Sometimes, innovations come at just the right time. That might be true for sample-sized bottles of wine introduced during tough times for high-end wineries.

Two companies in Napa have introduced the little bottles recently, and they’re finding a welcome response from a number of wineries in Napa Valley, including Trefethen Vineyards in Napa and Grgich-Hills Family Estate in Rutherford.

“We always thought that if we could get people to taste our wine, they’d buy it,” says Violet Grgich, co-proprietor and vice president of marketing for Grgich-Hills. “This is a new way to get them to try. It’s like bringing a tasting room into your home.”

“If you buy a 750 ml bottle and you just don’t like it, what can you do?,” she adds. “With these small bottles, there’s much less risk.”

Grgich-Hills is one of many wineries that have signed up to have TastingRoom bottle their wines in 50-ml (1.7 oz) miniature glass wine bottles that look much like the “nips” of spirits served on airplanes.

Like the other wineries, Grgich-Hills is selling the samples throughout TastingRoom’s website, but it also bought six packs for its own use.

It sells the collection of Napa Valley wines — including Violetta dessert wine — at its own tasting room and plans to use the bottles for trade samples of its high-end wines, too.

Grgich says she was convinced after being shown that the wine in the bottles matched that in conventional 750-ml bottles. “We also bottle wine in 375 ml ‘half bottles,’ but it ages more quickly in those,” she said.

A new process that protects the wine better is part of the answer, though TastingRoom puts a six-month shelf life on the bottles.

Although Grgich-Hills put its current releases in the bottles, Grgich says the format might be especially suited to expensive, high-end wines. “You can’t open a whole bottle and waste it,” she says.

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She says she heard about the bottles from Pete Seghesio of Seghesio Vineyards. “He sent them to wine club members and got a tremendous response.”

Grgich also said they make great gifts, especially if you’re not sure what someone likes, but she also doesn’t discount another factor: “They so cute.”

She says the response had been good, and even employees want to buy them. “It’s something new, and you need something new in these times. We don’t like to do newfangled things, but these are different times,” she adds.

CrushPad, which recently relocated from San Francisco to the Silverado Trail Wine Studio, also bottles wine in 50-ml mini bottles, although they’re shaped more like test tubes with tops.

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