We are excited to be featured in Sonoma Magazine as a sparkling house to visit for the holidays. The article, by Linda Murphy, covers several fascinating points about sparkling wine. OK, they are fascinating to me. I hope you agree!
I’m sure you know my vote on this one! I enjoy a glass of bubbles before dinner and my husband, Mike, and I quite often have a sparkling wine with our evening meal. Amista makes six different sparkling wines, so there is something to go with everything. Have you tried Blanc de Blanc with fried chicken? It’s a match made in heaven. We always talk about how well our Sparkling Syrah goes with the Thanksgiving feast, but did you know it is also wonderful with a simple taco salad? We enjoy Amista Fusión with a spicy chicken stir fry.
No. There are several methods for making sparkling wine.
Amista wines are made using the traditional method, the same process that is used to make fine French Champagne called Methode Champenoise. This involves a second fermentation entirely in its own bottle that produces the fine bubbles and is the most appreciated method for making sparkling wines.
In addition to Champagne, which must be made exclusively in the Champagne region of France, other sparkling wines made using the traditional method include Methode Cap Classique, Cava, Crémant and Sekt.
There are other less time consuming and expensive ways to make sparkling wine. The article explains, “There are pétillant naturels, or pét-nats, which are bottled while still undergoing a first fermentation and closed with a crown cap instead of a cork. The French call this process méthode ancestral, with the yeast staying in contact with the wine until the cap is removed. Out gushes a fruity, slightly creamy and easy-to-drink sparkler that lacks the complexity of Champagne-like wines yet is crowd-pleasing for its simplicity.”
We haven’t tried a “pét-nat” at Amista, although I suspect our winemaker, Ashley Herzberg, has a plan to use one of our estate-grown varieties so she can give it a try.
Another way to make sparkling wines is called the Charmat or tank method. According to the article, “some wineries apply the charmat method to carbonate their wines in large steel tanks, adding carbon dioxide to create the bubbles. Like pét-nats, these wines are all about the fruit; they are non-fussy yet satisfying, ready to enjoy soon after bottling and typically cost half as much as méthode traditionnelle sparkling wines.” Lambrusco and the popular prosecco are made using the charmat method.
Champagne must be made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier grapes. The finest French Champagnes are typically made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Most sparkling wine houses around the world follow the Champagne tradition.
A few adventurous sparkling houses, like Amista Vineyards, use other varieties “expanding the aromas and flavors beyond the more traditional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir," says Sonoma Magazine.
Here at Amista, our first sparkling wine was completely non-traditional, a Sparkling Rosé of Syrah, a unique and gorgeous bubbly that has developed a cult following. The article says it was “a relatively bold move in Sonoma yet a long-established tradition in Australia.”
It came about because of a class project at our local junior college. Our consulting winemaker at the time taught winemaking at the college and asked if he could use some of our very popular Rosé of Syrah to teach his class how to make a sparkling wine using the Methode Champenoise process.
As soon as I tasted it, I knew we had to make it for Amista. Mike introduced it with a flourish, performing the traditional sabrage (removing the cork with a saber) at our Sparkling Soiree party in December 2009, marking the debut of our first Sparkling Syrah.
When winemaker Ashley Herzberg arrived on the scene in 2011, the idea of making more sparkling wines was inevitable. She and I both love bubbles and Ashley is a voracious learner always looking for a new challenge. She had never made sparkling wines, but she was eager to learn.
Only months after she arrived, we conspired to pick some of our estate Chardonnay grapes to make a Blanc de Blanc, a more traditional variety. Her first try was a success, scoring 91 points and earning a gold medal at the “Best of the Best” North Coast Wine Challenge.
It didn’t take long for Ashley’s adventurous spirit to lead to making a sparkling wine from one of our other Rhône varieties, Grenache. I fell in love with its beautiful blush color. I tried the still version shortly after its first fermentation. If the still wine was this pretty, I knew the sparkling version would be a sensation - and it was! It was honored as one of 10 Hot Brands in 2017 and sells out every year.
We have since added several new sparkling wines to our collection, all made from grapes grown in our estate Morningsong Vineyards. In February 2022 we will release our first ever Sparkling Tres, a rosé of our popular Tres, a red wine blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.
We are proud to be featured alongside what the article describes as “the power players in the local sparkling wine scene” from the iconic Korbel, which was established in 1882, to those that emerged in the 1980s, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Iron Horse Vineyards, and J Vineyards & Winery.
Check out "9 Sparkling Wineries to Visit in Sonoma this Holiday Season" in Sonoma Magazine.
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