Monday, February 20, 2012

Mythbusters: Does Size Matter?


There has long been a debate between couples about whether size matters. Some say that size is directly related to quality of experience, whereas others downplay size and put more value in the individual performance. Two weeks ago I tested out this theory and am here to put the issue to bed (pun intended).
A couple weekends ago I attended an open house event hosted at the Inspiration Vineyards custom crush facility in Santa Rosa. (You didn’t think I was talking about something other than wine, did you?) Seven small production “micro-wineries” joined forces to support one another and provide the public a chance to experience their wine. Most of these wineries are making less than a couple hundred cases (one producing only 28 cases). After spending the day tasting each of the wines they offered, I am here to declare, once and for all, that size does not matter. Most of the wineries present are available by appointment only or in a small handful of local restaurants or caf├ęs. Because of this, I found it to be a real treat to have them come together for us to easily enjoy their wine. Below are some thoughts on a few of the wines at the event.
The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc was one of my favorites from winemaker Jon Phillips. I immediately took note of the wonderful citrus flavors that were present. I experienced grapefruit, orange, and even a little green apple. The crispness of the wine was balanced nicely with just a few hints of oak that softened the wine but still allowed for the fruit to be the center of attention. I recently paired this wine with baked lobster tails and found it to be a wonderful match.

Having missed my first couple chances to try the wines from William and Michelle, I had all sorts of excitement built up to finally taste Two Shepherds. Of the many highlights, I was particularly fond of the not yet released Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre (GSM) blend. The Grenache took center stage and provided loads of red fruit flavors and aromas to this wine. Like all of their wines, the GSM came in under 14% abv and is enjoyable now but will also get better over time.
The winemaker, Craig, and his team were pouring a couple wines not yet available and some not yet bottled. However, one I enjoyed and purchased was the 2010 L’Inizio from Paso Robles. This white blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussane, and Viognier was sweet with flavors of pear and pineapple but was still a bit dry which made it really easy drinking.

Because of their philosophy of making wine simple and approachable, I won’t talk much about the wines here. At Simple Math they believe that “it isn’t about the tech sheets, it’s about what’s in the glass – yum or yuck. That’s it!” Without hesitation I said “yum” to most of Christian Lane’s wines.  With a philosophy that lines up with the approach of WestToast, the amount of “yum” in my glass, and the fact that there is the symbol Pi on the bottle (awesome!)  I had to restrain myself from going in to debt buying Simple Math wines.

The 2009 Intelligent Design Cuvee was a wonderful red Rhone blend that was built on a foundation of Grenache, followed by Syrah and Petite Sirah. The Grenache (75%) provided prominent flavors of strawberry and spice while the Syrah (20%) added some dark fruit, as expected. Winemaker Jason Welch then added the 5% Petite Sirah to give this blend a little more body and tannins. Because of the small amount of Petit Sirah used, the wine had just enough tannins without immediately drying out my mouth.

This new label was pouring their debut wine, the 2008 REDiculous. This blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Syrah was a heavy hitter that made me think of my father in-law. A meat and potatoes guy to his core, this bold red wine is right up his alley. Over time the tannins will soften out a little bit and this wine will be a great partner to grilled meat. Coming from Jon Phillips, the winemaker at Inspiration, I look forward to seeing future releases under this label.

Both the 2009 and 2010 (barrel sample) Pinot Noir were examples of more fruit forward, medium bodied Pinot Noir. The 2010 surprised me with a bit of a caramel and toasty finish. It sounds somewhat tacky, but I was reminded of a toasted marshmallow jelly bean from Jelly Belly. Another young producer, watch for future releases from Premonition Cellars.

A common answer to the question “What got you in to making wine?” was along the lines of “we liked wine, so why not?” I loved hearing this from the winemakers because it was easy to sense their passion and love for making wine. It was about sharing something they loved with others. Although it is much easier to run to the grocery store and pick up a bottle of widely distributed wine, you will do yourself a great disservice if you don’t check out each of these producers. They are each making some really great wines and prove that you don’t have to be huge to give people something they like.


  1. I Disagree, Size does matter in the inverse hypothesis. Smaller is better. The great large vineyards do have an advantage because of the economies of scale but they cannot provide the care and nurturing the way a small vineyard does.

  2. Unknown - Indeed you can look at size mattering from that perspective. I was more using it as a joke to discuss the small nature of these wineries providing a great experience.