I am honored to be included in an article profiling women in wine for International Women’s Day, plus “the Wines We Are Toasting Them With” by Devin Parr. I’m even more excited to be toasted with a wine created by the women of Amista, our Blanc de Blanc.
What makes this wine extra special for toasting International Women’s Day is that it was created as the result of a spontaneous conversation between me and our newly hired woman winemaker, Ashley Herzberg, shortly after she arrived at Amista in 2011. We were standing in the Chardonnay vineyard one day and I asked her, “Do you think we could make a Blanc de Blanc from our Chardonnay?” She didn’t skip a beat when she answered, “Of course!” Mind you, she had not yet made a sparkling wine in her previous winemaking career. But, like me, she loves bubbles. Plus, Ashley is a woman who loves to learn and is always up for a new challenge.
That fall, Ashley did her first harvest specifically to make a sparkling wine. She picked the grapes earlier than she would for a still wine to achieve lower sugar levels and thus lower alcohol, and higher levels of acid. She was nervous about how to know when the grapes would be ready to pick.
She got some sage advice from another woman winemaker, Penny Gadd-Coster, who had been making sparkling wines for over a decade. Penny told her, “You just still pick for flavors. You're shifting what you're looking for in those flavors. But you're still picking for flavors.” Ashley did just that and the inaugural release of our Amista Blanc de Blanc in 2013 scored 91 points and won a gold medal in the Press Democrat’s “Best of the Best” North Coast Wine Challenge.
As we toast to women in wine on International Women’s Day it’s worth celebrating that “Women have long been making strides in wine and, although the work is by no means done, it’s an exciting time to be a woman in the industry,” says Parr. She’s right.
A lot has changed over the years for women in wine. I have had the privilege of talking with several women involved in making sparkling wine as part of my project Sparkling Discoveries and there is a clear difference in the experiences of the young women of today as compared with the women who began their careers over two decades ago.
The trailblazing women who started their careers back then were consistently told they could not be winemakers because the work was too difficult for women. In my conversation with Eileen Crane, founding winemaker at Gloria Ferrer and Domaine Carneros, she told me that the first professor she met when she was exploring a degree in enology at Davis told her she couldn’t be a winemaker because she wouldn’t be able to do the work in the cellar. “You can’t handle the barrels,’ he told me. He suggested I finish my PhD in nutrition. I told him I’m not going to be doing that. I’m going to be a winemaker.” It took courage and determination to challenge such attitudes.
The younger women working in wine today no longer face that kind of active opposition. Women are being encouraged to go into winemaking and wine business. They are celebrated, honored and recruited.
Challenges remain however, although they are less blatant. One has to do with the automatic assumption that the man is the winemaker or CEO. When a man and a woman are both pouring at a tasting, the questions about winemaking are typically directed to the man, although that appears to be changing. Kathleen Inman, Owner and Winemaker at Inman Family Wines, says, “I’ve noticed that people are less surprised to find out that I’m the winemaker, and not my husband, than they were 10 years ago.”
The other two challenges are pay equity and the presence of women in the most senior positions in wine businesses. A 2020 study by Wine Business Monthly shows 28.8% of the wineries had a female as Winemaking Director, although the average of the salaries for those females was 8% lower than the average for males. The same study shows 22% of winery CEOs were female but total cash compensation of the men was nearly double that of the women (1.95 times greater).
So yes, there is still work to do. That is why it’s inspiring to read about examples of women with “extraordinary talent in wine” as described by Parr, and to hear what embracing equity means to each of them.
“As the consulting winemaker for Amista Vineyards and Cast Wines, Ashley’s talents have produced many memorable wines. If you haven’t tried the Amista sparkling wine collection, be sure to stop by soon,” writes Rebecca Germolus in her article “A Toast to Women Winemakers.”
“In honor of Women’s History Month, let’s explore the paths of a few women winemakers along the Wine Road,” adds Germolus. If you are familiar with Sonoma County wine, you’ll know the names of the three women she features as pioneers, Carol Shelton, Julia Iantosca and Phyllis Zouzounis. Not only do they craft amazing wines, but they truly have been part of blazing the path for a future generation of women winemakers in Sonoma County. Rebecca proposes a toast to these pioneering women, saying, “A big thank you to Carol, Julia and Phyllis for staying the course.” We couldn’t agree more.
We are thrilled that Ashley is recognized as one of the next generation women shaping winemaking in Sonoma County. She is in good company on this list of other extremely talented female winemakers. She knows and interacts with all these women. That is one of the most wonderful things about Northern Sonoma County. There is a sense of connection, mutual support and admiration that permeates our wine community. By the way, men are not excluded, although I suspect the bond with other women is something extra special.
One of the ways Ashley stands out is making sparkling wines. Only a handful of winemakers in Sonoma County can make that claim plus Ashley is equally talented at crafting still wines. Her focus at Amista is on creating elegant, approachable sparkling wines from varieties that are not traditional - Rhône varieties - though she uses the traditional method, the same process that is used to make French Champagne. She is currently making six sparkling wines for Amista, all grown in our estate vineyards, and has another fermenting in the bottle to be released in 2024 to celebrate our 20th anniversary.
If you haven’t tried her sparkling wines or need to treat yourself again, we invite you to Taste With Us and toast to the women winemakers along the wine road.
Read “A Toast to Women Winemakers,” by Rebecca Germolus.
“This effervescent dream benefits from being made using the Methode Champenoise, which is the process used to make fine French Champagne,” suggests a feature called Special Sips in the Scottsdale Airpark News.
If you happen to be in the Scottsdale airport, you might see Amista featured in this magazine. We are delighted to be included with so many other fine wines from Sonoma County along with a few from Napa Valley. Our Sparkling Grenache is described as an “effervescent dream” adding, “If nothing else, try this one for its nose, which is bursting with tangerine, grapefruit, and Meyer lemon.”
But what would be the point of just sniffing the wine when you can experience the joy of bubbles dancing on your tongue and treat your palate to the flavors of freshly picked strawberries?
At Amista we specialize in estate grown red Rhône varieties. We also specialize in making sparkling wines using the classic method used in Champagne. So, it’s no surprise that we love to make sparkling wines from our Rhône varieties. Winemaker Ashley Herzberg loves all bubbles – Champagnes, especially those made by small grower/producers, Crémants, Cava’s and sparkling wines made in the U.S. She had been making a sparkling rosé from another Rhône grape from our estate vineyards since she joined us in 2011. In 2013 she was ready to make another sparkling rosé and thought the Grenache grown on our estate Morningsong Vineyards would be perfect. She was right!
She harvested the grapes earlier than for the still Grenache to achieve the right balance of sugar, acid and flavors for a sparkling wine and left them on the skins for just a few hours to achieve a delicate pink color. She calls is “ballet slipper pink”. I will never forget experiencing this wine for the first time. We were in the cellar, and she took a small sample from the tank. The color was amazing, and yep, it was ballet slipper pink. Our first taste was before its secondary fermentation in the bottle, which is what produces the delicate bubbles. Even as a still wine it was beautiful on the palate.
It would be 18 months before we could taste the resulting sparkling wine. We feel in love. But we weren’t alone. Wine Business Monthly selected the inaugural release of our Sparkling Grenache and Amista as one of 10 Hot Brands in 2017.
"Sparkling wine isn't just for celebrations anymore. That's not to say we shouldn't be drinking sparkling on momentous occasions or for holidays - if you asked Vicky Farrow and Ashley Herzberg, we should be drinking it every day of the year. Maybe they're a little biased - they're in charge of the sparkling wine program at Amista Vineyards, tucked away along Sonoma County's famed Dry Creek Road - but it does sound like they're on to something big." says Wine Business Monthly.
We now have a collection of six sparkling wines with a seventh to debut in 2024 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Amista. Stay tuned!
Check out "Special Sips" in the Scottsdale Airpark Magazine.
“Last fall, Farrow launched Sparkling Discoveries, a website that showcases in-depth conversations with leaders in the sparkling wine world, as well as news, education and resources for all things sparkling wine,” writes Sarah Doyle in an article showcasing the launch of my new pet project.
As I told Sarah, when I pop a cork and the bubbles rise, I see the joy it brings people. It’s celebratory, but it’s more than that. It’s something you want to share. “That joy is what drove Farrow to launch Sparkling Discoveries, a website she had initially envisioned as a blog about her personal journey into wine. She quickly found she was more interested to hear others’ stories,” adds Doyle.
A friend recommended I interview people about how they got started in sparkling wine and the lessons they learned along the way. I loved the idea of sharing their stories, so a blog about my journey morphed into a new online platform called Sparkling Discoveries.
It’s no secret that I love bubbles! Not only do I enjoy sipping, discovering and sharing bubbles, I am lucky enough to find myself leading a winery that produces sparkling wines. Even more fun is that we experiment with non-traditional grape varieties and blends. When my husband Mike and I started Amista, we never envisioned that we would make sparkling wines.
Our first foray into bubbles came as a result of a class project by our consulting winemaker. He asked if he could have some of our Rosé of Syrah so his class could turn it into sparkling wine. We tasted the result and immediately decided we would make some ourselves. That was in 2008. In 2011, we added a sparkling Blanc de Blanc with the arrival of our new winemaker, Ashley Herzberg, who also loves bubbles.
Making sparkling wine added a whole new dimension to Amista and to our lives. We now make six different estate grown sparkling wines using the traditional method, the Methode Champenoise that is used to make fine French Champagne. We have a seventh scheduled for release in 2024. We were the first to produce a grower sparkling wine in Healdsburg, to offer a sparkling wine flight and a sparkling only wine club. By the way, we also have a collection of Rhône reds and white wines, meaning we have a little something for everyone.
I didn’t want to do the usual interview with the same old stale questions and rehearsed answers. I wanted to tell genuine stories from the thought leaders in sparkling wine – their hopes and dreams, their fears and failures. My previous career was focused on leadership – studying, coaching and helping develop leaders - and I am intrigued to uncover the experiences and lessons learned from remarkable leaders.
So, the blog is called Sparkling Conversations. I want it to feel like a conversation between friends rather than a formal interview. My goal is for the readers to discover something they wouldn’t have guessed or known about the person; to go deeper; to focus less on “the what” and more on “the why” and the “so what”; to uncover the life and leadership lessons from people who are making a difference in the world of sparkling wine.
Sparkling Discoveries combines two of my great joys – discovery and sparkling wine. When you’re doing something you love, it isn’t work. As I explained to Sarah, my dream is that the platform will foster a sense of connection among sparkling winemakers and enthusiasts and celebrate “the magic behind the sparkle.”
Read “Profiles in wine: Vicky Farrow launches Sparkling Discoveries, online community for sparkling wine lovers” by Sarah Doyle in the Press Democrat.
Wow! We are proud to be among so many wineries in Sonoma County who welcome our furry friends. “Finding dog-friendly wineries in these parts isn't all that ruff,” exclaims Dana Rebmann in SFGate. Her article lists dozens of Sonoma wineries that welcome pooches and their pet parents. The article continues, “A slew of Sonoma wineries not only welcome, but look forward to meeting the pampered pooches of their guests.”
We have always looked forward to welcoming dogs to Amista, with water bowls sprinkled around the solar covered patio and a jar of treats behind the bar. As owners, we live on the property and love walking our dogs around the vineyard. Torin and Dylan, our two Sheltie males, especially love to make a stop at the tasting room to meet the other dogs who may be visiting. And friendly doesn’t stop at dogs. Amista means “making friends” and we pride ourselves on a warm welcome for each and every one of our guests.
The description of Amista reads, “Dogs can enjoy the good life at this Healdsburg winery, lounging by their human’s side on the patio. Still and sparkling wine is available for tasting at Amista and reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.” Although there are many dog-friendly wineries on the list, Amista is one of the very few that offers sparkling wine tasting! We love introducing our lineup of estate grown, Methode Champenoise sparkling wines to our guests.
All our Rhône wines are grown in the estate vineyards that surround the solar covered patio, where you can sit back, sip and enjoy the views. Although the dogs seem oblivious to it, the humans enjoy the change of pace from the usual Cabernet, Pinot and Zinfandel flights offered at other Sonoma wineries. We have a selection of Rhône varieties, a sensational Rhône blend we call Tres and unique Rhône sparkling wines, along with a more traditional Blanc de Blanc.
The dogs surely won’t be oblivious to a walk around the vineyards while their humans partake in a self-guided vineyard tour. Grab a map and stop at each of the signs to learn about the grapes we grow, our commitment to sustainable farming, the habitat project designed to restore the natural environment for the Coho salmon and Steelhead trout in Dry Creek, and the 200-year-old heritage oak tree.
Check out the whole list at "These Sonoma wineries welcome pooches and their pet parents" by Dana Rebmann in SFGate.
And on your next trip to Healdsburg in Sonoma County, we invite you – with or without your best friends – to Taste with Us.
Thanks, Sonoma Magazine, for including our Vineyard Adventure walk in your list of gorgeous fall color hikes. It truly is the most glorious time of year to be in the vineyards – crisp fall air and a spectacular array of colors on the vines, from bright yellow to deep rust.
“Cooler temps and colorful foliage make autumn a great time of year for hitting the trails. In Sonoma County, you can reward yourself with a glass of wine after your hike,” explains Dana Rebman. She goes on to showcase 10 wonderful hikes across Sonoma County.
We especially want to invite you to visit Amista Vineyards in the heart of Dry Creek Valley. Afterwards, treat yourself to a tasting of our estate grown Rhône or sparkling wines on our solar covered patio. You’ll be surrounded by same vines you just saw on your walk.
Did you know that Amista, in partnership with the Sonoma County Winegrowers, created a vineyard walk that showcases the Habitat Enhancement Project designed to restore the natural fish habitat in Dry Creek? The flat half-mile stroll around our estate vineyards includes signs that educate walkers about the wines we make and describes the flora and fauna on the property, including the 200-year-old Heritage Oak Tree. The walk is complimentary for all, including dogs on leash and children. This is something fun for the whole family.
Read “7 Gorgeous Fall Color Hikes in Sonoma Wine Country” by Dana Rebman in Sonoma Magazine.
We would love to welcome you to Amista Vineyards in any season. Come Taste with Us.
Devin Parr published an article in Wine Country titled The Best Wines to Pair with Your Halloween Candy. Who would have thought that our Sparkling Syrah would pair with Smarties. Devin explains, “These sweet-tart tubes of tiny candy disks are a true Halloween staple. Those little bites have a sweet and fruity flavor profile and a uniquely chalky finish, perfect for pairing with a glass of crisp, cold, sparkling wine.”
If Smarties are not your thing, there are several other recommended pairings such as Twizzlers and Grenache, Starburst with Rosé or Milky Way with Cabernet. It may sound frivolous to pair wine with candy, but Devin holds a certification in wine expertise from the Apicius International School of Hospitality in Florence, Italy, as well as the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Diploma, so she knows what she’s doing.
In addition, trying different wines with a wide array of foods – even Halloween candy - is the best way to discover what flavors work with different varieties of wine. It is also the kind of practice that cements various flavors in your mind so you can identify them later.
Our winemaker, Ashley Herzberg, says a mentor once told her to write down everything she tastes and make notes to describe it. Doing this repeatedly creates the memories that allow you to identify even the most unusual flavors.
If on the other hand, you don’t especially care if you can identify a vast array of flavors, you may want to simply plan a Halloween wine tasting party. You can impress your friends with this unique spin on wine tasting and Devin’s article provides the perfect shopping list.
Wine Business Monthly today announced the launch of Sparkling Discoveries, an online community for sparkling wine lovers, makers and thought leaders. The press release goes on to explain that “the community aims to be the first brand-agnostic informational resource and hub for all things sparkling wine, including news, interviews and maker profiles, events, education, and more. Appropriately, the platform will officially launch on Global Champagne Day, this year falling on October 28, 2022.”
We are beyond excited about this launch. Our goal with Sparkling Discoveries is to create a brand-agnostic resource about all things sparkling wine. The centerpiece of the platform shines a light on the amazing people involved in sparkling wine, both in Sonoma County and beyond, by bringing their stories to life with in-depth interviews. Sonoma sparkling icons like Joy Sterling, Proprietor of Iron Horse Vineyards, Eileen Crane, retired founding winemaker and CEO of Domaine Carneros and Penny Gadd-Coster, of Rack and Riddle and Breathless Wines, are a few of the people featured in the initial launch of the platform.
Not surprisingly, Amista Winemaker Ashley Herzberg is among those featured and reveals how she fell in love with sparkling wine, making her first "grower sparkling wine", the bubblies she has in her refrigerator right now and what she hopes her children learn from her work as a winemaker.
Do you know someone we should feature? Nominate them for Sparkling Discoveries and help us build the community.
Concurrent with the launch of the new platform, Sparkling Discoveries is introducing a campaign focused on the trailblazers within the sparkling wine industry. The “Sparkling Stars” program invites sparkling wine lovers, wine professionals, and the community at large to nominate those who are making an impact on the growth, promotion, and future of sparkling wine. Nominations will be open until December 31, which marks National Champagne Day.
Sparkling Discoveries will also feature a “Sparkling 101” section with articles and guides on various topics pertaining to sparkling wine, such as the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine, Methode Champenoise defined and dosage basics. The goal is for Sparkling Discoveries to become THE definitive resource for the sparkling wine community.
We have big plans for Sparkling Discoveries, which is the first resource of its kind. We look forward to bringing the exciting world of sparkling wine to life for those in the industry as well as wine lovers who want to dig deeper into what this celebrated beverage is all about.
Photo by Craig Outhier
Phoenix Magazine just published an article called “Healdsburg Wine Tour”, and we were excited to be among the wineries they showcased. The article says, “Amista Vineyards, known for its sparkling wines, the winery has a comfortable patio with scenic views of its 20-acre vineyard and Mount St. Helena. We enjoy getting a tongues-on primer in the art of making bubbly while noshing on the winery’s excellent charcuterie board, much of it derived from the on-site farm and garden.” The article reminded us how much we adore our little town of Healdsburg and how much fun it is to share it with visitors.
When we first started visiting Healdsburg in the 1983, it was a sleepy small town with wineries in the surrounding countryside and a couple of great restaurants. Since then, it has been discovered and is now a popular destination. It has remained small and charming but can no longer be described as sleepy. On most days, the downtown is bustling with people checking out the shops around the town square or sitting on a park bench under the trees overlooking the fountain.
We now have many more great places to dine, and the town is packed with art galleries, boutiques and unique tasting rooms. The article describes all our favorites and goes on to say, “And for a town of 11,000, it boasts one of the densest hospitality biomes you’ll find in California, which explains all those best-small-town accolades. It’s quaint and seasoned, but unmistakably upscale.”
“Still, the thing I love best about the Sonoma County town is leaving it – or more precisely, hopping on a bike and gliding around the rolling, winery-encrusted foothills just a few miles up the road,” the writer declares.
Agreed! There are more wineries in Dry Creek Valley than there were when we first visited, including Amista Vineyards! The idea of starting a winery wasn’t even in the back of our minds in 1983 when we first saw Healdsburg while visiting from our home state of Colorado. It was nearly two decades and a trek from one coast to the other (Colorado to Silicon Valley to New Jersey to Nevada) before we moved to Healdsburg in 2002. We launched Amista in 2004.
Our little cottage, that we think was first built around 1918, is surrounded by vineyards. I never get tired of waking up to the vines outside our bedroom window. It is a pleasure to walk the vineyard each day with our two Shelties, Dylan and Torin, and pop into our tasting room to meet our guests. We’re in the heart of the bucolic countryside and yet only five miles from our adopted hometown of Healdsburg.
If you visit Healdsburg, we invite you to Taste with Us at Amista Vineyards in the heart of Dry Creek Valley. We specialize in estate grown, Methode Champenoise sparkling wines and Rhône varieties. Soak up our gorgeous vineyard and valley views and experience a friendly Amista welcome (Amista means “making friends” in Spanish).
Read more in “Healdsburg Wine Tour”, by Craig Outhier for Phoenix Magazine.
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