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Amista Vineyards

News from Amista Vineyards

Amista Vineyards
 
January 22, 2022 | Amista Vineyards

Dog Friendly Wine Tasting in Sonoma

Sparkling Wine Tasting at Amista Vineyards, Healdsburg, California

Amista is Dog Friendly!

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.

Amista Has Gorgeous Views

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.

Amista Has the Perfect Dog Walk

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.

Amista Has Unique Sparkling Wines

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 Making Friends

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.

Time Posted: Jan 22, 2022 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Dog Friendly Wine Tasting in Sonoma Permalink
Amista Vineyards
 
January 12, 2022 | Amista Vineyards

Best 5 Sparkling Wine Tastings in Sonoma

Sparkling Wine Tasting Flight at Amista Vineyards, Healdsburg, California

“Amista Vineyards, Healdsburg – Approachable and unique sparkling wines produced from a variety of grapes. This is a laid-back wine tasting experience out of their modern yet rustic barn. Take a walk along their vineyard trail and enjoy delicious Dry Creek Valley sparkling wine.” ~  Vlada and Shawn Walker, owners North Bay Wine Tours"

 

Sparkling Wines – Not Just for Special Occasions Anymore!

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.

Amista Vineyards - First Sparkling Winery in Healdsburg

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!

The Journey to Sparkling Wines at Amista Vineyards

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.

The First Sparkling Wine Club in Healdsburg

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.

Sparkling Wine Tasting Flight – Anticipation!

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.

A Collection of Sparkling Wines at Amista

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.

Unique Sparkling Wines

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.

Made in the Traditional Methode Champenoise

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.

A Sparkling Tasting at Amista

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

 

Time Posted: Jan 12, 2022 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Best 5 Sparkling Wine Tastings in Sonoma Permalink
Vicky Farrow
 
January 6, 2022 | Vicky Farrow

Becoming the First Sparkling Winery in Healdsburg, 5 Surprising Discoveries

It's Not a Destination, It's a Journey

Sparkling Syrah from Amista Vineyards - Joy in a Bottle

...and it's been both exhilarating and challenging. Here's what I've discovered.

 

 

We never thought we’d be in the wine business let alone be the first sparkling winery in Healdsburg. The creation of Amista Vineyards was a dream that my husband Mike and I never knew we had and never knew we shared. It emerged slowly over time. When we started, we made Chardonnay and Syrah from our estate Morningsong Vineyards and Zinfandel and Cabernet from the vineyards of our neighbors in Dry Creek Valley, in Healdsburg, California.

Becoming the first sparkling winery in Healdsburg wasn’t part of our plan, although to be honest, in those days we didn’t really have a plan. It all started when we made our first sparkling wine in 2008. That was five years after our first harvest in 2003, when we picked for red wines - Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

We are now known as the sparkling wine house in Dry Creek Valley in Healdsburg, California with six sparkling wines, a sparkling wine club and a sparkling wine tasting flight. It’s been an exhilarating journey of opportunities, setbacks, surprises, and a lot of lessons learned. Here are my five surprising discoveries.

Be open to serendipity

Discovery #1.  Embrace serendipity because accidents and unexpected happenings present opportunities.

Seize the opportunity

Discovery #2. Seizing opportunities has been an important part of our journey to becoming a sparkling winery. I will admit that Mike is better at this than me. I like to research and think things through before acting. But when I’ve allowed myself to take the leap, it’s always turned out to be a good thing.

Full speed ahead

Discovery #3. When you’re on a roll keep going. Building on your successes creates momentum and energy in your team. Externally, it creates a buzz and tells the world that you are committed to building something bigger than just a one-time offering.

Keep innovating

Discovery #4. Experiment - don’t be afraid to fail. Trying new things is sometimes the only way to know what will happen. Often, the experiments are great successes. Sometimes they fail. So, I like the to remind myself of the two sides of the same coin: “when you’re on a roll, keep going” and “when you’re in a rut, quit digging”.

Bend, don’t break

Discovery #5. Be flexible AND stay true to what is most important. This is a fine line to walk, and we haven’t always gotten it right. It’s helpful to remind ourselves of the things that are fundamental to our values and our brand and the things that can change over time as circumstance and experience evolve.

We are proud to be the first sparkling winery in Healdsburg, with estate grown fruit from our vineyards in Dry Creek Valley and honored to stand alongside the pioneering sparkling wine houses that came before us and paved the path for sparkling wineries in Sonoma County.

 

 

Still Thirsty?

Here are a few of the stories that illustrate the things I’ve discovered on the journey to becoming a sparkling wine house in Dry Creek Valley.

Be open to serendipity

I’m convinced we would not be Healdsburg’s first sparkling winery if it weren’t for a series of happy accidents.

Prevent a Spillover, Create a Rosé

In September 2005, we decided to try harvesting our Syrah by machine. Mike was in the vineyard at night (machine harvesting is typically done at night when it’s cool) supervising the pick. He was enthralled watching the machine go up and down the rows and got so excited that he kept asking the operator to pick more rows. He didn’t want to stop.

The next morning, he was still reveling over his midnight pick when he got a call from someone at the winery. They told him he had 10 tons of Syrah grapes in a 10-ton fermentation tank, and when the wine started fermenting, it was going to bubble over, go all over the floor and he was going to have to clean it up.

He swiftly moved into action and had 200 gallons moved from the tank to neutral barrels. Neutral barrels have been used in prior years and impart no oak to the wine. His idea was that once the Syrah in the tank was fermented and moved to barrels, he would combine it with the juice he had removed.

In early January of 2006, we went down to the winery with our winemaker, Chris Wills, to taste all the wine in barrels. We decided to taste the wine that had been removed to avoid the spillover. It had spent very little time on the skins, so it was a rosé rather than a red wine. We tasted it. It was fantastic. We decided on the spot to keep it separate from the other Syrah and bottle it as our first Rosé of Syrah. This was step number one in the serendipity that would lead to our first sparkling wine.

Sparkling Syrah from a Class Winemaking Project

Step number two didn’t occur until two years later. Our Rosé of Syrah had become a big hit and we continued to make it each year. In 2007, Chris (our winemaker who helped us decide to make our first rosé) asked if he could have some of the current vintage of our Rosé of Syrah to use to teach his class at the junior college how to make a sparkling wine using the classic Methode Champenoise. This is the method used to make fine French Champagne. We immediately said yes, on the condition that we got to try the finished product.

When we tasted it, we knew we had to make more for ourselves and our friends. We sent one barrel each of our 2007 and 2008 Rosé of Syrah, to a custom crush winery specializing in sparkling wines. This is where the second fermentation in the bottle was done, transforming a still wine into a sparkling wine. We released it in 2009 at our first Sparkling Holidays party. Mike celebrated the occasion with what has now become a tradition at this party of opening the bottle with a saber.

Discovery #1.  Embrace serendipity because accidents and unexpected happenings present opportunities.

Seize the opportunity

Some opportunities present themselves in a flash and you must decide with no time for research or reflection. Others only occur to you if you are open to change. Some feel like they were just meant to be.

Our First Rosé – From Problem to Opportunity

Mike had just a few hours to figure out what to do with the excess Syrah in the 10-ton fermenter before it spilled over forcing him to don rubber boots (he didn’t have any) and wash the spillage down the drain with a big hose. Fixing that problem created an opportunity – a chance to make our first rosé.

OK Rosé – Trust Your Intuition

Sometimes opportunities are unseen because of a mindset of “this is how we do things”. We had never made a rosé in our early years in the wine business. It wasn’t something we even considered. We hadn’t done any customer research to see if anyone would like it much less buy it. Rosés are popular now in the U.S. but that wasn’t the case then. When we tasted it and loved it, we immediately decided we’d find a way to market it. I’ve learned that listening to intuition can be a path to innovation.

Sparkling Syrah – It Just Felt Right

On the other hand, seizing the opportunity was a piece of cake when we made the decision to make a sparkling wine from our Rosé of Syrah, at least for me. Although making a sparkling wine is far more complicated and expensive than making a still wine, I was undeterred.

It helped that our winemaker, Chris, had experience with sparkling wines and knew of a new winery specializing in making sparkling wines that had recently emerged on the local wine scene. Making it ourselves would have been impossible but partnering with a custom crush operation could make it viable. Besides, I love bubbles and thought it would be fun to make our Rosé of Syrah sparkle!

Discovery #2. Seizing opportunities has been an important part of our journey to becoming a sparkling winery. I will admit that Mike is better at this than me. I like to research and think things through before acting. But when I’ve allowed myself to take the leap, it’s always turned out to be a good thing.

Full speed ahead

We had three years of making Sparkling Syrah under our belt and I was ready to move full speed ahead with another sparkling wine.

Next Stop – Sparkling Blanc de Blanc

Ashley Herzberg joined as our new winemaker in 2011 and I asked her if she thought we could make a Blanc de Blanc from our chardonnay grapes. She had never made a sparkling wine, but she too loves bubbles and said, “Absolutely”.

 A few months later we harvested some of our Chardonnay to make our first Blanc de Blanc. 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. I absolutely fell in love with this wine, and it continues to be my go-to bubbly. There’s nothing like personal satisfaction and public recognition to encourage full speed ahead, so we kept going!

On a Roll – More Sparkling Wines and Healdsburg’s First Sparkling Wine Club

In 2013 we started making not one, not two, but three sparkling wines to add to our portfolio, a Sparkling Grenache, a vintage Blanc de Blanc (technically a late disgorged version of our Blanc de Blanc) and our first sparkling blend called Fusión.

In 2014 we launched Healdsburg’s first sparkling wine club at the annual Passport, Dry Creek Valley's premiere food and wine event. Then in 2016 our Sparkling Mataró made its debut and in February 2022, we will release our second sparkling blend called Sparkling Tres, another rosé, made from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.

Discovery #3. When you’re on a roll keep going. Building on your successes creates momentum and energy in your team. Externally, it creates a buzz and tells the world that you are committed to building something bigger than just a one-time offering.

Keep innovating

Sparkling Wines from Non-Traditional Grapes

Our first sparkling wine was made with a grape that is never used in classic French Champagne, Syrah. Tradionally, Champagne and sparkling wines are made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. The Australians make a bubbly called Sparkling Shiraz from the Syrah grape, but it is a very deep red color and slightly sweet. Our Sparkling Syrah is a rosé, glittering cranberry in color and quite dry.

Most of the grapes we grow on our own vineyards are Rhône varieties – Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Using those grapes rather than the classic Champagne varieties, is one of the ways we innovate. The other non-traditional approach we take is to produce sparkling wines from single vintages. Although we don’t vintage date them, each bottling comes from a single year (except that first Sparkling Syrah). Most Champagnes and sparkling wines are blends from several vintages. We have the luxury of beautiful California weather, so we don’t need to save the “good years” to blend with the bad.

Glittering Sparkling Wines in Non-traditional Bottles

In addition to using non-traditional varieties, we also use non-traditional bottles. Most sparkling wine is bottled in dark green glass. This makes sense because the dark glass protects the delicate wine from the bright lights in the wine shops. Since we don’t sell our wine in shops – only from our website, tasting room and wine club – we get the privilege of using clear glass bottles.

This just plain makes me happy because lining up our sparkling wines creates a glittering array of precious gems. I love seeing the color of the wine in the bottle – from the gorgeous gold of our Blanc to the blush-colored Fusión all the way to the deep cranberry color of the sparkling Syrah. I’m not sure anyone else cares, but there should be some things about owning a winery that make the owner smile, right?

Healdsburg’s First Sparkling Wine Club, with a Twist

Another innovation was the introduction of the first sparkling wine club in Healdsburg. We were eager to launch it in April of 2014 at Passport, the premiere food and wine event in Dry Creek Valley, but we only had two sparkling wines at that time. We knew we had others coming, but we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to introduce our club to so many people. We decided to borrow from the idea of selling wine futures. People could sign up for our sparkling wine club in April and purchase their first shipment which would arrive later in the year. It worked!

Dosage Trial Tastings – a Big Flop

A big part of being innovating is taking risks and not being afraid to fail. We had what we thought was a brilliant idea to offer “Dosage Trial Tastings”. The tasting would be led by Ashley, our winemaker, and guests would experience the process of deciding on the dosage (the dose of sugar syrup) to be added to the wine to achieve the perfect balance and mouthfeel. The dosage level also determines whether a sparkling wine is designated as Brut, Extra Brut or Brut Nature (dryer) or Sec, Demi-sec and Doux (sweeter).

Dosage trials are one of my most favorite parts of having a sparkling wine house. In fact, all of us love doing them but apparently no one else did. Another local sparkling house started offering them right after we did. I guess it seemed like a good idea to the producers, but the dogs weren’t eating the dog food. We dropped them. Now we offer a sparkling flight of our bubbles which is wildly popular.

Late Disgorged Blanc de Blanc – Complicated and Expensive

Another thing we tried was making a late disgorged Blanc de Blanc. For many reasons, it turned out to be more complicated and expensive to produce than we expected and there were several production mishaps. We dropped the wine from our lineup after a couple of vintages, but this is one we’re going to revisit. Stay tuned!

Discovery #4. Experiment - don’t be afraid to fail. Trying new things is sometimes the only way to know what will happen. Often, the experiments are great successes. Sometimes they fail. So, I like the to remind myself of the two sides of the same coin: “when you’re on a roll, keep going” and “when you’re in a rut, quit digging”.

Bend, don’t break

I’ve talked a lot about being flexible, open, and resourceful and those have been crucial parts of our journey. At the same time, it’s important to stay true to your values and your brand. For us, the quality of the wine and the quality of the partnerships with our guests and our team are fundamental.

Committed to the Traditional Methode Champenoise

We use non-traditional glass and non-traditional grapes, but all our sparkling wines are made using the traditional method for making fine French Champagne and sparkling wines. The grapes are picked at a lower brix level (sugar content) and the wine goes through a second fermentation in its own bottle. There are other less expensive and time-consuming ways to produce bubbles, but we remain committed to the traditional process because it delivers the highest quality sparkling wine.

Partnering with our Employees During the COVID Shutdown

One of the things we value is partnership, with our customers and with our team. When our tasting room was shut down due to COVID, it was another of those anxious moments – a huge challenge with no clear path forward. We decided to keep all our full-time employees on board and offer as many hours to our part-time team members as we could. Instead of working in the tasting room, they got on the phones from home and called our customers about their wine club orders.

We sent each team member a care package of wine and did a virtual tasting - one wine each week. The wine tasting was fun, but more important was the fact that we were staying connected and supporting each other through unchartered territory. And we connected with our members in the same way – virtually – enjoying not only wine tasting together but support and camaraderie.

A Sparkling Wine House Must Have a Sparkling Flight

Once it became clear that we were a sparkling wine house and not just a winery that makes a sparkling wine, we realized we had to offer a bubbles flight to our guests. We offer a beautiful flight of reds and whites, but how can you be a legitimate sparkling winery without also offering a sparkling flight?

This was one of my pet peeves about sparkling houses before we became one. Most sparkling wineries also make Chardonnays and Pinots since those are the two common varieties in sparkling wine. Being a lover of bubbles, when I came to visit, I wanted to taste sparkling wines, but all the flights were a mix of sparkling, Chardonnay and Pinot.

Now I understand it’s easier said than done. Although we produce several different sparkling wines, some of them are very limited production and they sell out a few months after release. You can’t have a sparkling flight with just one wine on the menu, so we have had to work hard juggling releases and wine club allocations so we can offer a flight of sparkling.

Discovery #5. Be flexible AND stay true to what is most important. This is a fine line to walk, and we haven’t always gotten it right. It’s helpful to remind ourselves of the things that are fundamental to our values and our brand and the things that can change over time as circumstance and experience evolve.

We are proud to be the first sparkling winery in Healdsburg, with estate grown fruit from our vineyards in Dry Creek Valley and honored to stand alongside the pioneering sparkling houses that came before us and paved the path for sparkling wineries in Sonoma County.

 

Time Posted: Jan 6, 2022 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Becoming the First Sparkling Winery in Healdsburg, 5 Surprising Discoveries Permalink

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