The Best of the Boutiques

By: Marcy Roth

Here at the gateway to the California wine country, choices abound in wine.  Many of the best never make it out of the Golden state (unless we ship them there.)  And, many of the finest are small-scale, low-production wineries – often called boutique or “garagistes", referring to vintners who make their wines in small quarters such as garages, rather than lavish châteaus. 

Norman Kiken, winemaker at Reverie, high atop Napa’s Diamond Mountain, puts it this way, “It’s about controlling your own destiny – good, permanent people who know every vine in our vineyard – they almost treat each one as an individual. I think that leads to higher quality fruit, which of course, leads to higher quality wine." http://www.bacchusandvenus.com/cgi-bin/shop/shop.cgi?action=specs&&item=1106264732&choice=Cabernet%20Sauvignons%20&%20Bordeaux%20Varietals/Bordeaux%20Blend 

“The downside is an incredible inefficiency in the use of equipment.  For example, we use the same expensive equipment as Mondavi, but we’re only using them 100 hours per year, whereas they are using them 7 hours per day." 

A tiny new label may have major start-up costs, while a big player sees the cost-per-bottle go down as production goes up.

There are tremendous economies of scale for a brand that sells millions of cases of wine versus brand of the same quality from the same region. 

Grapes, including the labor involved in growing and harvesting them, are usually a winery's biggest single cost—up to 60 percent of the production expenses. Winemaker David Ramey adds, "With our Chardonnay, we do all whole-cluster pressing, as opposed to using a destemmer-crusher. You get half as much material in the press, and it takes twice as long, so the labor is twice as high. But we think it adds to the quality." Ramey and his wife Carla founded Ramey Wine Cellars in 1996 after nearly two decades of creating benchmark wines for such California wineries as Matanzas Creek, Chalk Hill, Dominus and Rudd. “Owning one’s own winery is the dream of every winemaker."  http://www.bacchusandvenus.com/cgi-bin/shop/shop.cgi?choice=Cabernet%20Sauvignons%20%26%20Bordeaux%20Varietals/Claret 

As a retailer of boutique wines, half the fun is finding the small producer, who is often making fewer than a thousand cases.  These vintners are more willing to take risks, to be flexible and innovative.  Our passion is finding these unknown, boutique wines and introducing them to our friends and customers.  Parador is a perfect example.  Winemaker Steve Ventrello makes only 38 barrels of Parador Red Blend, an unorthodox blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (originally a French varietal), Sangiovese (the most famous grape from Italy) and Tempranillo (the grape you’ll find in Spanish Rioja).  He even went so far as to travel to Europe to clip some of the vines from their country of origin and bring them back to Napa.  Ventrello says, “Small lots allow for complete control in winemaking and blending.  And, you can have a more maverick entrepreneurial approach, breaking out of the Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay rut."  Given the quality and richness of these boutique wines, wineries such as Parador, Ramey and Reverie will never be in a rut. http://www.bacchusandvenus.com/cgi-bin/shop/shop.cgi?action=specs&&item=1108849943&choice=Cabernet%20Sauvignons%20&%20Bordeaux%20Varietals 

For more information on or to order these winesScience Articles, contact Bacchus & Venus at (415) 331-2001 or www.bacchusandvenus.com

Travel and Leisure
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Travel and Leisure