Small Vines Wines 

Sonoma County wine steward turned winemaker grows dazzling Chardonnays and Pinots.

A recent tasting at Small Vines Wines in Sebastopol left me dazzled by the winery’s winning combination of high-density (closely spaced) vines and low-intervention winemaking. The visit included a swing through the estate TBH Vineyard with owner-winemaker Paul Sloan (lead photo) and frisky winery pup Sasha. “TBH” stands for The Barlow Homestead, named for previous cultivators of this land, the Barlows of local apple fame. Eight of TBH’s 12.5 acres of classic Goldridge sandy loam soil are planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Paul and his wife and co-owner, Kathryn Sloan, purchased the property in 2007 and began planting in 2009.

TBH Vineyard contains classic Goldridge sandy loam soil.

Culinary Connection

Paul Sloan’s wine journey began with a stint as a steward at John Ash & Co. restaurant. Given the culinary connection, it’s no surprise that the wines he and Kathryn produce are food-friendly (they’ve graced the lists at Douglas Keane’s Cyrus, Kyle and Katina Connaughton’s SingleThread, and Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry and Per Se, among other superstar restaurants), but it’s how it’s achieved that intrigues. Paul considers himself a vigneron in the French tradition of being a grower rather than a “maker” of wine. But with the two TBH bottlings described below, I found the cellar decisions as compelling as the farming-related ones.

View of tasting room (left) and winery building beyond Chardonnay vines.

2018 TBH Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Eminently balanced, soulful, and expressive, this Chardonnay bowled me over for its relative youthfulness at five years and change. While sipping it in the tasting room and later at home, I was struck by the softly round mouthfeel and overall subtlety. Sloan attributes the former to the light use of French oak and only minimal stirring of the lees (dead yeast cells, etcetera) during the aging process. This wine could have been way more showy, but I respected it all the more because it wasn’t.

Sloan family motto: “The smaller the vine, the better the wine.”

2019 TBH Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 

Clean, dry, and provocative, this one stole my heart because it engaged my mind — the more I sipped, the more I wanted to ponder what made it so appealing. The vineyard’s Old World–style tight vine spacing and Sloan’s “meticulous farming” doubtless played a role (he walks the rows numerous times each season), but I appreciated the wine’s near-poetic tension, the intense flavors delivered in a lean but elegant package. With its cranberry and pomegranate notes, tautly earthy core, and fine tannins, this one, like the Chardonnay, isn’t straining to be a crowd-pleaser, which only adds to its allure.

TBH Vineyard contains 8 acres of densely planted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines.

You can taste Small Vines wines by appointment at TBH Vineyard, off Occidental Road in Sebastopol.

Why go: dazzling wines; secluded property; casual tastings. 


1600 Barlow Ln., Sebastopol

Sasha at play in the vineyard.

More Sonoma County Pinot Noir

Arista Winery
Blue Farm Wines
Dot Wine
Joseph Jewell Wines
Sojourn Cellars

Ideas and Itineraries

Sonoma County Basics
Sonoma County Vineyard Walks
Sonoma Pinot Noir Day Trip

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