak barrels where the native fermentation completed fairly
rapidly. Slight reduction issues arose in barrel which were alleviated
by occasional stirring with a copper rod. Malolactic fermentation
began naturally in the Spring. Barrel 1 was bottled after 12 months in
barrel, a few months before barrel 2.

Notes: These are fairly atypical rieslings due to the elevage in
neutral oak and completed malolactic fermentation. Both bring a
roundness and fatness to the palate that belies the low alcohol. It’s
as if someone was able to make a 10.7% riesling in Alsace. Think key
lime pie with extra whipped cream followed by a glug of mineral water.


Checking all the Boxes Pet Nat — Back to the top

This Marquette/Traminette pet nat really does check all the boxes, the
most important of which is that is was grown without any herbicides,
pesticides, or synthetic fungicides, and it was vinified without any
added SO2.

Vineyard: Amorici Vineyards
Region: New York Capital Region (Outside of AVA)
Farming: Practicing Organic
ABV: 11.5%
S02: Zero

Vinification: 2 day carbonic maceration, then direct pressed into
tank. Native fermentation, bottled at .8 brix. Manually riddled by
driving upside down cases around in a golf cart. Disgorged by hand in
March 2019.

Notes: Summertime strawberry gin fizz garnished with tarragon.


Carbonic Marquette — Back to the top

Another fun take on the organically grown Marquette. Somewhat in the
Nouveau style, but with a little more structure from some
whole-cluster maceration.

Vineyard: Amorici Vineyards
Region: New York Capital Region (Outside of AVA)
Farming: Practicing Organic
ABV: 11.5%
S02: Zero

Vinification: Hand-harvested. Full 2-week carbonic maceration in sealed stainless
tank, then foot-tread for an additional 3-day maceration on skins and
stems. Pressed directly into neutral oak barrels. Aged for 6 months in
barrel, then bottled for an early release.

Notes: Bright carbonic character on the nose: banana Runts, Bazooka
bubblegum, and strawberry candies. Broader and slightly structured on
the palate with darker fruit and some garrigue, and a bit of texture
on the finish.


Sweetheart 2020 — Back to the top

Todd on this wine: “A fun experiment in blending apples and grapes. The 2020 edition is Northern Spy Cider again, but aged on a combination of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Gamay skins.” Named after one of Todd’s old bands that never played more than a couple of shows, which felt appropriate for this originally experimental endeavor.

Apples: Northern Spy from an IPM-farmed orchard in Ontario County, North Fork + pomace from Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Gamay

Making of: The cider was pressed directly into tanks containing spent red grape pomace that had already been pressed for wine and then soaked and pressed again for Piquette. After 4 weeks in tanks, we pressed the juice into neutral French oak barrels where it aged for 4 months. Bottled with local wildflower honey to referment in bottle. Unfined, unfiltered, zero SO2 added.

Personality: Like pink Hawaiian Punch: tart, refreshing, and tropical.


2018 Cab Franc Rosé — Back to the top

Vineyard production for the Cab Franc at Bruynswick Vineyard was down 85% for 2018, so the entire harvest went into these 20 cases of rosé. Obviously extremely limited.

Vinification: Half direct-pressed and half with 2 hours of whole-cluster maceration, we experimented with zero sulfur additions at crush this year. Fermentation finished quickly but malolactic fermentation started showing some signs of trouble this Spring so we hit it with a small 20ppm SO2 dose prior to bottling.

Notes: An intoxicating combination of bright red and tropical fruits and dusty minerality. Raised in stainless steel but with full natural malolactic fermentation for roundness and body.


Piquette! — Back to the top

Piquette has become quite a phenomenon recently, with several wineries bottling something similar, often using the name Piquette on the label (with Todd’s blessing), but Todd should really be credited with bringing this style back. Originally, Piquette was something wineries would serve to their harvest workers. Something pleasant they could drink that wasn’t so high in alcohol they wouldn’t be able to work hard in the vines. The basic concept–to use the cast-offs from winemaking including the leftover must, stems, and seeds–is wonderfully zero-waste, and Todd’s version is zhuzhed up with a bit of the original wine and some local honey for a fine sparkle. 

Originally bottled in glass bottles, the Wild Arc piquettes are now sold in cans, to offer a more compact, transportable, and environmentally friendly container. 

Making of: The pomace is soaked in water and ferments to a low alcohol fizzy beverage thanks to the addition of something sweet (local honey in Todd’s case). Blended with a bit of wine to reach 7% ABV. No additional SO2 additions beyond what was residual in the must.

Personality: delicious and refreshing! The Rosato is a raspberry soda on the first day of summer, the Skin Contact version is a sparkling zesty lemonade beside a bonfire on a hot summer night.


Bi-Sekt — Back to the top

We’ve been sitting on this one for a bit, letting it get some time in bottle to develop. It is our take on the German Sekt style, for which we’ve blended Riesling and Traminette and sparkled it up with a tirage of local wildflower honey.

Vineyard: Folts Farm / Bruynswick Vineyard
Region: New York State
Farming: Sustainable / In Transition
S02: 20ppm at Crush

Vinification: Both wines were barrel fermented to dryness with 20ppm SO2 added at crush, then 75% Riesling and 25% Traminette were blended in a tank with 12g/L of wildflower honey and bottled under crown cap. Unfiltered and undisgorged.


Amorici Field Blend Rosé — Back to the top

Todd on this wine: “We’ve been working with the beautiful fruit from this vineyard, now moved to fully organic practices, since a couple of vintages now. In 2020, the bulk of the white grapes in this field blend suffered from low yields due to late frosts and bird damage, so the wine is decidedly darker in color, but still as bright and beautiful as ever. More importantly, this wine is our first trial bottling to use Reusable/Returnable glass bottles from thegoodgoods.co! Details on return logistics and deposits via QR code / their website.”

Grapes: a dozen red, white, and pink hybrid varieties grown together

Vineyard: Amorici Vineyard, Washington County, NY. Practicing Organic

Making of: The grapes were all harvested together, and the fruit was carbonically macerated for 2 days, then foot-tread and macerated for 2 additional days before being pressed off to stainless tank. Unfined, unfiltered, zero SO2 added.

Personality: The foxiness or “grapeyness” of hybrid grapes disappears in this blend into a candied fruit character that puts this wine squarely in the Glou Glou camp, with tart strawberry, cranberry, and cherry all poking through on the nose, and a similar red-fruit salad across the broad but focused palate. 


Hudson River Region Chardonnay — Back to the top


Our 2017 Chardonnay was the sleeper hit of the vintage, and the few remaining bottles are showing better and better. Don’t sleep on this one, Jura meets NY as oxidative and reductive tendencies meet, and fruit and mineral notes clash to make a Chardonnay that is a joy to drink.

Vineyard: Bruynswick Vineyard
Region: Hudson River Region
Farming: Sustainable
S02: 20ppm at Crush

Vinification: Half was whole-cluster macerated for 48 hours and half was direct pressed, all into neutral French oak barrels. No racking or stirring. Bottled without any additional Sulfur.

Notes: Peach, apricot, and a whisper of tropicalia with some wet stone backing up the nose. Broad and mouth-filling with some richness and texture, but still an acid streak to make you want another sip immediately.

 


Cider! — Back to the top

Todd on this bev: “We have a number of Callery Pear trees on our farm and have always wanted to do something with the tiny, tart, tannin-packed fruits.”

Fruit: Northern Spy from an IPM-farmed orchard in Ontario County, North Fork + Callery Pears from Todd’s own farm

Making of: a couple of buckets of pears were macerated in the cider, then racked into neutral French oak 500L puncheons and left undisturbed for 6 months before canning.

Personality: bright and fruity cider flavors mingled with a deeper spicy oomph of the pears.