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Entranced by the wines of Burgundy

Wayfarer is the manifestation of a remarkable place, masterful winemaking, and the drive to go to extremes to create something truly exceptional.

After nearly 30 years as an acclaimed Napa Valley vintner Jayson Pahlmeyer became increasingly entranced by the wines of Burgundy. “Every oenophile eventually gravitates to the wines of Burgundy,” he says. In the early 1990s, Jayson began seeking out the finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards in the world.

A close friend, legendary French wine importer Martine Saunier, had located two parcels for sale in Burgundy – Clos de la Roche, a Grand Cru Pinot Noir vineyard in Côte de Nuits Grand Cru, and Corton Vergennes, a Grand Cru Chardonnay vineyard in Corton. His winemaker, Helen Turley, was to make the wine with the hands-on assistance of the renowned Michel Niellon at his Chassagne-Montrachet winery. However, just after the papers were signed, the deal was nullified by an obscure Burgundian real estate clause that permitted last-minute alternative offers.

Though these iconic vineyards faded from his dreams, Jayson knew that, eventually, the perfect site would present itself. He just didn’t realize it would be six years later in the remote hills of the Sonoma Coast at a small farm called Wayfarer.

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Wayfarer, an off-the-grid organic farm

Tucked away in remote ridges on the Sonoma Coast, Wayfarer was originally a farm named for the dream of its owners, Dave and Dorothy Davis, to travel the world. The Davises made the farm their home in the 1970s: living off the grid, growing organic produce for Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse restaurant and others, raising livestock and spinning wool. The couple also founded the Wayfarer School there, a boarding school for teens with troubled pasts. Wayfarer Farm had become a place to learn the land and heal the spirit.

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Helen Turley’s vineyard down the road

When the Davises listed their farm for sale in 1998, winemaker Helen Turley quickly took notice. Her own vineyard, Marcassin, was just down the road and Helen understood well the extraordinary character of fruit this land could yield. Helen also knew that it was her good friend and fellow vintner Jayson Pahlmeyer who possessed the vision and tenacity needed to transform the rugged landscape into a world-class vineyard.

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Destined to be “the La Tache of California”

Helen and her husband, viticulturalist John Wetlaufer, brought Jayson to the farm to survey the site and, for Jayson, it was an epiphany: the cool sea air tempering the brilliant sun, the Goldridge soil casting a dusty glow on the dirt road and the weathered bones of wooden fences marking off the undulating fields – a thick forest of redwoods to the east and fog-blanketed bluffs to the west. Jayson instantly sensed that this secluded place held all the essential elements to produce exceptional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Helen declared it destined to be “the La Tache of California” as Jayson claimed the land for his own.

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The journey begins

Wayfarer vineyard was planted by David Abreu in 2002, and in 2005, Jayson started blending Wayfarer Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with fruit from Russian River vineyards and bottling it under the Pahlmeyer moniker. By 2012, the vineyard’s exceptional fruit presented an irrefutable case for a namesake label. With Jayson’s daughter, Cleo Pahlmeyer, at the helm, Wayfarer is an endeavor of true passion – an experiment that pushes the exactitude of winegrowing and winemaking to the farthest limits.