POSTED ON September 6, 2007 | IN Russian River Wine Country - Sonoma Cty. | BY Joe Becerra

We stumbled on Inspiration Vineyards about two years ago when visiting Inspiration’s neighbor, the Harvest Moon Winery on Olivet Road near Sebastopol. Randy Pitts at Harvest Moon told us “you have to visit Inspiration Vineyards, the guy makes great wine.”One problem however, Inspiration owner and winemaker Jon Phillips holds down a full time job for the county of Sonoma. Randy calls Jon on his cell and convinces Jon to take a break, pour us some wine in his garage-sized winery. We were quite impressed with the wines and have been in touch ever since.

A few weeks back, Jon called and asked if we would help him on the bottling line. We did and it was great fun. We bottled Viognier and Chardonnay, and a little Pinot Noir. Jon and his wife Barbara own a small number of acres of Old vine Zinfandel and Chardonnay. He buys fruit from vineyards in Carneros and the Alexander Valley for his Pinot Noir, Viognier, and Sonoma Zinfandel.

For the bottling, Jon uses one of the many mobile bottling systems that most small to medium size wineries use today. These mobile bottling lines are a huge money and storage space saver. Matt is the owner of the bottling trailer and has come in the day before to set up the line. Bottling is one of the most stressful times for a winery owner. The wine has been siphoned off into storage tanks and waits to be bottled. If anything goes wrong, it could be an unpleasant situation for the wine.

We begin bottling the Viognier and after about 10 cases are boxed, the labeler is causing problems. The labels just won’t line up correctly. We box them anyway and Jon will have to use a hand labeler at later time. We are now on to the Chardonnay and Matt has fixed the label problem. Everything goes smoothly and we finish our job just in time for a wonderful catered lunch. Another crew takes our place after lunch, thank goodness, because this job is harder than it looks and we are tired.

Jon produces about 800 cases of wine per year and hopes to increase the amount each year until he reaches about 2000 cases, enough to perhaps quit his day job. Jon makes great wines and we think the price is right for his wines. We really like all of the Inspiration wines very much. A bottle of wine always seems to taste so much better when there is a story behind the wine.