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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.


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.


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
  • 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
  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

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


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.


Photo Credit: Elaine Chukan Brown


Photo Credit: Elaine Chukan Brown


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

Photo Credit: Elaine Chukan Brown


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. 

A great evening of wine tasting and dinner pairing with friends…

We were recently included in a fantastic wine tasting and dinner pairing with a wine group in Charlottesville, Virginia. Thank you for including our wine with your tasting and we hope you all enjoyed the tasting.

Below is the post on the forum and blog.


My regular wine group met at our place in Charlottesville on Saturday. We’ve been together longer than any of us are sure (over twenty years in total and over 15 with the current members). We started in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. Even though one couple has moved to Pennsylvania and Pat and I to Charlottesville, we have stayed together. We travel and sleep over (kind of a slumber party with wine). Since one couple moved to Santa Fe last year (a bit far for even our commuting orientation) we have taken to having the host invite another couple to keep our numbers at 10. Saturday we were joined by Boyce Brannock (“BEB” here on the board) and his lovely wife, Deneen. 

This was a bit of an unusual gathering for our group. Pat and our friend, Joan Hyde, will be celebrating milestone birthdays in a couple of weeks. So we decided to make a celebration of it and had a chef (Ben, whom we knew already) from our favorite caterer come in to prepare the meal, matching the food to the wines I selected. Made life a lot easier for Pat and me and what a meal he created! At times there was a cooking class going on in the kitchen since folks were interested and Ben was delighted to explain what he was doing. The wine theme was the traditional “wines that don’t suck”. I pulled wines I love and put them in flights of two with each course. 

Before dinner we gathered out on our back porch and enjoyed a splendid evening and a great view. We sampled four Chardonnays Pat and I picked up from our trip to California in late April. They were accompanied by two spreads (artichoke and smoked trout) and olives (the only food Ben did not prepare – we wanted to keep it simple and light).

2012 Copain Chardonnay Tous Ensemble 
2012 Small Vines Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast
2012 Daou Reserve Chardonnay, Paso Robles
2012 Mauritson Chadonnay, Alexander Valley 

No notes, but a few impressions. None of these was overly oaked (which Pat and I hate). I loved the Copain for its crisp, clean presentation; this all about fruit and acid and balance. The Small Vines was a lovely balance of fruit with the faintest bit of oak and very nice acidity. The Daou showed the most oak (which is not to say a lot), but the fruit handled it and the acidity framed the fruit nicely; it you are a total oakaphobe my guess is you will not like this one, but if you like a bit of oak as a spice, it has a lot to offer. The Mauritson was a bit of a disappointment. I like the Mauritson reds (notably some great zins), but this chardonnay, while not offensive in any way, just seemed outclassed.

On to the dinner table. The whites with the first course were kept in the cellar and then placed in the refrigerator for 15 minutes immediately before serving. 

First Course

Oven-seared Halibut with minted pearl pasta, fennel compote in a smoked heirloom tomato broth. A gorgeous dish. Two Rhone whites to go with this and the pairing was excellent.

2007 Chapoutier Ermitage le Meal Blanc

A truly great wine. A lovely golden color. Hints of lemon on the nose. The palate shows butterscotch, lemon, minerals and tarragon. It finishes long and lovely with beautiful minerality and notes of lemon. Lovely acidity and balance. This wine is intense and beautiful with a long life ahead of it. It certainly is not at peak but it gives great pleasure even at 7 years old. My wine of the night across both the whites and the reds. 14.5% ABV. “A+”

2006 Chave Hermitage Blanc 

More floral on the nose than the Chapoutier, but with the same deep gold color. Deep, brilliant fruit with a hint of peaches, honey, minerals and an herbal note I had trouble pinning down. Long, long finish. Great acidity. 14.5% ABV. “A-“

A quick notes on the reds. All were decanted abut 5:00 PM and then double decanted back into the rinsed bottles about an hour later. They stayed in the cellar until they were served. The wines with the main course were served about 8:15 PM and those with the cheese course were served about 9:15 PM. 

Main Course

Moulard Breast of Duck wrapped in Swiss Chard with red plum reduction, eggplant caponata and saffron potatoes. 

Two domestic cabs from two of my favorite producers accompanied the duck. This may have been the best preparation of duck I have ever had, from presentation to taste. 

2010 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon

I know this wine was only recently released and will improve with age, but I was just too tempted to try it now. I have loved the Spottswoode cabs for years. For whatever reasons, they don’t get the love that the trophy cabs get – probably because Spottswoode tries to make great wine and not trophies. Tonight the nose was a complex blend of cherries, cinnamon and mint. Even this young the wine shows hints of the elegance it will have in 10+ years. Blackberries, prominent but not harsh tannins, intense fruit and great balance. The wine brightens with time in the glass. 14.5% ABV. “A“ right now, but it has all the makings of an “A+” wine. 

2005 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 

Another long-time favorite (I have a 20 year vertical lurking in the cellar). Black cherries and mint on the nose. The palate is all dark fruits and herbs with a bit of roasted coffee coming through. Still tannic but with great acidity and balance. This wine needs 5+ years, but was great to drink now nevertheless. 14.9% ABV. Like the Spottswoode, “A-“ now but I am confident it will be an “A+” later. 

Cheese Course

14 year old aged cheddar, Saint Agur Bleu, and Saint Nectaire. 

Ben and I consulted on the cheese course to find cheeses that would work with the two Australian Shiraz. The pairings worked very well. The Saint Agur was a revelation. 

2005 Clarendon Hills Astralis

My notes are a bit sketchy (or I can’t read my handwriting!), but two words stand out: “Bright” and “brilliant”. There is big, sweet (not RS) red fruit across the palate here. Roasted meat and a bit of blackberry is added to the mix as it hits the mid-palate. Surprisingly to me the tannins seems more resolved than I would have anticipated. The balance is definitely there and I’ll guess this will only improve with more age. Sorry, no notes (or memory) on the nose. 14.5% ABV. “A”

2005 Torbreck Run Rig

My wine of the night among the reds. Big, dark and tannic it may be, but the fruit is so rich and beautiful. The nose was a bit hesitant at first but developed blueberry notes with some floral notes (perhaps from the 3% Viognier blended in). Great acidity and balance. Blueberry and pepper on the palate. Mint notes develop with a bit of time in the glass. Even at this stage it shows the trade mark elegance of the best Torbreck reds. No need to hurry on this one, but a great wine already. 14.5% ABV. “A+”


Lemon Pudding Cake with fresh berries. 

The cake was almost like a soufflé and it was perfect, not too heavy and a great ending to the meal. But there was a surprise waiting….

2005 Cuvee Emile Willm Gewurztraminer, Selection de Grains Nobles

I wasn’t planning to serve a dessert wine. When no one at the table wanted coffee with dessert, I foolishly asked if anyone was interested in a bonus wine. You can guess the result of that inquiry. A quick rush to the cellar produced port glasses and this wine. I served at cellar temperature (obviously) and took no notes. However, I can say it was a lovely wine, not overly intense, with (if I recall correctly) honey and orange notes and enough acidity to balance it nicely and carry through the moderate RS. That’s all I got and it’s not fair to grade it, but my memory says it was lovely and I would be glad to have it again.

A great evening with friends and in celebration of two lovely ladies. And I know you’re too polite to ask which milestone birthdays they were!

Charlie (more…)


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

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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