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Great article from our friend Elaine Brown on the Jancis Robinson website, here is a little snippet:

 

‘Green Valley is the most prolific [of the West Sonoma Coast subzones] in styles, wine types, and producers’, Paul Sloan, viticulturist and winemaker of Small Vines, explains. He’s been farming the region since the late 1990s. Even more impressive is that even within the range of styles, a Green Valley signature still shines through. 

 

Our wines reviewed:

 

  • 2013 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – 16.5 

Natural fruit-spiced warming aromatics and palate. All about the spice moving into a long finish. Fresh clean fruit, creamy Meyer lemon with hints of lime. Lots of presence, and freshness. Will age and develop nicely.

  • 2013 Estate Cuvée Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – 17

Notes of mixed fresh berries, natural spice and pine forest through the finish with a mineral crunch. There is nice density and depth here. This Pinot shows off the sophisticated structure and flavour nuance of the vintage. Will develop nicely.

  • 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – 16.5

Chiseled, savoury rose leaf and cream and a saline crunch. Nice flavour concentration, structural tension, and fruit purity. Long mouth-watering finish.

  • 2012 MK Vineyard Pinot Noir – 16+

Savoury with a saline crunch. Notes of dried rose petal, and herbs smudged with spice. Lots of lifting energy, flavour concentration without heaviness, and clean focus. A little more breadth and depth to the palate than the other Small Vines Pinots. This wine wants the most time in bottle to develop.

  • 2012 Estate Cuvée Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – 16+

Savoury red fruit with integrated spice, and a long mineral crunch. A bit muted but opens with air. Nice flavour concentration without heaviness. Mouth-watering acidity with persistent tannin, and an ultra-long finish.

 

To read the article in full, click here (subscription required)

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.

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

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Stir-Fried Five-Spice Pork with Lettuce Cups

 

1 tablespoon peanut oil

1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, outer fat trimmed and pork cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 small onion, cut into 1/3-inch dice

1 carrot, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise

1 celery rib, thinly sliced on the bias

3/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

1/3 cup canned whole water chestnuts, drained and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons chicken stock or low-sodium broth

2 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

8 basil leaves, torn into pieces

2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Iceberg lettuce leaves, for serving

 

In a large skillet, heat the peanut oil until shimmering. Add the diced pork shoulder and stir-fry over high heat until browned and just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a plate.

Add the onion, carrot and celery to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until tender, about 4 minutes, Add the five-spice powder and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the water chestnuts, stock and hoisin sauce, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Return the pork to the skillet and stir-fry until heated through and coated with the sauce, about 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and stir in the basil, scallions and sesame oil; season with salt and pepper. Spoon the pork into bowls and serve with lettuce leaves for wrapping.

Serve with steamed brown rise or white rice

 


 

Pair It

Small Vines Wines Estate Cuvée Russian River Valley Pinot Noir; $55

Pinot noir is the perfect varietal to pair with Chinese food. Its tannins and freshness help to degrease many fatty Chinese dishes. The Asian flavors such as sweet/spicy, earth-toned or mildly bitter Asian flavors for instance star anise, wasabi, hoisin, seaweeds, fennel, toasted sesame seeds, sesame oil, shiitakes, and even mild teriyaki marinades and glazes perfectly pair with our Pinot Noir. All of these can actually bring out the mildly sweet, zippy, toasty, earthy, and wonderfully beefy qualities of Pinot Noir, just as the wine can bring out the same qualities in the food. Small Vines’ Vigneron, Paul Sloan, hand selected our best barrels and crafted from obsessively tended vines. This precise cuvée marries our excellent estate vineyards together. 

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Bacon-Wrapped Scallops

With Creamy Mascarpone Polenta and Warm Roasted Pepper Salad

6  sea scallops
6  bacon strips
1  clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3  tablespoons olive oil
2  red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into thick strips
2½ cups chicken stock
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon piment d’Espelette or paprika
¾ cup instant polenta
3 tablespoons mascarpone
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup dry white wine
4 large basil leaves, torn
Salt to taste

Wrap a strip of bacon around each scallop. Slide rosemary twigs or bamboo skewers into the scallops to secure the bacon and to make the scallops easier to turn when sautéing. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Toast the garlic in the olive oil until light golden-brown, swirling the pan constantly. Add the peppers and season with salt to taste. Cook just long enough to heat the peppers through, then tip them onto a plate and set aside.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Season with salt and piment d’Espelette. Whisk in the polenta and cook for 10 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and fold in the mascarpone. Adjust the seasoning. Set aside, covered, until ready to serve. If the polenta cools, it will stiffen up. If this happens, reheat the polenta over low heat as you vigorously whisk in a little more stock to restore the creamy texture.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick sauté pan until smoking. Season the scallops (leave them on the skewers) with salt and pepper. Sear the scallops, and then reduce the heat to medium-high once they’ve begun to color around the edges.

Shake the pan gently so the oil gets under the scallops; this helps them sear and color evenly. Flip after 3 minutes and cook for 3 more minutes. Remove the scallops from the pan and keep in a warm place loosely tented with aluminum foil.

Pour the wine into the pan and simmer for 1 minute, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the peppers, and cook until the wine has fully reduced. Remove from heat and toss in the basil.

Spoon a pool of polenta onto heated plates. Lay a skewer of scallops over the polenta and then pull out the skewer. Serve the warm pepper salad on the side. Serves 2.


 

Pair It

Small Vines Wines Estate Cuvée Russian River Valley Pinot Noir; $50

The scallops call out for an elegantly structured Pinot from the Russian River Valley or Sonoma Coast. The cooler imprint of these regions will impart a smattering of spicy pepper to the wines, subtly accenting the pepper salad without overpowering the delicacy of the scallop. Small Vines’ Vigneron, Paul Sloan, hand selected our best barrels and crafted from obsessively tended vines. This precise Cuvée marries our excellent Estate vineyards together. The 2012 vintage blessed us with perfect weather throughout the farming season. Excellent fruit set resulted in dense clusters requiring meticulous vine-canopy management to organically protect the fruit. Adhering to strict Grand Cru standards, we hand selected each cluster and berry by starting with a framework of no more than 10 buds per vine followed by over twenty hand-work passes through the vineyard. This obsessive attention to detail in the vineyard gave us wines of amazing concentration and structure, with exquisite balance.

Recipe courtesy Charlie Palmer, chef and owner, Dry Creek Kitchen