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.
We have always grown Chardonnay grapes on our estate Morningsong Vineyards, and we have come to love creating new wines from it. Today we offer four ways to enjoy Chardonnay and another coming in 2024 for our 20th anniversary.
On August 17, 2022, winemaker Ashley harvested Chardonnay from the "Lemonade Block" to make a special sparkling wine – yet to be named. We will release it in 2024 to celebrate Amista’s 20th anniversary.
We found our Dry Creek Vineyard in 1999 – on the internet! We were living in New Jersey at the time and my husband Mike was yearning to return to California where he had made his first wine in our garage. We have always loved the town of Healdsburg and the Dry Creek Valley, which we first discovered when we visited from our home state of Colorado back in 1983. So, finding a vineyard here was a dream come true.
Our love affair with Sonoma County and Healdsburg continued after we moved from Colorado to Silicon Valley. Perhaps our frequent visits were what inspired Mike to plant a backyard vineyard on a hillside at our home in Saratoga, California, and then to try his hand at making wine in our garage. Back then, making wine and growing grapes were brand new hobbies for Mike.
But the hobbies were cut short when I got a job offer in New Jersey. We never saw our vineyard produce grapes because the vines were only a year old when we left. Fortunately, the wine Mike made in the garage was in a barrel that we took with us to New Jersey and aged in our basement. After a few years, the Cabernet Sauvignon was ready to drink. We shared it with friends who declared it to be delicious and Mike’s secret dream of becoming a winemaker was fortified.
That is what prompted him to start looking for properties near Healdsburg and led us to this beautiful 28-acre vineyard located in the heart of Dry Creek Valley. At that time, the entire vineyard was planted in Chardonnay. Over the years, we have replanted every vine and replaced some of the Chardonnay with Rhône varieties.
Ironically, we didn’t even make Chardonnay during our inaugural year in 2003 because it wasn’t one of our favorites, even though over half the vineyard was planted in Chardonnay at that time. We were persuaded to make our first Chardonnay in 2004 by two of our club members and we have made it ever since. We decided to make an unoaked Chardonnay (fermented in neutral oak barrels) which was unusual for California Chardonnays of that era. We much preferred it to the big oaky Chardonnays and we’ve continued to make it in that style throughout the years.
We made our first sparkling wine in 2008 from our estate Syrah grapes and it quickly became a cult favorite. When our winemaker, Ashley Herzberg, joined us in 2011, the two of us immediately conspired to make a Blanc de Blanc from our Chardonnay because we both adore sparkling wines.
I am especially delighted that we started making it because Blanc de Blanc has become my “go-to” wine! A glass of “Blanc” marks the end of my workday and a time to throw frisbees for the dogs as we sit on the deck and enjoy looking out over our Chardonnay vines. Often, we enjoy the Blanc de Blanc with our entire meal.
It didn’t take long for Ashley to add more sparkling wines to our collection. Every wine we made during our early years was from a single variety (except Ilusión, a port-style dessert wine, but that’s a story for another time). Although making single varietal wines requires skill and has its own set of challenges due to the vagaries of weather and water with each vintage, winemakers love to do blends.
So, it was no surprise that Ashley wanted to make a sparkling blend and created a wine we call Fusión, made from Chardonnay with a kiss of Grenache and a bit of either Syrah or Mourvèdre.
I have also fallen in love with Cristalina, our newest Chardonnay, fermented in a concrete “egg”. The idea of making a second Chardonnay emerged in a conversation about how we could use more of our estate fruit in our Amista wines. Winemaker Ashley threw out the idea of fermenting a Chardonnay in concrete, which sounded intriguing.
She went off to research concrete fermentation vessels and came back with a proposal to acquire a concrete egg. She knew exactly the one she wanted, called an “Oeuf de Beaune”, a concrete fermenter in the shape of an egg imported from France.
Ashley describes how the egg shape creates a natural circulating effect while the grape juice is fermenting on the yeast and exposes the wine both to air at the top of the vessel and to the concrete, which heightens the sense of minerality that is naturally present in the wine from our rocky vineyard soil.
Want to learn more about "the egg" and its affect on the wine? Check out the "Concrete Egg" video from Ashley.
Come Taste With Us and discover Chardonnay Four Ways from grapes harvested in our Morningsong estate vineyards, or treat yourself to our Rhône reds and sparkling wines.
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