Virginie Boone, a noted journalist who writes about Napa and Sonoma wines for publications like Wine Enthusiast, the New York Times and Food and Wine, featured a wonderful list of vineyard specific bubbles for the holidays. We are honored that our Amista Sparkling Grenache was among the wines she recommended. Boone describes it as, “Made in a Brut Nature style from estate vineyards, this is a bright, fruit-forward and fun bottling that remains balanced in the glass.”
It is refreshing to see a list of vineyard specific sparkling wines. Virginie writes a weekly series called “The Good Stuff” for the Sonoma County Winegrowers, so it is fitting to celebrate the vineyards where the grapes are grown. Boone encourages people to explore sparkling wines from Sonoma County saying, “Take that exploration up a notch by choosing a vineyard-designated sparkling wine, which’ll highlight who farmed the grapes and where.”
Check out her recommendations at Vineyard-specific Sonoma County Bubbles for New Year’s on the Good Stuff blog by Virginie Boone.
Our Sparkling Grenache is the only wine on the list not made from Chardonnay or Pinot Noir grapes. Those two varieties are the traditional grapes used most often in Champagne and in many sparkling wines around the world.
At Amista, we love to create non-traditional sparkling wines using the Rhône varieties grown on our estate, including Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and blends of the three. We also honor tradition with our Amista Blanc de Blanc, made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, which we’ve made every year since 2011.
In 2024 we will debut a second Blanc de Blanc called Amistara to celebrate Amista’s 20th anniversary. Amistara is a vineyard designated wine from our own estate, Morningsong Vineyards. It is even more special because it comes from one small block of Chardonnay growing on the famous Wente clone root stock.
The Amista Sparkling Wine and Caviar Tasting was showcased in the annual Holiday Wine and Gift Guide for 2023 by the Jet Setting Fashionista, declaring, “Amista Vineyards produces some stunning Sonoma Sparkling Wines which are perfect for holiday gifting or just to enjoy day to day. My favorite is the Blanc De Blanc, which is perfect year-round.” JSF goes on to say, “for Christmas what’s more festive than their Sparkling Syrah?”
A caviar tasting has become a delicious way to make an Amista wine tasting even more special. It includes caviar from the California Caviar Company, crème fraiche and crispy sea salt kettle cooked potato chips.
Since launching Amista in 2004, we made Syrah from our estate Morningsong Vineyards located in the heart of Dry Creek Valley just outside the town of Healdsburg. In 2005 we ended up making a Rosé of Syrah. It wasn’t exactly planned but turned out to be a happy accident.
Amista founder Mike, was supervising the pick of the Syrah in the middle of the night and in his enthusiasm, picked more than originally planned. It fit in the tank at the winery, but it was too full to allow for the process of fermentation. So, Mike had some of the juice put in barrels with the plan to blend it back with the rest of the Syrah after fermentation was complete. All it took was one taste to decide to bottle the juice and make our first rosé. It was a big hit.
In 2007, our winemaker asked if he could have some Syrah rosé juice to make a sparkling wine in his winemaking class using the traditional Methode Champenoise. We thought that was a great idea, especially if we could taste it. It was delicious, and in 2008 we decided to try making our own Sparkling Syrah. It turned out to be both luscious and beautiful – a glittering raspberry color – with tiny pink bubbles. We’ve been making it ever since and this uncommon sparkling wine has developed a cult following.
Sparkling Syrah is wonderful for the holidays. It looks festive on a holiday table and pairs beautifully with the wide array of holiday dishes – roast turkey, ham, stuffing, cranberries, and sweet potatoes.
It’s also a great choice for a barbecue. It can stand up to ribs, sausages, and pork, and it offers a refreshing counterpoint to the richness of grilled meats or the perfect companion to barbecued shrimp.
Our Sparkling Syrah is surprisingly versatile. It goes spicy pizzas, a variety of appetizers, like cranberry and goat cheese in phyllo cups, as well as desserts like a creamy panna cotta with a raspberry coulis. And it’s perfect with spicy stir fry’s, Thai dishes, curries, and sushi.
Check out the Holiday Wine Gift Guide 2023.
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Amista Vineyards co-founder Mike Farrow, who died at the age of 80 in hospice care on December 4, 2023. His wife and Amista co-founder, Vicky shared details of Mike’s health challenges in a blog post in August. Ultimately, he never fully recovered after contracting sepsis from an injury sustained during a fall earlier this year.
Mike’s wife Vicky, Amista’s CEO, will continue to lead the winery and carry on the spirit of Amista with the help of their dedicated team. She invites those who knew Mike to come by the tasting room anytime to raise a glass in his honor.
It was Mike’s inspiration that led to the founding of Amista Vineyards with Vicky in 2004. The journey actually started in 1994 when he decided to plant 150 vines on their property in Saratoga, California, to solve a landscaping problem. Shortly thereafter, he started dabbling in making wine in their garage. Mike immediately fell in love with the alchemy of turning grapes into wine and sharing this love with others, including the many friends along the way who encouraged Mike and Vicky to found Amista. The winery name, as anyone who’s ever been to the tasting room knows, roughly means “making friends” in Spanish.
Mike retired to “Winemaker Emeritus” with the appointment of Ashley Herzberg as winemaker in 2011. Their friendship and collaboration over the years resulted in the expansion of Amista’s wine program, notably the planting of additional Rhône varietals and the creation of Mike’s favorite wine, a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, which they named Tres. Ashley and Vicky ultimately persuaded Mike that they should launch what has become a growing portfolio of estate sparkling wines.
Mike was born in 1943 in Boulder, Colorado, as the sixth in a line of eight boys to parents Mason, a chemist and Elizabeth, a teacher. After attending the University of Colorado Boulder and then going on to earn a PhD in chemistry from Oklahoma State University, he performed research and taught at the University of Utah, and then joined IBM as a research chemist. While at IBM he met Vicky, and they were married in Boulder in 1983. Mike is survived by his wife, his brothers Joe, Bob, and Tom, brother-in-law Chuck Goudge and many nieces and nephews, and his faithful shelties Torin and Dylan.
A celebration of Mike’s life is planned for the spring, and his legacy will be honored throughout 2024 as part of our 20th anniversary celebrations. We will share more details early next year, in the meantime, please come by for a special pour of Tres in his honor.
Cheers to you Mike, we tip our hats to you!
Mike and Vicky have been longtime supporters of Sonoma County’s Career Technical Education Foundation. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to support the foundation’s work to provide hands-on, career-connected learning opportunities to local students at https://ctesonomacounty.org/support-us/
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