Installing Bird Netting in the Vineyard was nice enough to come out and video Small Vines Viticulture installing bird netting at one of our vineyards. The bird netting goes on around veraison to protect the ripening fruit. You know what that means… Harvest is just around the corner!


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Ray Johnson declares “What a Pinot!”

Ray is a well-respected educator and writer of wine and also a dear friend to Small Vines. We had the opportunity to host his class of oenophiles in the vineyard last year, but this year Ray took the wine to one of his classes on Pinot and it was a hit! “The class loved it.”

You can find Ray’s writeup on his blog at: or read below.
Small Vines, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir 2008 This wine is a star. In the nose the fruit has a liqueur-like character, showing off its ripeness. In the mouth there is again that straddling of the Old and New Worlds that Small Vines pulls off vintage after vintage. The structure is there yet the fruit is opulent. The acidity is again a hallmark, taking the flavors in your mouth for a long and pleasurable ride.

This writeup is epitomizes what we strive for at Small Vines. We couldn’t be happier with what we’ve achieved with the ’08 Russian River Pinot and its good to hear our love of it echoing through the industry.
Thanks Ray!

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Wine Enthusiast Awards 08 MK Pinot 93 points!

Steve Heimoff, Senior Editor of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, has taken a liking to our wines. He gave our 2008 Sonoma Coast MK Vineyard Pinot Noir 93 points. Read his full write-up below.

We’ll be releasing this wine to our general mailing list on August 17th so keep an eye on your email boxes. Order quickly because there’s only 147 cases!!

Small Vines 2008 MK Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) Nothing small about this Pinot Noir. It’s almost as good as the 2007, which was terrific. Dry and elegant, it shows massively concentrated cherry, raspberry and cola flavors, with a rich coating of smoky sandalwood. Wonderful now, but the youthful power suggests time in the cellar through 2015 or so. – S.H. (8/1/2010) – 93


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Small Vines 2008 Wines by Josh Raynolds

Josh Raynolds writes for Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. This is the second time Josh has reviewed our wines and he seems to like our style. Thanks Josh! We always enjoy having you out!

Kathryn andPaul Sloan’s vineyard management company, called Small Vines Viticulture, oversees a number of sites throughout theRussianRiverValleyandSonomaCoast. The Sloan’s began making small quantities of their own pinot noir with the 2006 vintage. They plant their vineyards in a tight 4 by 4 foot spacing or even 4 by 3 fashion after a traditional Burgundy model (as opposed to the more common 8 by 12 foot spacing of many California vineyards) and the vines are cropped for minimal fruit load, which is compensated for by the higher number of vines planted per acre-about double to triple the standard number. This planting regimen requires a serious investment in manpower as most vineyard machinery is designed to work with wider vine spacing.Paul Sloantold me that in the 2008 season, for example, a ton of grapes from vines that they manage cost around $9,000 to farm, which means that anybody willing to make such a substantial investment in their grapes is clearly shooting for the top of the market.

2008 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

($50) Vivid red. Vibrant aromas of raspberry, flowers and Asian spices, with a hint of anise. Sappy red fruit, pepper and spice flavors stain the palate and are lifted by tangy minerality, picking up silky tannins with air. This coats the mouth with flavor but seems weightless. Finishes with resonating notes of minerals and spices and very good clarity.



2008 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir MK Vineyard Sonoma Coast

($65) Saturated red. Highly expressive scents of raspberry, Asian spices, blood orange and sexy oak. Youthfully tight on entry but gains sweetness and flesh in the mid-palate, offering lively red berry and cherry flavors, a hint of candied rose and late-arriving tannins. Attractively sweet on the finish, leaving behind spice, red fruit and floral notes. (JR)


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Small Vines visits Littorai

The team at Small Vines Wines stopped by Littorai the other day to see their new winery and estate vineyard and taste what all the hype is about. And boy were we not disappointed!

Littorai labelLittorai is one of our neighbor wineries in theRussianRiverValley. They have been making wine on theNorthCoast for nearly 20 years. Littorai shares many similarities with Small Vines, feeling that great wines are grown rather than made.  They are pioneers in responsible agriculture, farming biodynamically.

The wines are made in a similar style to Small Vines. They are minimalist winemakers, rarely making yeast, bacteria, acid, or nutrient additions to their wines. Doing so would dilute the true nature of the wines and expression of the land. Littorai’s winemaker, Ted Lemon, has a background in and love ofBurgundy. LikePaul Sloan, Small Vines’ winemaker, he strives to make Burgundian Pinot Noir’s that are both complex and food-friendly.

Littorai’s Assistant Winemaker, Trey Fletcher, was kind enough to walk us around Littorai’s newest vineyard and tour their new winemaking facility. The winery is a sight to be seen. It is immaculate and perfect for premium winemaking. The facility is very innovative, using green technologies such as night air cooling, natural hay-bale walls, and water reclamation through constructed wetlands. We were extremely interested in the setup of the winery, hoping to steal ideas for the eventual construction of Small Vines’ own facility.

We ended with a tasting of Littorai’s releases. The wines were all fabulous and reminiscent of a style of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that we like. Interesting, bright, complex and age-worthy.

Favorite wine of the day: Difficult because all were stellar but the 2007 Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir was outstanding. The grapes are grown in theAndersenValley. The most old-world in profile. Solid stone fruit with broad and powerful spice and game notes. Elegant and well integrated palate. This wine would go incredibly with crispy pork belly and some earthy wild mushrooms.

Thanks for the wonderful time!

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Grafting at Small Vines Estate!

Check out the process of grafting 29,000 vines in 11 days at Small Vines Estate.



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Green Pruning at Small Vines

Spring in Sonoma County is so beautiful but it seems like we barely have time to appreciate it with all the work to be done. Our days are filled with a host of vineyard activities from spraying, performing organic weed control, and monitoring vine health. But one of the most important activites we do all year is green pruning.

Now green pruning occurs after budbreak. The goal of green pruning is to remove excess shoots to put the vine into an equilibrium. Our crew is incredibly talented and only through years of practice have they been able to master the art of green pruning. The first step is to examine the vine as a whole. Each vine is unique and has a different fruit-bearing capacity based on the vineyard, its spot in the vineyard, the environmental forces upon it, and how the vine has been treated in the past. Some vines show weaker growth and need fewer shoots and other vines need more shoots to control excess vigor. On a fully productive vine with 1 meter of spacing between vines, you would expect to leave between 10 and 12 shoots. In fact, in Burgundy, vineyards are prohibited from having more than 10 shoots per meter, as any more would lead to less concentrated and focused fruit. The majority of the shoots will come off the cane that you laid down during initial pruning but two shoots whill come off of the head position to the oposite side. One of these will serve as the cane you lay down next year.(see picture below) So once you’ve decided how many shoots is appropriate for that vine, you can start pulling off green shoots.(green pruning) So, the shoots to leave are the ones that are evenly spaced along the cane with similar heights. Also, you wouldn’t want to leave a double, which is a second shoot coming out of the same bud position.

Fully Pruned Grape Vine

So, whats the difference between pruning and green pruning? The purpose of this initial pruning is to clear out all of last year’s growth to make room for this year’s shoots and to set the preliminary structure of the vine. We usually do pruning in January and February. Small Vines implements cane pruning which consists of laying down one of last year’s canes on the fruiting wire and leaving between 8-12 buds, depending on plant vigor. Its important to select a cane that is about 6 inches below the fruting wire because the head position of the vine tends to get higher over the years and if it got too high we’d have to severely bend the cane to tie it down, which could restrict vascular flow and production levels. We also choose a cane that is naturally pointing in the direction of the wire so we don’t have to kink it to position it. Above is a picture of a fully pruned vine. It has the correct number of bud positions and the cane is gently guided in the direction of the fruiting wire.


Above is a picture of a green pruned vine. If you count the shoots coming off the cane, you can see 8. Then the leaves you see to the right of the head of the vine make up the two replacment shoots, one of which will be laid down as next year’s fruiting cane. So there we go, 10 shoots for this vine. Perfect for a vine in Burgundy, France and appropriate for this vine as well.

I can’t stress how important green pruning is. Mistakes cause problems for several years. If the vine isn’t perfectly balanced, it’ll hurt this year’s crop quality but also, the vine will struggle to get back into equilibrium next year. Every year we spend a day re-training the crew and green pruning as a team to make sure everyone feels comfortable and is making good decisions for the vineyard. Once everyone is up to speed, it takes roughly 45 seconds per vine to green prune. Our vineyards range from 3350-3630 vines per acre. So on each acre, we’re looking at over 40 hours of man labor. Time-consuming? Yes. Paramount to producing world-class grapes? Definitely!

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Wine Expedition Interview at SoCal Pinot Days

Paul had the opportunity to talk with Neil from Wine Expedition while he was at Pinot Days in Santa Monica.  The interview has great information on Paul’s background, Small Vines’ philosophy, the vineyard sites, and a Live tasting of our award-winning 2007 Pinot’s.


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