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This 2014 vintage is my first harvest with Small Vines Wines, and as an assistant to two very knowledgeable and friendly owners, Paul and Kathryn Sloan, I have had the opportunity to experience and be exposed to every aspect of the harvest process; sampling, planning, picking, harvesting, sorting and repeat. Many people have heard horror stories of zombie-like winemakers and grape growers going through the crush process, but few people are able to see some of the behind-the-scenes of what goes into each and every bottle of wine.

Paul sampling

It all begins here, when the grapes transform colors from green to purple, this is the beginning signs of veraison, the onset of ripening, and an indicator that the crush is approaching. At this time, we begin to count clusters, sample grapes, drop fruit and analyze. I am lucky enough to have two very knowledgeable and helpful sidekicks, Dakota and Savannah Sloan, who have more experience than me at the ages of 11 and 8 respectfully. This sampling process happens more frequently as we approach our estimated picking dates.

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On any typical day during harvest, you can find me up and on the road before the first sign of the sun peaking over the Mayacama Hills to the east of Santa Rosa. When collecting samples, it’s ideal to sample in the early morning when the grapes are cool, which will give an accurate representation to when we pick, as we hand harvest our grapes in the middle of the night. While out sampling, It is essential to always have with me a pack of gallon size zip-lock bags, a pair of pruning sheers, a black sharpie, some water, an ice chest to keep the samples cool and of course my cell phone with GPS accurate directions and vineyard maps to identify our vineyards and differentiate the clones.

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These days begin to blur and become a routine of traveling from vineyard to vineyard and walking row by row. In order to get a varied sample with an accurate reading of degrees brix (sugar levels) and taste profile, you must collect grapes from all areas of a vineyard. No skipping out or shortcuts here whatsoever.  This is an extremely crucial task during harvest as these are the numbers we schedule our picking around. After we read the degrees brix from the samples, we taste and analyze. Wine is a mix between art and science, and with Small Vines Wines we incorporate both to create some of the best wines in the area.

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Being in the wine industry, you look forward to the long hours of fall as the leaves change colors and the grapes turn to wine, but every year is different. This year being a rarity of record early picks in such a condensed and short amount of time it has been a lot of work, but it all pays off when you taste that fresh Pinot Noir or Chardonnay juice turning into wine- this is what we live for.

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Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms

Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms

Bacon makes everything better. That is not an opinion, that is a fact. These savory, tasty stuffed mushrooms are filled with a mixture of bacon, cream cheese, and bread crumbs and are a perfect appetizer to pair with any of Small Vines Wines’ Pinot Noirs!

  • Prep Time: 0 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 pound medium fresh mushrooms
  • 4 Bacon slices diced
  • 1/2 cup minced onion, or use part green onion
  • 2 tablespoons Minced fresh green pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon Pepper
  • 3 ounces Cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs, plain
  • 1/4 cup Hot water
PREPARATION
  1. Clean mushrooms, remove and chop stems; set aside.
  2. Fry bacon in a heavy skillet. Remove with a slotted spoon and set on paper towels to drain. In bacon drippings, saute onion, green pepper, and chopped mushroom stems until tender; drain. Add salt and pepper.
  3. Soften cream cheese; blend in cooked bacon and vegetables. Press mixture firmly into mushroom caps, mounding a bit. Place bread crumbs in a small bowl. Turn filled mushroom caps upside down and press gently in the bread crumbs to coat tops. Place in a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish. Add hot water to pan and bake, uncovered, 20 to 25 minutes at 325 degrees.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen stuffed mushrooms.


Pair with:

2012 Small Vines Russian River Valley Estate Cuvée Pinot Noir.

2012 RRV Estate Cuvée

This may be one of my favorite food pairings to showcase the significant versatility of our 2012 Russian River Valley Estate Cuvée Pinot Noir. It combines Pinot’s affinity for both the smoky flavors of bacon and earth-bound melodies of mushrooms into a delicious (and easy) appetizer. The often lighter-style, subtle tannins and juicy acidity give Pinot Noir a leg up when pairing with the likes of mushrooms, bacon and even onions. This appetizer is always a hit with the host and guests alike. It’s a snap to make, downright delicious and offers a great introduction to the basics of food and wine pairing when served alongside a slightly chilled glass of 2012 Small Vines Russian River Valley Estate Cuvée Pinot Noir.

Small Vines Wines 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Small Vines Wines 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

We are happy to announce that our 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir was recommended as an honorable mention in The Press Democrat’s Wine of the Week feature by the fantastic writer Peg Melnik. 

The 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is made 100% from our Barlow Homestead Vineyard, which was planted in 2009. This amazing young site is already expressing itself in the wines showing great acidity, evident tannins, minerality and even some distinct savory characteristics. Sexy, spice-tinged red fruit and floral aromas show very good clarity. The estate grapes are organically grown with a yield of about 1.5-2 lbs per vine with 4 ft by 3 ft spacing. 

With only 175 cases produced, this wine is sure to sell out. Be sure to order yours today at www.smallvines.com.

Press Democrat- Wine of the week: Pinot noir catches flavors of the Carneros

TOP PICK

Truchard, 2012 Carneros, Napa Valley Pinot Noir, 14.1 percent alcohol, $35. ★★★A crisp pinot that wins you over with its breezy approachability. The wine is complex, and yet unfussy. Bing cherry meets bright acidity. Great balance. A smart food pick.

Other impressive wines

Merry Edwards, 2011 Meredith Estate, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 14.4 percent, $57. ★★ 1⁄2 A pinot with intensity. Aromas and flavors of black cherry, herbs and spice. Has an appealing earthiness. This wine has depth. Top rate.

Small Vines, 2012 Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County Pinot Noir,13.2 percent, $55. ★★ This is a tasty pinot noir with complexity. It has generous fruit – raspberry and cherry – and good bones or structure. Great minerality. Impressive.

Rodney Strong, 2012 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Pinot Noir, 14.5 percent, $25. ★★★ An elegant pinot noir with layered flavors. What’s most appealing is its bright cherry fruit and its silky texture. There’s also a tasty note of vanilla in the mix. A smart pick.

Edna Valley, 2011 Paragon Central Coast Pinot Noir, 13.9 percent, $20. ★★★ 1⁄2 A tasty pinot with aromas and flavors of cherry, plum, pomegranate and spicy oak. Budget-savvy for the quality of this pinot.

We were pleased to welcome writer Elaine Chukan Brown from the fantastic blog, Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews, to Small Vines Wines for fruit thinning and wine tasting with our very own Vigneron, Paul Sloan, and co-owner, Kathryn Sloan.

Elaine has become one of the most recognized names in the wine and food blogging world with her wine review blog, Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews. She recently has been named by Imbibe Magazine an Imbibe 75 “Person to Watch”, as well as becoming a Best Food Blog Award Finalist by Saveur Magazine. Her amazing work has been recommended several times by The New York Times Diner’s Journal, and in both The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times.  Her wine blog has been a finalist in six categories at the Wine Blog Awards including the 2014 Wine Blog Awards Best Overall Wine Blog.

As the morning West Sonoma County fog slowly burned away, we greeted Elaine at our Barlow Homestead Vineyard. Little did she know, we had plans to begin fruit thinning our vineyards that day. With a camera around her neck, pruning shears in one hand and a pencil and notebook in the other, off we walked into our High-Density Pinot Noir Barlow Homestead Vineyard for the first fruit thinning pass of over 25 hand vine care passes.

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Photo Credit: Elaine Chukan Brown

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Photo Credit: Elaine Chukan Brown

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Fruit thinning is a method grape growers use in order to better ripen their grape clusters and ensure a higher quality thus creating a complex wine. They do this by evaluating each vine and meticulously dropping the fruit (cutting excess clusters) and leaving them on the ground below to decompose and provide more nutrients for the vines. Timing is crucial, and this method is best done during the beginning stages of veraison, the signal that harvest is between 45 to 60 days away.

Impeccably low-yields (per vine) are vital to improved wine quality in Pinot Noir- and balanced wines are made more easily and more naturally from balanced vines. Small Vines follows the Grand Cru standards from Burgundy, which allows only two grape clusters per shoot, a maximum of 8 shoots per vine and never more than 16 clusters per vine. At a mere 1-2 pounds per vine- a low-vigor, high-density vineyard balances each vine at lower yields, naturally. These small vines produce tiny cluster that have tiny, thick-skinned berries creating concentration and amazing structure in the wines.

After a thorough explanation and demonstration by Paul Sloan, Elaine grasped the sheers and began cautiously sifting through the vine’s shoots. This process can be very nerve-racking for ANY viticulturist due to the anxiety of “throwing away” perfectly good fruit that looks healthy and beautiful just for the sake of exceptional wine quality.

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Small Vines Wines would like to thank Elaine from Hawk Wakawaka for her visit. We love to share our passion for our vineyards and wines and we welcome all who would love to come learn and taste our hand-crafted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Rosé of Pinot Noir. For a tasting and vineyard tour with our vigneron, be sure to set up and schedule an appointment at 707-823-0886 or info@smallvines.com

Photo Credit: Elaine Chukan Brown

We recently received this wonderful review from a Pinot Noir lover who hosted a wine and dinner pairing party in Southwest Florida. They reviewed wines from Sea Smoke Estate Vineyards, Peay Vineyards and also our very own Small Vines Wines all from the 2008, 2009 and 2010 vintages. We would like to thank Linda for writing this great review and loving all of these fantastic California wines. Below is her review.

“On May 18, my husband and I, plus 6 of our wine and food loving friends, had a California Pinot Noir vertical wine tasting and dinner.  They were all 2008, 2009, and 2010 vintages as well as some of our favorites!

We started off with 3 years of Sea Smoke Ten, moved up the coast and poured 3 years of Peay Scallop Shelf, then dove right into Russian River Valley with 3 years of Small Vines Wines.  Of course all of the wines were fabulous and they paired beautifully with everything from wild mushroom soup,  seared tuna, salmon in raspberry glaze, to pork tenderloin in blueberry glacé and grilled lamb chops.  I did have to move over to Napa for dessert as we had a Vineyard 29 Aida late harvest Zinfandel that certainly was delicious with my torta de Barozzi.

Everyone raved about our pinots and rightfully so.  We have visited with both you (Small Vines) and Andy Peay (Peay Vineyards) and love your wines.  While we are not big wine collectors ( just a lowly 500 bottle collection) we always purchase a few every year.  Please keep those great wines coming.

I have attached a few pictures.  Some of us in Southwest Florida really love great wine and food!!!!

Linda, Fort Myers, Florida”

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Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

Our 2012 wine vintage reviews from Josh Raynolds at Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar are in. For in-depth professional reviews and scores see the PDF link.

Raynolds’ Reviews of 2012 Vintage 

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