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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, or anything in between. 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 fast. From either small or large wineries, the end product is generally remarkable and as I define it, 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 was introduced to Robert Ramsay Cellars by Anthony Baliola, one of the mangers of Hotel Vintage Park in Seattle. 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 this somewhat quirky but charming video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoLHlFtRs9E .