Here's a fact we rarely keep in mind when browsing wines in a local wine shop or discount liquor store: 80 percent of wine sold in these outlets are produced by just three corporate wineries. This means there's a lot of blending going on. Many times inferior wines or off-vintages are mixed together under familiar labels so vineyards don't take a total loss on what otherwise could have been sold by the bottle.
One way you can avoid inferior blends is to buy from smaller family wineries who are personally connected with the entire winemaking process. The owners are out pruning the vines, adding just the right ingredients for fermentation, not sitting in the office Photoshopping the bottle labels.
Distribution is the main obstacle to getting your hands on these small-batch, top quality wines. Many stores and online wine clubs deal in volume, since that's where the profit is. Unless you're running an operation like the California Wine Club, which gets to know winemakers on an individual basis, it's pretty much the same situation all around.
Victor Vineyards from Victor, Calif. is a great example of a multi-generational mom and pop vineyard producing vibrant tasty bottles that would normally be a rare find anywhere outside their tasting room in a turn-of-the-century icehouse that once preserved their California Central Coast grapes across the country primarily for homemade wine production. After a long career of sourcing grapes to other wineries, owner Robert Lawson decided back in 1999 that it was time to craft wines he could call his own. Here's what I experienced with the following Victor vintages:Victor Pinot Noir 2011
Rich honeyed bouquet with a tingly peppery mouth feel almost to the point of evergreen (spruce comes to mind) on the nose. A cleansing effervescense on the palate with a lively definitive astringency. Complex layers of bramble fruit linger until the next sip. A spunky minerality with smoky outlines works perfectly with aged cheeses and meats. This pinot's flavor profile shoots across the bow elevating your mouth in total refreshment.Victor Lawson Ranch Chardonnay from Lodi 2012
Fruit immediately pops forward and then soon reveals the more sophisticated nuances of musk melon and peach framed by crisp lime on the palate. You're in for a treat when pairing with seafood... especially with it's even, clean drinking, perfect for sipping chilled after a day at the beach at a clam bake. A sure bet for drawing out a briny essence of ocean air on the nose.
Photos courtesy of Victor Vineyards and wine-searcher.com.