The very first sparkling wine we made was from a Rhône grape – a Sparkling Syrah – and we’ve been making it since 2008. Technically it is a rosé of Syrah because it spends only a few hours on the skins before being pressed off. It is a gorgeous cranberry color. It’s festive. It shimmers in the glass. I call it ‘joy in a bottle’.
But Winemaker Ashley Herzberg wasn't so sure. She received two bottles as a gift from my husband Mike before she became our winemaker. She stuck it in her closet thinking it would be icky and sweet. One night she pulled it out to serve to her girlfriends - a good way to get rid of it. They immediately started raving about it, so she took a taste. She became a convert and has been making and sipping “joy" ever since.
Our current release has aromas of black cherry, roasted strawberries and cream, toasted almonds and a hint of ruby red grapefruit zest. The front palate is bright and filled with berry notes. The finish has great acidity and balance with a slight savory character that makes it deliciously food friendly. The finish is beautiful and lingering.
One thing we’ve learned about Rhône-style wines is that they pair beautifully with a wide array of foods. The Sparkling Syrah is a perfect example. It is especially at its best with spicy foods, from Thai, to Indian to Mexican. It is also right at home on a holiday table because it has enough body to stand up to the vast assortment of flavors that are part of the feast and provides a refreshing counterpoint to the rich dishes that are typical of holiday celebrations.
Winemaker Ashley says the most interesting pairing she has had with a sparkling wine was the Sparkling Syrah with Peking duck roasted in a wood burning oven. “I was surprised because I don't love duck. It's not my cup of tea, but the Sparkling Syrah cut through the richness of the duck and just sort of brought it to another level and I was like, oh, duck needs something acidic to brighten the flavors,” explained Ashley.
Syrah was among the first wines we made when we launched Amista Vineyards. It has always played a big role in our wine program. We planted Syrah on our estate Morningsong Vineyards in 2000, and although we didn’t have much experience drinking Syrah, we quickly fell in love. It is a very drinkable wine without the heavy tannins of a Cabernet or the big jammy flavors or a Zin.
In 2011 we added two more Rhône varietals to our estate vineyards, Grenache and Mourvèdre. That enabled us to produce a Grenache, a Mourvèdre and a Rhône-style blend we called Tres, to stand beside our flagship Syrah. Tres was our first blend and it quickly became my husband Mike’s favorite, and my second favorite after anything sparkling! Tres is the wine I would take to a dinner party knowing that it would please any palate and drink well with nearly any dish.
So, you can see that we came to plant, make and love red Rhône varietals. But winemaker Ashley and I love bubbles and she wanted to make sparkling wine from the Grenache. I was all in! I can still remember the first taste of the still Grenache rosé that would eventually become a sparkling wine. Ashley took it right from the tank and the wine was gorgeous in the glass – a pink blush color – and even more gorgeous to taste. We both knew immediately that this would be an incredible sparkling wine. Wine Business Monthly agreed, selecting it as one of 10 Hot Brands the year it debuted.
Today we have five sparkling wines made in whole or in part from Rhône varieties. In addition to our Sparkling Syrah, which has become a cult favorite, and our Sparkling Grenache, which sells out every year, we have Sparkling Mataró (made from 100% Mourvèdre grapes), Sparkling Tres (a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) and Fusión (a blend of Chardonnay – which is not a Rhône grape – with Syrah and Grenache).
Treat yourself and explore our Rhône-style sparkling wines.
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