Winemakers love to make blends, so it’s no surprise that our local Sonoma women winemakers have crafted their unique blend of having a family, being a mom and making wines.
“Blending wine and kids, these winemakers work hard to create a healthy work-life balance in an industry still dominated by men,” writes Jean Saylor Doppenberg in NorthBay Biz.
Amista winemaker Ashley Herzberg shares her story along with other woman winemakers in Sonoma County, revealing how she makes it all work.
“When you are the primary caregiver to two kids and have a full-time job and clients who need you, it’s a giant jigsaw puzzle of many pieces. You can’t always get to all the things you want to do in one day, so you lean in and embrace it,” says Ashley.
“As a bit of a perfectionist, it’s a hard lesson for me to learn, but perfection isn’t the goal. It’s a huge difference now that the kids are older and are able to help me. They can be very useful at the winery.”
Ashley has been bringing her kids to work with her since she started at Amista Vineyards in 2011. In the early years she could be seen walking the vineyard rows, inspecting the vines with her son in a baby sling and her daughter toddling beside her.
As they grew older, her children made a habit of tasting the grapes just before harvest and giving her their opinion on whether they were ready to pick or not. Now they help with the harvest, arriving at dawn to climb up on the bins behind the tractor and remove the leaves and the grape clusters that aren’t perfect.
When her daughter was only 2 years old, Ashley started taking her to the winery as she sampled the wines fermenting in the barrel, sipping and spitting the wine in the floor drain as is the routine for winemakers. Her daughter “…was a very observant 2-year-old and had seen me do that countless times,” Ashley explains.
“One day I picked her up from preschool and the teacher said my daughter took sips of juice from her sippy cup that day and then spit them out on the floor. She wasn’t able to talk much then, so she couldn’t explain why she was doing it. But she had watched me spit out wine over and over.”
Winemaking is not always a predictable role. It involves Mother Nature which provides different challenges every year. “So, you can’t just walk away from it, and I can’t ask anyone else to take care of it for me. There can be long hours, and that’s a lot of hours away from home,” explains Ashley.
“On the flip side, I get to bring my children with me to work frequently, and we get some bonding time, enjoying how beautiful it is to be in the vineyards, and watching the ebb and flow of farming. It’s good for my kids to see that I’m working and that I can provide for us. I work really hard.”
Read the stories of four Sonoma winemakers in Winemaker Moms by Jean Saylor Doppenberg in NorthBay Biz.
Want to taste discover the wines Ashley makes with a little help from her kids? Come Taste with Us at Amista Vineyards!
The best part of my daily walk around our vineyards with my two Shelties is our stop at the tasting room. Torin (on the left) and Dylan (on the right) especially love it when there are visiting dogs to meet.
Yes, Amista Vineyards is dog friendly, and our guests are so excited when they find out they can bring their best friends to hang out while they taste our red, white, and sparkling wines.
I never get tired of gazing out over the vines or at the tree studded hillsides. You can choose your spot under our solar covered patio or beneath our Mulberry tree surrounded by our vineyards and breathtaking Dry Creek Valley views.
If it’s too hot or too cold, you’ll be welcomed inside our spacious, colorful tasting room where you can sit at high top tables or in the “living room” with cushy chairs.
Dogs would rather be out walking than hanging out on the patio. They love their walks, and we have something that will be fun for your four-legged friends and for you.
We’ve had seven Shelties over the years who looked forward to their vineyard walks every day. After years of testing they can guarantee that you and your canines will adore a walk through our vineyard.
Our Vineyard Adventure Walk is a self-guided tour around our estate vineyards. You can learn about the grapes we grow, stand under the vast branches of our 200-year-old oak tree and check out the habitat restoration that includes a backwater pond on Dry Creek.
The backwater pond is part of our partnership with Sonoma County Water Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to restore the natural habitat for the Coho salmon and Steelhead trout in the creek.
Your dogs can sniff out all the dogs that have traveled the path before, along with the scents of the coyotes, foxes and jack rabbits that frequent the vineyards at night. You may catch a glimpse of the blue heron bounding into flight or the white egrets gliding over the creek.
After a romp in the vineyards, your pups will appreciate a bowl of fresh water – always the latest vintage – and a dog biscuit. But we hope your visit is more than taking in the views and entertaining your dogs.
We hope you will enjoy exploring our wines. In their blog post, Love Pets says, “Amista is a relatively recent but prolific venture, focusing on developing the essential flavors of unique varietals.” That is the job of our amazing winemaker, Ashley Herzberg.
We focus on estate grown Rhône varieties – Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre – which we bottle as single varieties and craft into a blend of all three we call Tres. Plus, we have un-oaked Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel and Rockpile Cabernet Sauvignon.
The post in Love Pets goes on to say that you can “taste a wide variety of reds, whites, rosés and innovative sparkling wines.”
I must admit that both Ashley and I love bubbles, which might explain why we make six estate grown sparkling wines.
We've even convinced my husband Mike that a sparkling wine is a delicious aperitif or the perfect accompaniment to a meal.
Our sparkling wines are innovative because they are made from non-traditional varieties and yet they are made in the traditional Methode Champenoise.
My go-to sparkler is our Blanc de Blanc made from our estate grown Chardonnay. Although it’s hard not to love the cult favorite, our Sparkling Syrah, that I call “joy in a bottle”. Plus, we have a wonderful collection of estate grown sparkling rosés made from non-traditional Rhône varieties.
Amista means “it makes friends” in Spanish and in addition to being dog-friendly, we are known as being just plain friendly! We have always believed that wine is better with friends and our friends have been a treasured part of our journey into wine. We want you to have the same friendly, engaging, and joyful experience when you visit.
Come Taste with Us and feel free to bring your friendly dogs.
Check out Dog Friendly Wineries Sonoma for a list of other great spots to taste wine with your dogs by your side.
North Bay Wine Tours answers an important question in their feature on Best 5 Sparkling Wine Tastings in Sonoma, “Did you know that sparkling wine isn’t just for special occasions anymore?”
We heartily agree!
They go on to say that California sparkling wine is just right for a fun wine country tasting. That’s never been truer than now, with a wonderful collection of sparkling wine houses in Sonoma County.
A couple of decades ago, before I knew we would end up creating the first sparkling winery in Healdsburg, I was frustrated. I love sparkling wine and the sparkling wineries I visited didn’t offer a sparkling flight.
Many wineries that make sparkling wines also make Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, because those are the two traditional grapes used to make Champagne and sparkling wines. The tasting flights would usually have a mix of each. I just wanted to taste bubbles!
That’s why since we made our first sparkling wine in 2008, it’s been my aspiration to offer a sparkling flight here at Amista. It turns out that it’s a lot easier said than done. First, you must consistently make more than one sparkling wine. You can’t have a “flight” with just one wine!
We made our first sparkling wine - from an unusual variety, Syrah - in 2008. We kept it a bit of a secret because we only made a few dozen cases, and we clearly didn’t have enough to offer a sparkling wine tasting flight.
In 2011 we started making our second sparkling wine, a Blanc de Blancs from a more traditional variety. A Blanc de Blancs, ours included, is typically made from Chardonnay grapes. Our first Blanc de Blanc scored 91 points and was awarded a gold medal at the Best of the Best North Coast Wine Competition. Our sparkling wines were no longer a secret, but we still didn’t have enough to offer a sparkling flight.
Then in 2013, we went all out and added three more sparkling wines to our collection. In 2014, we had enough sparkling wines to launch the first sparkling wine club in Healdsburg. That was another of my pet peeves – some so-called sparkling houses didn’t have a sparkling-only wine club.
I thought surely now we would have enough sparkling wines to offer our guests a sparkling flight. I couldn’t wait! But I had to wait and I’m not that patient. It wasn’t until 2016 that we consistently had enough bubbles to offer a sparkling flight.
Then I discovered there was good news and bad. The good news was that our sparkling wines were wildly popular and started selling out before the next release. The bad news was that there were times during the year when we only had two sparkling wines available. Two wines do not make a sparkling flight!
My challenge was to learn to juggle, balance and shift things around to make sure we have enough bubbles for our loyal sparkling club members and at the same time have enough sparkling wine for sparkling flights and for bubbles lovers to purchase in the tasting room.
We are working hard to craft new sparkling wines and make more of our current offerings so we can continue to delight our sparkling loving guests. We now have five sparkling wines in our portfolio, Sparkling Syrah, Blanc de Blanc, Sparkling Grenache, Sparkling Mataró (100% Mourvèdre) and Fusión (a blend the color of a Blanc de Noir).
In February 2022 we will debut Sparkling Tres, a sparkling rosé made from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. We made only 73 cases for the first release, which will be allocated to our sparkling club members.
Sparkling Tres is so delicious that my goal is to make enough so more people can discover this sparkling rosé crafted from the grapes that make up a classic Rhône-style GSM (Grenache, Syrah Mourvèdre) blend. This is a unique sparkling blend.
I always say that our winemaker, Ashley Herzberg, and I make sparkling wines for ourselves, but we’re delighted to share. In fact, that is one of my joys, to introduce sparkling lovers to wines made from non-traditional grape varieties. Our focus is on Rhône varieties because that’s what we grow.
Our sparkling wines are all grown on our estate vineyards, which we named Morningsong, in the heart of Dry Creek Valley situated in the beautiful countryside surrounding Healdsburg, California. Growing our own grapes allows us to farm and harvest them specifically for sparkling wines.
Although we use non-traditional grapes, we use the traditional method to craft our sparkling wines. The Methode Champenoise is the process used to make the finest French Champagne. What distinguishes this method from other ways of making sparkling wines, is that the wine goes through a second fermentation in its own bottle. It is this secondary fermentation that makes the wine “sparkle” and creates the delicate stream of bubbles ascending in the glass.
When you visit Amista, we want you to have a truly sparkling experience – delicate bubbles ascending in your glass, delicious sparkling wines made from unique varieties, in a relaxed and friendly environment. You can choose to sit under our solar covered patio or under the trees, surrounded by vineyards and gorgeous Dry Creek Valley views or in our rustic, festive barn. In addition to our sparkling flight, we offer a Taste of Amista with a wonderful collection of red, white, and rosé wines. And did I mention we’re dog friendly?
We invite you to make a reservation to Taste with Us!
Check out the Best 5 Sparkling Wine Tastings in Sonoma (plus other great options for wine tours in Sonoma
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