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
Winemaker Ashley Herzberg and I had the pleasure of sitting down in the KSRO studio with Jeff Davis to talk about the Amista Vineyards story and our sparkling wines. We are proud to be the only estate-grown sparkling wine house in Healdsburg, so we were excited to talk about our bubbles.
Turns out Jeff had other plans. He made us wait until the second half of the program! I won’t make you wait. I will save the Amista story for another blog post and dive right into exploring our collection of Amista sparkling wines.
Yes, Ashley and I both adore sparkling wines. There’s something joyous about sipping a glass of bubbles. I don’t believe in saving it for a special occasion. In fact, popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly makes any moment – or meal – more special. I know Ashley shares my love of sparkling wine, although I suspect she loves making it even more.
Ashley talked about making sparkling wine, which she had not done until joining Amista in 2011. “It’s really a unique process. I had never worked with sparkling wines before Amista. It was a learning curve and it’s been great. It’s been amazing.” She admits that there was a bit to learn. “Once I got over the fear of the unknown - when do I pick? when are they ripe? what am I looking for? - once I got over that part, it’s been amazing and so much fun."
Ashley explained that at Amista we use the traditional method, Methode Champenoise, for making sparkling wines and the grapes are picked earlier around 19 brix (a measure of the sugar content in the grapes) which is about 5 brix earlier than for still wine.
Picking earlier means the grapes have a nice acidity, and the lower sugar translates into a lower alcohol level in the wine. This is important because if the alcohol is too high the yeast does not ferment in the bottle – the alcohol kills it. And it’s that reaction of the sugar and the yeast that creates the bubbles in a sparkling wine.
Yes, and that was BA - Before Ashley. We harvested it in 2008. It was a happy experiment that launched our foray into sparkling wines.
Jeff had stopped by our tasting room in Dry Creek Valley the day before our interview to pick up a bottle of our Sparkling Syrah. He had it chilled and waiting to share with his wife when she arrived home. She didn’t show up right away and he just couldn’t wait any longer. "I had to pop the cork (I know the feeling). Sparkling Syrah is such a beautiful wine. It just says holidays."
Yes. Blanc de Blanc was our second sparkling wine. Chardonnay is one of the classic grapes used to make Champagne. Ashley and I conspired to make it only months after she came on board as our winemaker in 2011. That’s when I knew we had a common passion for bubbles.
We also have Rhone varieties, all grown in our estate Morningsong Vineyards, so we make sparkling wines from those grapes. Ashley and I love to use non-traditional grapes. The classic grapes used in Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Since we specialize in red Rhône varieties, we decided to try making Rhône sparkling wines. Each one has turned out to be a pleasant and delicious surprise.
Ashley explained, “All our sparkling wines are low dosage (which means they are dry) and super food friendly. We were the first winery in Dry Creek Valley to make estate grown sparkling wines. We’ve been doing it for a long time.”
Jeff asked about our Sparkling Fusión, wondering if it is our version of a Blanc de Noir. The answer is yes, although it breaks with tradition, once again. The classic Blanc de noir is made from pinot noir grapes that are not pressed with the skins, resulting in a white wine made from red grapes, thus the name, which means white from red.
The Amista Sparkling Fusión is a blend made mostly from Chardonnay grapes (usually 80%) with a small amount of Syrah and Grenache. Sometimes we use Mourvèdre instead of Syrah. I suppose we should call it a Blanc de Blanc et Blanc de Noir, but that didn’t fit on the label, so we named it Fusión. Of course, fusion means the process of joining things together. That’s why I love to give it as a wedding or engagement gift or serve it at reunions.
Speaking of Mourvèdre, Jeff was also curious about our Sparkling Mataró, made from 100% Mourvèdre grapes. We first made it in 2016 – just 33 cases. Typically, Mourvèdre is a blending wine but being non-traditional, we made our first single varietal - still not sparkling - Mourvèdre in 2012.
It was quite popular so we thought it would be fun to try as a sparkling wine. Ashley says, “It’s become one of my favorites. It’s intensely fruit toned with nice acidity.” We had it the other night with a seafood paella, and it was beautiful.
Another wine in our collection of sparkling gems is Sparkling Grenache. This was Ashley’s innovation. She first harvested it in 2013 and we both fell in love with the delicate pink color. It tasted even better thank it looked, and Wine Business Monthly selected it as one of 10 Hot Brands from across America in 2017.
Next year, will we have one more sparkling wine to add to our growing portfolio. We will release a Sparkling Tres to our wine club members in February 2022. We have been making a red Rhône blend we call Tres from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre since 2012. We made our first Rosé de Tres in 2018. Making a sparkling Tres was inevitable!
Jeff raved about our tasting room, “It’s just fantastic, such a cool, wide-open space. And right now, it’s so festive, with a Christmas tree in the middle, all the way up to the roof and all those white sparkling lights shining on the bottles so they look like they’re glowing.”
When it’s warm enough, we have a beautiful new solar patio, which is a wonderful place to sip wines surrounded by the vineyards with gorgeous Dry Creek Valley views. The solar covered patio also provides all our electricity, part of our on-going commitment to sustainability.
One of the main reasons our guests seek us out, is our sparkling wine tasting, one of the few in an area best known for Zinfandel. Or you can enjoy a Taste of Amista that showcases a mix of wines, from our estate-grown Chardonnay and Rhône reds to a Dry Creek Zinfandel or Rockpile Cabernet Sauvignon. Healdsburg is a popular place to visit and we have something for every palate.
One of the things Jeff highlighted was that there’s always a splash of color in the tasting room thanks to Carole Watanabe whose art hangs on the walls. Carole often joins us for events. She has a glass of wine in one hand and a paint brush in the other, chatting with people the whole time, all while creating an amazing piece of art.
Yes, and it’s extremely popular. We partnered with the Sonoma County Winegrowers to create a self-guided tour of the property, complete with a map and signs at each stop explaining the varieties of grapes we grow, a majestic 200-year-old oak tree and the backwater pond which is another part of our commitment to sustainability.
The Dry Creek Restoration Project redeveloped the habitat for the endangered Coho salmon and Steelhead trout. The walk is free and great for families with kids and dogs to be out in the fresh air and learn about farming in Sonoma County.
Jeff wrapped up by encouraging people to visit dog-friendly Amista Vineyards on Dry Creek Road, just outside of Healdsburg in Sonoma County, California.
Listen to the entire segment on KSRO with Jeff Davis On the Wine Road Live – Amista Vineyards.
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.
” Wagging tales and welcoming kisses, canines are often the official greeters and run the show at local vineyards and tasting rooms. Here is a glimpse into a few local wineries serving world-class wine with a side of canine accompaniment,” writes Mallorie Kerrigan-Deming in NORTHBAY Biz Magazine.
Amista means “making friends” in Spanish, and we love to welcome our guests and their friendly canines. We adore our Shetland Sheepdogs, and they delight in meeting the dogs visiting "their winery".
We serve bowls of water and dog treats, so visiting dogs can enjoy the equivalent of a wine and food pairing. We also have a self-guided vineyard walk with stops throughout the vineyard that is perfect for wine lovers and their canines who want to get out into the fresh air and enjoy nature. Our guests tell us we are one of the best dog friendly wineries.
Here is an excerpt from the article featuring Amista in wine dogs of the north bay: “The Farrow’s take pride in creating a home-away-from-home feel when visiting their facility, with the added benefit of borrowing their dog for the additional warm and fuzzy feeling. “Guests can sit on our solar-paneled patio or under the Mulberry tree,” says Vicky. “They’ll be surrounded by vineyards and can relax and enjoy the day with friends. We want you to feel like it’s your home away from home, and you can even borrow our dogs!”
Read about all the cool winery dogs in “Must Love Dogs: Wine Dogs of the North Bay”.
"Thank you, Mother Nature, for giving me something to look forward to and dream about every year," declares Amista winemaker Ashley Herzberg. Sonoma Magazine asked Sonoma winemakers to share their favorite wine story. Ashley’s favorite story is about the harvest and especially harvesting for sparkling wines. She reveals why she finds it so much fun.
“I love harvest season—and so do my kids! As a sparkling wine producer in Dry Creek Valley, we pick grapes for our sparkling wines earlier than those for still wines at Amista Vineyards. School hasn’t started, camp is wrapping up and my kids adore getting out of the house and into nature. I love being out on these early mornings, hot tea in hand, watching them get as excited as I do. Being able to share my excitement with them is one of the most wonderful aspects of winemaking,” says Ashley.
Ashley talks about how her kids grew up in the vineyards. “Having been the winemaker for Amista Vineyards for 10 years now, my daughter and son have grown up walking the rows of Morningsong Vineyards, owned by Proprietors Mike and Vicky Farrow. My kids have toddled through the vines for years, searching for the ripest grapes. They’ve grown to learn how to use a refractometer to take more professional samples as both they and the vines have matured.
I love watching them sample grapes, help with leaf sorting, and experience the early mornings, the chill in the air bundled up until the work and sunrise warm them and sweatshirts are shed. It’s such a unique way to grow up. I hope these opportunities instill a sense of respect for the land, for growing and harvesting a crop and then transforming it into something others can enjoy.”
Read Ashley's story and those of other notable Sonoma County winemakers by Karen Hart In NorthBay Biz. the "Wine Stories".
I got a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2006. In May 2006, I moved to Sonoma County to work a wine harvest at Owl Ridge, a winery custom crush facility, as a lab technician, eventually becoming lab manager. In July 2007 I moved to Mauritson Winery in Dry Creek Valley as the Enologist, and then Assistant Winemaker. After nearly four years at Mauritson I decided to strike out on my own. I started as the winemaker for Amista Vineyards in January 2011.
I fell into the wine industry in a roundabout way. My mom and dad love to cook and make dinner together and wine was always on our table. I like how wine brings people together, but I never thought it would eventually be my career. In college, I decided to study Chemical Engineering, thinking that would be a good degree to prepare me for medical school, which had always been my plan. During college, I worked in a hospital doing wound care and working with patients in the physical therapy department, and although I loved it, I realized being inside a hospital was not where I was meant to be.
After graduating, I decided to work a harvest in Sonoma County just for fun before I returned to graduate school. I started work at a custom crush winery in Sebastopol called Owl Ridge. By day two, I knew I was in love with this work and would never go back! I have loved harvest since that very first year.
As a custom crush facility Owl Ridge made wines for over 40 clients, which gave me the opportunity to see a variety of styles and approaches to winemaking. I was fortunate to work with and be mentored by some of the top vintners in California such as Merry Edwards, Greg Lafollette, Anthony Austin, and Scot Covington.
By mid-2007, I was offered an opportunity at Mauritson Wines in Dry Creek Valley as Enologist and soon was named Assistant Winemaker. In addition to making its own wines, Mauritson also does custom crush, so I was again able to work with several winemakers and make a wide variety of wines.
In 2011, after four years there, I had my daughter and decided I was ready to take the leap into consulting. I joined Amista Vineyards in January 2011. When I first started, we were making Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet, Zinfandel, and a Sparkling Syrah. I love sparkling wines and was excited to have the opportunity to make them. We have decided to specialize in Rhône varieties and sparkling wines made from our estate Morningsong Vineyards.
Over the years we have expanded our collection of sparkling wines., all made in the classic Methode Champenoise which is used to make fine French Champagnes. Although we use the traditional method for crafting our Amista sparkling wines, I love to use non-traditional grapes. The classic grapes used in Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Since we specialize in red Rhône varieties, we make several Rhône sparkling wines. Each one has turned out to be a pleasant and delicious surprise.
Wine is more than a job for me, it’s a lifestyle. My two children spend lots of time wandering the vineyards and sampling with me. They have become quite adept at determining when a block is ready to pick. And they love to get up at dawn and help with the harvest. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life - getting to do what I love and sharing that love with my children.
I also enjoy traveling and visiting wineries in other regions around the world in my (limited) free time. I am an avid gardener and created the first Amista Vineyards Winemaker Garden in 2021. Plus I love to cook, ski, and spend lots of time outdoors.
“Our Sonoma County, and particularly Healdsburg-based sparkling wines, are truly the envy of the rest of the world. These wines are simply the best on the planet outside of France but sell for half the price …” declares Peter Posert, after tasting an array of sparkling wines in our area
"Dry Creek Road is a magnificent stretch of backroad in Sonoma County. What’s not so well known, is this road is...home to the only sparkling wine house in the area," writes Karen Hart in North Bay Biz Magazine.
"Next time you’re planning a road trip to Dry Creek Valley, make a reservation at Amista, bring your friends and your walking shoes and enjoy the distinctive, elegant wines of Amista Vineyards", adds Karen.
Learn the story of Amista and some of our favorite wines in "Great Tastes - Amista Vineyards" by Karen Hart".
This morning Amista was featured on the award-winning Sonoma Wine Road podcast hosted by Beth Costa and Marcy Gordon. Marcy and Beth were in a studio somewhere in Sonoma County and I called in to chat with them from Amista Vineyards here in Healdsburg.
The best part was we all got to start our day with bubbles! Beth opened a bottle of Amista Sparkling Grenache, a very special bottle that was signed by our winemaker Ashley Herzberg. She poured the first glass for Marcy, who exclaimed, “The color is beautiful!”
Yes, the iridescent rosy blush color is gorgeous, topped only by the flavors of ripe raspberry and lemon meringue on the palate. This is one of Ashley’s favorites and it was recognized as a Hot Brand from across the USA in 2017 by Wine Business Monthly. We’re very proud of this bubbly.
I popped the cork on a bottle of our Sparkling Syrah since I didn’t happen to have a bottle of the Sparkling Grenache at hand. This was the first sparkling wine we made back in 2008 and Amista was the first winery to make sparkling wine in Healdsburg.
We now have five sparkling wines made using the traditional Methode Champenoise, where the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in its own bottle. That second fermentation is what produces the fine bubbles. “I have a license plate that says ‘Got Bubbles’. So obviously, I’m drawn to Amista. There are a variety of bubbles; can’t miss that,” Beth revealed.
I announced that we will soon be adding our sixth sparkling wine called Sparkling Tres in February 2022. We have a highly popular Rhône-style red wine blend we call Tres made from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Last year we made a Rosé of Tres for the first time, so making a sparkling Rosé from the GSM blend was inevitable!
“I’ve never had a GSM sparkling,” exclaimed Marcy. Yes, it will be a first. Ashley and I love to experiment. All our sparkling wines, except for our Blanc de Blanc, are made with unusual varieties. Our vineyard is primarily planted to Rhône varieties so that is the focus of our sparkling program. We use only estate grown fruit for all our sparkling wines.
Beth asked me to tell the story of our journey into owning a winery. That is the question I am asked most often. It turns out it was a dream that my husband Mike and I didn’t know we had and didn’t know we shared. We never talked about it. It wasn’t a plan. It just evolved.
It started when we lived in Silicon Valley. Mike saw an ad in a local newspaper for "backyard vineyards". We liked to drink wine so we thought it would be fun to have a vineyard. He planted 150 Cabernet Sauvignon vines on the hillside at our home. Six months later he decided he needed to learn how to make wine and crushed 1/2 ton of Cabernet and made his first wine in our garage. I made sure I was never there to do the hard work!
Six months later I was offered a job in New Jersey. Sadly, we moved before harvesting a single grape from our new vineyard, but we took the barrel of wine with us. After a couple of years of aging, we tasted the wine with friends, and it was great! Mike decided, "I'm a winemaker!" That’s how he got the bug. “The magic barrel!” exclaimed Marcy. Who knew it would eventually draw us into the wine business where we would be making delicious Rhone reds and sparkling wines?
Yes, and we made a second garage wine once we moved to Healdsburg. We called it Garage Syrah. Everybody wanted to buy it and our friends encouraged us to start a winery. So, we did! “Hewlett Packard started in a garage; so, did you,” added Marcy.
In fact, our friends were involved every step of the way. They were with us when we said good-bye to our first vineyard in Silicon Valley. They were with us in New Jersey when we tasted that first barrel of wine. And they were by our side when we looked at several vineyards in Healdsburg. They helped us choose this beautiful vineyard in the heart of Dry Creek Valley in the countryside surrounding Healdsburg. That is why we chose the name Amista, which means making friends.
“That’s the feeling I get when I’m in the tasting room. It’s a lot of friends. It’s a spirited place. You feel like you are part of it when you’re there tasting. That’s what I like about the feeling there,” Marcy confirmed.
Beth was curious to know what’s happening with wine tasting at Amista. I told her we welcome our guests by appointment and all our tastings are seated. Guests have the choice of sitting under our solar powered patio or under the trees, surrounded by our vineyards. If it’s too hot or too cold, they can go inside our large, colorful tasting room with a choice of bistro tables or comfy chairs.
There are several wine experiences to choose from. First is our sparkling flight. We are so excited to have it back. We were sold out of so many of our sparkling wines that we couldn’t do it for a while. We’re thrilled to be able to offer it again.
People can also do what we call a Taste of Amista which is a mix of our red, white, and sparkling wines, and they can add a vineyard tour or a cheese and charcuterie plate to their tasting.
Although we are by appointment, people can call us, or if they happen to be driving by on Dry Creek Road, they can stop in. We will happily welcome them when we can.
Beth asked about the people guests will meet when they visit Amista. They are going to meet an amazing team that is welcoming, engaging, and friendly. My husband, Mike, and I try to take a walk every day around the vineyard with our two dogs (Dylan and Torin) and we stop at the tasting room for a break and a glass of water.
I love to go around and chat with everyone who is there. We are always willing to come down and greet our club members or guests if they let us know in advance. And did I mention that we’re dog friendly?
That’s one of the great things about reservations. I can see who’s planning to visit each day and since we live on the property, I can pop down and say “hi”. Beth explained, “That’s what people love, to meet the winemaker or the owners and hear the story.”
We are proud to be the first sparkling winery in Healdsburg, California, with six sparkling wines, a sparkling wine club and a sparkling wine tasting flight. It was gratifying to hear that both Marcy and Beth enjoy our bubbles and heartwarming to learn that we are achieving our goal of offering a friendly, spirited tasting experience.
We would love to host you for a visit. Make your reservation to Taste with Us!
Can’t visit now? Listen to the Wine Road Podcast featuring Amista Vineyards and go behind the scenes to learn about sparkling wine tasting in Healdsburg, California.
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