Sunday, June 1, 2008


What's the smallest commercial winery in the world? It's not a quiz as I don't know the answer, but with an annual production of just 44 cases Equinox must be a leading candidate.

Winemaker Barry Jackson began making a couple of barrels of premium sparkling wine in 1989. He uses only Chardonnay grapes and styles the wine Blanc de Blancs. The bottles must be riddled by hand. The wine was released in 1992 and quickly sold out, mostly to other local vintners.

Barry continued to make the wine, but with very little in the way of promotion it became a local secret. It was on sale in some Bay Area restaurants - I first discovered it in Emile's in San Jose - and occasionally showed up in The Wine Club or K&L. The wine was made at Storrs in Santa Cruz.

Equinox recently moved into new premises down in Santa Cruz alongside several other local winemakers. He's launched a second label called Bartolo, made mainly with fruit from Mike Mann's vineyard in Gilroy. The wines carry the Central Coast designation, though I believe the vineyard is in the Santa Clara Valley AVA.

1997 Equinox Blanc de Blancs This wine spent nine years on the lees - three times the length required for vintage Champagne. The result is a powerfully intense wine - lots of toast and richness while still showing some of the characteristics of the Trout Gulch vineyard from which the fruit was sourced. At $50 a bottle it's not cheap, but it's arguably the best sparkling wine in California and can certainly hold its own against more expensive offerings from France.

Bartolo Rose I neglected to make a proper note of exactly what this was; it was a light, off-dry rose. Pleasant enough, but not my thing. $12

2006 Bartolo Cioppino Rosso This is a blend of small lots; although it's a red wine it contains Chardonnay and Riesling among others. It's an inexpensive, fruity "spaghetti red" that was proving very popular with the other customers - at least 3 cases were sold while I was tasting. $14

2005 Bartolo Syrah A smooth, medium weight Syrah that's intended for drinking now. $16

2005 Bartolo Merlot A rich, heavy Merlot. Very drinkable indeed. $25

Also pouring in the Equinox facility was Trout Gulch. As well as their current releases (which I've covered in the past) they had two interesting library wines - 1992 and 1999 Pinot Noirs. Both were very good; the 99 had more of the primary cherry fruit while the 92 had more complexity and secondary flavours. Of the two we gave the nod just to the 99; it still has plenty of tannin and could continue to improve a little while longer.


yhn said...

The Bartolo Rose is Sangiovese.