Small scale wineries seem to be the the hot thing this year. Whether the wine was produced on an organic farm in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley or in an industrial warehouse in Berkeley, these adventurous winemakers are getting some well-deserved attention for their interesting wines. Not all limited production wines are great, or affordable, but many are. This year I tried several very good California small lot wines for under twenty bucks including: Sherman and Hooker's white blend Shebang, Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc on tap, Navarro's Edelzwicker and Pinot Noir from Mendocino, a Tempranillo from Bokisch Vineyards in Lodi and a Rose from Berkeley’s Donkey and Goat.
Just how small is small is up for debate, I tend to think under one thousand cases. It seems the designation is determined not just by a number but by a certain kind of style: a more hands on, focused and often natural approach to winemaking. For more recommendations on holiday wines and bubbles, I paid a visit to two local experts.
Peter Eastlake is co-owner of Vintage Berkeley, a wine shop that focuses on small production wines -- most under $25. This year the small wines promoter is thinking big. "I am really into magnums. To me they capture celebration, boldness, going big. Their size makes them look prohibitive but when you multiply a bottle times two, it's not that different. I think they are great for hosting and gifting," says Eastlake. I was shown a Kermit Lynch Cotes Du Rhone for $26 and a Zin made by the organic Santa Cruz producer, Alfaro Family Vineyards for $45.
Eastlake, whose stores are in North Berkeley, Elmwood and Albany coordinated this year's Wine Lands as part of Outside Lands. At the big San Francisco music and food event he showcased some of his favorite local, small scale producers including Wind Gap and Rajat Parr’s Sandhi wines. For this holiday Eastlake recommends wines from Lou Preston, a Sonoma legend who uses organic grapes from Dry Creek. "I really like L. Preston, a proprietary Rhone Blend. It's an organic estate grown wine that goes for $25.” Eastlake also carries Madam Preston ($24). I personally love this wine which is a blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne.