You‘ve probably heard the term “small lot wines” and took a guess that it refers to wine produced in limited quantities. You would of course be right, but 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 have it because not a lot is made, and it generally sells out early. From small or large wineries, the end product is generally remarkable and comes in 1 -200 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, it’s great following it over the next 5 years or so.
In my wine tasting travels to Washington State this past week, I stayed at the the Hotel Vintage Park located in downtown Seattle next to Pike Place Market. It’s perfect. I love that each room is named after a Washington Winery and decorated to showcase that winery through special artwork. I love the nightly one-hour vintner-lead tastings proctored by Manager Anthony or Concierge Louis. I love that this is a pet-friendly facility where pets get their name on a greeting board and often join the receptionist staff when “Mom & Dad” step out for the evening. To get an idea of just how delightful, engaging and perfectly wine appropriate this hotel is, watch the following video! Once you do that, start planning your trip!
I was introduced to a small-lot wine by Robert Ramsay Cellars through Anthony Baliola, one of the managers at Hotel Vintage Park . Anthony is passionate about Washington Wines. He had asked me if I had found a favourite Washington wine on my trip. I had to answer honestly and say, no. The wines I tasted were good, but none great so far. He smiled and with a twinkle in his eye said, “I think I may be able to change your mind tonight. I am going to send a bottle of Cab to your room that is going to WOW you.”
He was right. The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was a WOW as it showcased Yakima grapes from Upland Vineyards. Smooth, yet complex, this is a fruit forward, medium bodied wine tasting of vanilla and oak with underlying cherry, blueberry and berry-like fruit ; good mouth feel. Winemaker notes, “Our 2007 Snipes Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon was blended with 2% Mourvedre to enhance an already complex but subtle profile. The thirty year old vines from the Upland Vineyards produce a low fruit yield on a south facing slope, resulting in wonderful hang time and good acid at maturity. We aged the wine in French Oak barrels from the Vicard cooperage to form a round and well balanced wine. 119 cases made.
Lesson learned. When in Seattle, stay the night at Hotel Vintage Park and have a serious wine discussion with Anthony Baliola. The fact that he is responsible for the nightly 5 pm – 6 pm tastings at this wine-themed hotel is a BIG Plus. The fact that he “found” this small lot winery and has them pour at some of his tastings, says a lot about Anthony and those that support Washington State Wines.
Open only on Saturdays in Woodinville, WA, 19495 144th Avenue NE #235) Robert Ramsay Cellars makes just a few hundred cases of wine per year. They’re known for their Syrah, but as I said, their CAB rocks big time. If you’re intrigued, take a moment to meet the owner/ winemaker through the somewhat quirky but charming video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoLHlFtRs9E.