Story and Photos by Linda Kissam
You‘ve probably heard the term “small lot wines” and took a guess that it refers to wine produced in limited quantities. While you would be right, there’s more to it than that. A small lot wine can be produced at a very large winery or a very small winery. As you can imagine, a wine that is made in small quantities is special. Obviously not everyone can taste these wines because there’s not a lot made, and the wines generally sell out early. From small or large wineries, the end product is generally remarkable and is generally defined as 1-300 case lots.
I tend to like small wineries, making small lot wines. A visit to a small winery often means there’s a good chance of meeting the owner and/or winemaker, which often produces a memorable experience. It’s often said that small wineries use less chemical and sulfide. Maybe – maybe not. I do know that small-lot wineries usually concentrate on the vineyard and the appellation where the grapes selected for the small lot wine is located. That’s a good thing. In small-lot bottling, the winery often notes on the label which vineyard the grapes came from. This is called a vineyard designation. It’s a sort of shout out to the grower who was responsible for these special grapes. You can be somewhat sure that a vineyard designated wine is going to be a bit more expensive – but definitely worth it. Once you find a vineyard you like, keep following it to see what Mother Nature brings to the table each year.
The April Womens Wine Council wines came from Le Cuvier Winery in Paso Robles, California. Winemaker John Much sent over six very special wines for the Council to taste. These wines were made in small case lots – about 250 cases or less, for a total of 2,500 cases total produced each year by the winery. Can you say small-lot nirvana? We did…again and again.
The good news is that these were all unforgettable wines. Each one a special gem. The bad news; the winery is sold out of all the wines. The pretty good news is that most of the wines (except the Syrah & Zin) can be purchased at Tastes of the Valley in Pismo Beach where almost EVERY wine in the house is available by the glass! That’s approximately 650 wines for your tasting pleasure.
My suggestion… most winemakers get better with each passing year. Make sure you take time to taste upcoming vintages of the following wines. The results can only be perfection in a bottle.
1. Rose ($28): Multi-Vintage Rosé. Blend of Grenache, Counoise, & Mourvedre. Notes of rhubarb, guava red vine candy, and raspberry. Crisp and tart on the palate. Certainly not sweet. Excellent with deep fried won tons, and mushroom toast points with mango ginger chutney.
2. Ultra Reserve Chard XL ($50) Bend of 2005 & 2006 vintages. The color shocked us a bit. We were expecting something overly oaked, but to our delight it was liquid gold with a touch of oak and a big juicy cream soda taste. This is a fat wine showcasing Crème Brulée & Curaçao, & sweet-bitter orange peel, pineapple & ripe mango with aromatic jasmine blossoms. Excellent pairing with the Curry Spiced Hummus.
3. 2007 Sangiovese ($50 ) This was my favorite with its jammy raspberry and blackberry flavors and notes of fallen leaves and still warm from the sun, and ripe juicy black cherries. Excellent match with dark chocolate ginger bites, won tons, and mushroom toast points with mango ginger chutney.
4. Pentimento (Blend) ($46). This was a killer match with Sundried Tomato & Pesto Goat Cheese Spread. Expect mouthwatering raspberries & black cherries, layered with the scent of dried aromatic herbs, & smoky tea. Lavender, jasmine, vanilla on the palate.
5. 2008 Syrah ($45): All of the joys of dark chocolate & purple violets, dense rich and a touch of earthiness. Unbelievably good with Caponata – a Sicilian eggplant dish.
6. 2008 Zin ($38): Voted number one by the group this is spot on Zin with bright and fruity notes of raspberry, cherry and plum. Much ooh and ahhing by the group during the tasting portion. Great moans of appreciation when paired with Savory Bacon & Spice Dark Brownies. On a second round taste we chewed a spring of fresh mint which surprisingly went well with the Zin, reminding of us of the lazy days of summer.
Our mock cocktail of the evening was provided by Council member Laura Plant. This time it was a gorgeous concoction of a lime base with fresh muddled mint, club soda, and Trader Joes Sparkling Lime Aid.