Square Peg Winery: Creating Beauty out of Non-Conformity

Square peg in a round hole” is an idiomatic expression which describes the unusual individualist who could not fit into a niche of their society.

Have you ever felt different? Not necessarily trying to be a non-conformist but just not “fitting in” to the established mold. When I was growing up there was a goofy television show featuring a young Sarah Jessica Parker and Amy Linker as two awkward teens who simply could not fit in called Square Pegs. It’s not unusual for teenagers to fell strife for not fitting into the “group.” However, when we look at those who stand out in all facets of society, it is commonly those “square pegs” that are the most successful.

Brad Alper was an airline pilot for American Airlines. In 1987, Brad and his wife Alanna Roth decided to move from LA to a quieter life in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. Brad was still flying but his passion for wine was growing. In 1994, he planted his first vines and by 1999 opened his first winery called Ottimino, with an exclusive focus on crafting high quality Zinfandels. Ottimino was doing well but Brad was commuting to LA to fly transcontinental flights to London and Asia with little free time to focus on the winery. In 2011, that all changed. Brad had an “awakening” of sorts. After 28 years as an American Airlines pilot he decided to retire early to throw caution to the wind and jump into the wine business with both feet.

Brad was successful at producing Zinfandel, so how did he come to grow Pinot Noir? Brad explained to Rusty Gaffney, MD in his article Square Peg Winery: Promising Newcomer, “In 2010, Brad wanted to try to dry farm Pinot Noir, even though he was discouraged by all but Lynmar’s vineyard manager, Jason Saling. With his encouragement, Brad grafted a small section of his vineyard over to clone “828.” The quality of the fruit in the ensuing two years was very good but not of the caliber needed for a higher end Pinot Noir, so he sold the fruit. Realizing that he could dry farm Pinot Noir on his site, he budded over another section to Calera selection.”

Brad believes grapes that are dry-farmed (only receiving water through rain captured by the soil) have better balance and more concentrated, unique flavors that better expresses the terroir. Furthermore, dry farming is better for the environment, saving millions of gallons of water over the lifetime of the vines.

Brad’s wife Alanna is a gifted artist and sculpture. She came up with the name Square Peg, resonating with them and others who feel different. Square Peg’s tasting room is a destination worth visiting. In addition to enjoying Square Peg and Ottimino wines, Alanna’s art is featured on the property and within the tasting room. Brad and Alanna would love you to stop by for a tasting and a visit. Click here to set up an appointment.

The Square Peg estate vineyard is named SP-SL due to its location on Stoetz Lane in Western Sonoma County. Furthermore, the vineyard is located in three of the AVA’s most highly regarded regions for Pinot Noir: Russian River Valley, Green Valley, and the Sonoma Coast. The wines are limited production, 2013 was the first vintage.

2014 Square Peg Estate SP-SL Vineyard Pinot Noir Block 1 Russian River Valley USA ($55): 100% Calera clone; medium ruby; medium aromas of fresh picked cherries, raspberries, and blueberries, dried rose petals, hint of cherry cola, white tea, black currant leaves, savory herbs, mushrooms, dusty cocoa; light and elegant on the palate with a depth of earthiness up front and juicy fruit lift on the back, medium tannins and medium+ acidity, elegant and sophisticated contemplative wine, medium body, long finish; really lovely; available through allocation by clicking here.

2014 Square Peg Estate SP-SL Vineyard Pinot Noir Block 8 Russian River Valley USA ($55): a blend of two clones: 80% 828 and 20% Calera; light ruby; medium+ fresh roses, cherries, cranberries, currants, baking spice, dusty earth, dried savory herbs, minerality; lighter on palate and more fruit forward, medium- tannins with medium+ acidity, delicate yet lively, another lovely wine, its fun to taste the differences in the clones and the blocks; available through allocation by clicking here.

*Disclosure: wines received as media samples, all thoughts & opinions are my own.

My Song Selection: another artist who creates beauty out of non-conformity

Get your own bottle of Square Peg Pinot Noir and let me know what song you pair with it. Cheers!

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