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Amista Vineyards

News from Amista Vineyards

Vicky Farrow
 
September 6, 2021 | Vicky Farrow

5 Reasons to Love Sparkling Wine

My top 5 reasons to pop the cork!

A Trio of Sparkling Wines from Amista Vineyards with Flowers and Vineyard in the Background

...but it doesn't seem fair to have just five!

 

 

  1. I love the sound of a cork being popped. It's joyous! Champagne experts advise that the cork should sound like a sigh when it's removed properly. I say, "no way". I like to hear the pop!

  2. I love to see sparkling wine being poured into a glass as the tiny bubbles bring the wine to life. I tilt the glass slightly to preserve the bubbles rather than have them dissipate into foam.

  3. I love the sensation of the bubbles tickling my tongue like little stars exploding on the tastebuds. All the more reason to preserve those bubbles!

  4. I love to see the bubbles rising from the bottom of a Champagne flute. It's trendy these days to drink sparkling wine from a larger glass. I know it enhances the aromas, but it can kill the bubbles.

  5. I love that sparkling wines go with such a wide array of foods. We often have a bottle of sparkling with dinner, especially with spicy foods that are hard to pair with other wines.

 

Still Thirsty?

My top five reasons to love sparkling wine probably need no further explanation, however for those of you who have just popped the cork on a bottle of Champagne or other sparkling wine and want a little more detail while you’re sipping your bubbly, here are the answers to your burning questions.

What is the professional way to open a bottle of sparkling wine?

The professionals say that when removing the cork from a bottle of Champagne or other sparkling wine it should sound like a whisper or a sigh. This is the most controlled way to open the bottle and ensures no precious bubbles are lost.

Of course, I love the sound of a cork being popped. You can still open the bottle safely and treat yourself and your friends to that celebratory “pop”. First, make sure the bottle is chilled, and after removing the foil, hold your thumb over the wire hood while you untwist the cage. Then holding the bottle in one hand, tilt it 45 degrees, and with the palm of your other hand grab the cork and cage. Twist the bottle – not the cork - until the cork comes out with a pop.

If you want your friends to think you’re a sommelier or don’t want them to know you’re opening yet another bottle, follow the same steps as above but hold you palm very firmly over the cork and twist the bottle very slowly to achieve the “whisper” or “sigh”.

In all cases, be sure to point the bottle away from anyone. No matter how careful I am, every so often, the cork comes bursting out before I’m ready for it. Other times, the bubbles start overflowing from the bottle – I never know why because our bottles are always well chilled – and my first instinct is to stand the bottle upright, so the wine doesn’t come bubbling out. Wrong! It’s counter intuitive, I know, but the best way to keep too much wine from spilling is to keep the bottle at 45 degrees until the foaming stops.

Why do you tilt the glass when pouring sparkling wine?

Tilting the glass allows the sparkling wine to flow gently down the side of the glass as it is poured slowly out of the bottle. It’s also helpful to pause for a few seconds after pouring a small amount into the glass before resuming a slow pour. This allows the effervescence to subside preventing excessive foam.

How do I preserve the bubbles after opening a sparkling wine?

Opening the bottle carefully (#1) and pouring it gently into the glass (#2) are key to preserving the bubbles. Did you know that for every carbon dioxide molecule that turns into a bubble, four others escape into the air? So, pouring gently is very important. Once I’ve poured my bubbles, I put a champagne stopper on the bottle and put it back in an ice bucket or in the refrigerator.

People often tell me they don’t drink sparkling wine because they don’t want the whole bottle at one time and it goes flat (I say, invite more friends!). Now I will confess that a bottle does not last long in our house, especially now that my beer-drinking husband has decided to replace beer with bubbles. Nevertheless, I have found that a bottle of bubbles will keep for as long as a week with a proper stopper. The only time it doesn’t work is when there is less than a glass left in the bottle.

What is the proper glass for Champagne or any sparkling wine?

The answer is that the proper glass has changed over the centuries, partly because Champagne and sparkling wine have changed – becoming more effervescent, dryer and more aromatic. Tastes has also changed. In the 17th century, “most of the wines made during this time were only lightly effervescent and pink. For the English, the coupe was the ideal glass to show off the charms of their favorite beverage,” according to Vivino News, Tips and Tricks.

Later the flute, or flûte à Champagne became the proper glass. Scenes of tall, elegant glasses being raised in a toast come to mind and evoke celebration. Flutes are usually notched inside the base causing that beautiful stream of bubbles rising in the glass. I must admit, I love flutes, the taller the better, and I love watching that stream of bubbles ascend and create a little ring on the top of the liquid.

Lately, I have come to appreciate a glass more closely resembling a white wine glass, with one condition – it must be notched. I want to see, and I want everyone around me to see that it is sparkling in my glass! If you can’t tell it’s sparkling wine by the shape of the glass, then you must have the telltale stream of tiny, elegant bubbles floating up through the wine.

What kind of foods go with sparkling wines?

Probably the most surprising thing I’ve come to appreciate about sparkling wine over the years we’ve been making it is that it can be enjoyed with a variety of foods and can be the featured wine for the whole meal. Before we started crafting our own sparkling wines, I assumed it was something to drink at weddings or brunches – although that was usually cheap sparkling wine mixed with orange juice. How else could a restaurant afford “bottomless mimosas”?

I could write a book on all the wonderful meals that go with sparkling wines. We now make six different sparkling wines, and we have fun trying them with specific dishes. We continue to experiment. Here are a few of my current favorites:

  • Amista Blanc de Blanc with fried chicken
  • Amista Sparkling Syrah with Sushi
  • Amista Fusion with Spicy Shrimp and Broccoli Stir Fry
  • Amista Sparkling Grenache with Pumpkin Gnocchi in brown butter sauce
  • Amista Sparkling Mataró with Chicken and Sausage Paella
  • Amista Sparkling Tres – stay tuned; we release this in February 2022
Vicky Farrow
 
August 2, 2021 | Vicky Farrow

Why You Should Try Sparkling Syrah, and not Hide Yours in the Closet

No, It's not icky and sweet!

Sparkling Syrah from Amista Vineyards - Joy in a Bottle

...although Winemaker Ashley thought it would be. She stuck hers in the closet. Learn what she discovered.

 

 

Who would have thought of making a sparkling wine from Syrah? Oh yeah, the Aussies. They call it sparkling shiraz.  It's deep red in color and typically somewhat sweet.

Ours is a rosé, cranberry in color and dry. I call it "joy in a bottle". It's festive! It shimmers! It's delicious!

But Winemaker Ashley Herzberg wasn't so sure. She received two bottles as a gift from my husband Mike when she became our winemaker. She stuck it in her closet thinking it would be icky and sweet. One night she pulled it out to serve to her girlfriends - a good way to get rid of it. They immediately started raving about it so she took a taste. She became a convert and has been making and sipping  "joy" ever since. 


 

Still Thirsty?

If, like Ashley, you’re still not convinced to try Sparkling Syrah, here is a bit more information to tease your palate.

What is Sparking Shiraz?

Sparkling Shiraz is an Australian tradition, first produced in 1878. Fine Sparkling Shiraz is made using the Méthode Traditionnelle, the same process used for making French Champagne (and all our Amista sparkling wines), where the wine undergoes a second fermentation in its own bottle to produce the bubbles. It is made from the Shiraz grape, also known as Syrah, a dark-skinned grape variety grown throughout the world and used primarily to produce red wine.

The story I’ve always heard – although I don’t know if it has any basis in reality - is that Sparkling Shiraz became popular for the holidays, which happen in the summertime in the Southern Hemisphere. It has the body to go with holiday meals while also being refreshing due to the effervescence and the fact that it is served slightly chilled.

How did Amista Decide to Make Sparkling Syrah?

Since launching Amista in 2004, we’d been making Chardonnay and Syrah from our estate vineyards in the heart of Dry Creek Valley just outside the charming town of Healdsburg. We also made Zinfandel and Cabernet with fruit from our Dry Creek neighbors.

In 2005 we decided to make a Rosé of Syrah. It was a big hit. In 2007, our winemaker asked if he could have some of the rosé juice to make a sparkling wine in his winemaking class using the traditional Methode Champenoise. We said, “Sure, as long as we get to taste it!”

It was delicious, so 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.

How Does Amista’s Sparkling Syrah Differ from a Sparkling Shiraz?

Let’s start with the two things they have in common. First, both are made using the traditional Methode Champenoise, which produces an elegant sparkling wine with tiny bubbles and complex flavors. The second is that both wines are made from the same grape, although in Australia they refer to it as Shiraz, and we call it Syrah.

The difference between our style and those from Australia is that ours is a Rosé, which spends only a few hours fermenting on the skins resulting in a light cranberry color. The Australian sparkling Shiraz is deep red in color due to greater skin contact. The Sparkling Shiraz will typically be heavier, bigger, and slightly sweeter in nature. The Amista Sparkling Syrah is a lighter, more delicate – like all Roses – and dry, either Brut or Extra Brut.

What Pairs Well with Amista Sparkling Syrah?

Sparkling Syrah is 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 the grilled meats. And don’t forget “shrimp on the barbie”. 

It’s also delicious with pizza. We especially like it with a local pie called “Old Grey Beard” made with red sauce, mozzarella, fontina, Italian sausage, Calabrian peppers, hot honey, and orange zest. The honey and orange zest make the Sparkling Syrah pop.

Our Sparkling Syrah is surprisingly versatile. It goes with 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.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how wonderful it is for the holidays. It looks festive on a holiday table and pairs beautifully with the wide array of Thanksgiving dishes – roast turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and sweet potatoes.

What Else Does Ashley Have Hiding in Her Wine Closet?

That, I cannot answer. I hope she doesn’t have any more hidden gems that she and her friends could be enjoying!

Time Posted: Aug 2, 2021 at 8:13 AM Permalink to Why You Should Try Sparkling Syrah, and not Hide Yours in the Closet Permalink
Vicky Farrow
 
July 5, 2021 | Vicky Farrow

7 Steps for the Perfect Sparkling Dosage

Here’s How We Do Dosage Trials at Amista Vineyards

Dosage Trial of Sparkling Blanc de Blanc at Amista Vineyards

...and it’s the most fun part of my “job”!

 

 

The dosage is added to the finished wine to “top up the bottle” just before inserting the cork. Dosage is just a fancy word for the addition of a sugar syrup or liqueur. A dosage trial is done to determine the level of dosage to add to a sparkling wine to help balance the acidity and showcase the natural flavors. Here’s how we do it.

  1. Assemble a group of tasters who love bubbles (easy). We always gather in our kitchen around our big island.

  2. Prepare five – sometimes six – bottles of one of our sparkling wines, one bottle of the base wine and each of the others with a different level of “dosage”. We leave this to winemaker Ashley Herzberg (hard).

  3. Line up the appropriate number of glasses in front of each taster and pour one of the samples into each glass (easy).

  4. Sniff each sample and make notes about the aromas. This step is supposed to be done in silence (hard). If we’re tasting just one sparkling wine, we pretty much follow the rule. If we’re doing three or four, not so much!

  5. Taste each glass and make notes of the flavors and the way the wine feels in your mouth. Again, in silence (hard).

  6. Winemaker Ashley Herzberg then calls on each of us to share our notes, and pick the sample we think is best, reminding us there are no right or wrong answers (hard).

  7. Then we all discuss the samples and try to come to a consensus on which one achieves the perfect balance of acidity, flavors, and mouthfeel. Surprisingly, we almost always reach agreement (easy). In those rare instances where we don’t agree, we all agree that the final decision rests with winemaker Ashley!

Note: Watch Ashley's video showing how the dosage is done

 

Vicky Farrow
 
June 3, 2021 | Vicky Farrow

Sparkling Wine in Sonoma?

Amista Vineyards, A Grower Sparkling House

Blessing of the Grapes, Harvest at Amista Vineyards

...and the 1st grower sparkling house in Healdsburg

 

 

Is Amista a Grower Sparkling House?

Yes! We grow our own grapes from a single estate and craft them into Amista Vineyards sparkling wines. In the picture above, my husband Mike Farrow, winemaker Ashley Herzberg and I bless the grapes during the first harvest of the season.

Not only is Amista a grower sparkling house, but we were also the 1st in Healdsburg. We made our first sparkling wine from our estate-grown Syrah in 2008. But what does it mean to be a grower sparkling house and why should you care? Let’s start with some background from Champagne, the quintessential region for making sparkling wine.

What is Grower Champagne?

Grower Champagnes are grown and produced by the same entity. The makers have their eyes (and hands) on their own vines year-round, meaning that they are the ones controlling how the land is being cultivated and when the grapes are picked. And they make and bottle the wine according to their winemaking style and philosophy rather than selling the grapes and letting someone else make the finished product. Grower Champagne houses are usually small, and family owned.

That may not be such an unusual idea in the U.S. since most wineries are small, family owned and produce wines from their own vineyards (even though the largest volume is produced by a few large companies). However, that is not the norm in Champagne.

How is Grower Champagne Different from the Large Champagne Houses?

Traditionally, Champagne is produced by large houses – “maisons” in French. They purchase grapes from thousands - yes, thousands - of growers in the Champagne region of France. These production houses are multi-national corporations that make hundreds of thousands of cases. They are essentially Champagne factories. They are well known because they also have big advertising budgets. You’ll recognize the big names like Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, and Perrier-Jouet.

Another difference is that the large houses blend their wines from that vast number of vineyards across multiple vintages. The climate in northern France is variable and challenging and not every year is perfect for growing grapes. Blending across vineyards and vintages produces a more consistent flavor profile and style. When you are making large volumes sold around the world, people want the product to taste the same year after year.

Why Grower Champagne Has Become Sought After

Grower Champagne has become more popular in the last two decades as growers in Champagne decided to make their own wine in addition to selling to the large houses. Grower Champagnes are treasured because they are limited and hard to find. People love to discover hidden gems!

Grower Champagnes are rarely known outside of France because they are made in extremely tiny quantities. Unlike the large production houses, they typically don’t make enough to export. So, you have likely never heard of them unless you travel to France.

The other reason they are coveted is because they have become known for producing exceptional quality Champagne. When it comes to Grower Champagne, these farmers are working with the same parcels every year, carefully managing how the vines are farmed and choosing the right time to harvest to bring out the best flavors in the wine.

Sparkling Wine Comes to California

The early sparkling houses in California were introduced by iconic French Champagne houses like Louis Roederer and Moet & Chandon, which began investing in California in the 1960s and 1970s.

In California, it is more common for a winery to grow and produce wines from its own grapes. Sure, there are very large wine production corporations that source grapes from hundreds of growers and make the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of cases of wine, sold in bottles, boxes, and cans.  

But over 80% of the wineries in California are under 5,000 cases. It is common for the smaller wineries to grow and produce their own grapes. The idea of “grower wines” is more traditional in California that has been the case in Champagne.

But that wasn’t the case for the new sparkling wine producers in California. The early sparkling houses followed the model of Champagne – large production houses that purchased fruit from many growers rather than growing their own.

Grower Sparkling Houses Emerge in Sonoma

As happened in Champagne the Sonoma sparkling wine scene is also transforming. The pioneers of sparkling that came in the first wave, are large producers owned by a parent corporation in Champagne and most continue to source grapes from other growers.

In the second wave, family-owned wineries emerged that craft sparkling wines from their own vineyards. These also tend to be large producers since making sparkling wine is more complicated and requires a greater capital investment in production equipment than needed for making still wines. Producing in volume enables the winery to take advantage of economies of scale.

Only recently, in the last 15 years has Sonoma seen the emergence of a handful of small, sparkling wine houses making wines from their own estate vineyards – “grower sparkling houses”. This was enabled in part due to the opening of a local custom crush facility with the equipment to make sparkling wines. Small, family wineries suddenly had a facility where they could make sparkling wines from their estate vineyards crafted by their own winemaker.

Why Should I Care about Grower Sparkling Wine?

For those of you like me who are true lovers of bubbles, there a several reasons to care. One is the pure joy of finding beautiful sparkling gems made in very small batches and knowing that the same winery and winemaker nurtured that wine all the way from the grape to the glass.

If you appreciate experiencing the little variations from vintage to vintage based on the idiosyncrasy of the vineyard and the weather the year the grapes were grown, then you will enjoy exploring grower sparkling wines. It is more of an adventure than sipping the brand-consistent character of big sparkling houses – not that they aren't delicious, just less varied and interesting.

Another reason to care is because the wine is hand crafted by small wineries rather than produced in large volumes by a big corporate producer. It is a way to support the small family growers who have an intimate connection with the land, understand its peculiarities and can control the farming practices to ensure optimum quality.

You get a sense of their stewardship of the land and their love of turning their grapes into a finished product for others to enjoy. It's the same reason I go to the farmer’s market and choose a variety of freshly picked ripe tomatoes and talk directly with the farmer who grew them.

Come taste with us and explore a grower sparkling house for yourself!

Time Posted: Jun 3, 2021 at 2:00 PM Permalink to Sparkling Wine in Sonoma? Permalink
Vicky Farrow
 
May 6, 2021 | Vicky Farrow

What's the Best Season in Wine Country?

Every season is splendid when you're surrounded by vineyards!

Spring Rainbow at Amista Vineyards

How about a Spring rainbow watching over the mustard?

Summer Roses in the Vineyards at Amista

Or do you prefer Summer roses blooming next to the vines?

Autumn Sunset at Amista Vineyards

Maybe a spectacular harvest sunset?

Or a gentle Winter mist floating over the vines?

Time Posted: May 6, 2021 at 2:36 PM Permalink to What's the Best Season in Wine Country? Permalink
Vicky Farrow
 
October 7, 2019 | Vicky Farrow

7 Hot Tips for Stomping Grapes

If This is on Your Bucket List

Stomping Grapes for Sparkling Mataró at Amista Vineyards, Healdsburg, California

I'll let you in on what I learned about stomping grapes from Amista winemaker Ashley Herzberg.

 

 

  1. They’re COLD! We harvest our grapes in the early morning hours for two reasons. One, it’s easier for the workers before the temperatures rise during the day. Two, it’s better to bring the grapes in when they’re cold to control the sugar levels and avoid oxidation. It’s not so comfy for the stomper and my feet got a bit numb.

  2. They hurt your feet. You’re stomping on whole clusters of grapes - stems included - not just the berries. The good news is that after a few minutes, your feet quit hurting because they’re numb!

  3. You don’t really stomp. In fact, our winemaker calls it “foot treading” not grape stomping. The idea is to gently tread on the grapes to extract the color. Plus, the pressure of human force is gentle enough so that the seeds won't break which creates bitterness in the wine.

  4. It’s hard to keep your balance. The clusters are lumpy and as you tread first one foot then the other sinks into the juice.

  5. It’s hard work! In fact, it’s a great cardio workout.

  6. It’s sticky. You’ll want to turn the hose on your feet and legs when you finish just like you did – hopefully - before you started.

  7. It’s fun! It’s also rewarding to use a traditional, natural technique to kick off the fermentation process.

Vicky Farrow
 
September 2, 2019 | Vicky Farrow

How Do You Find a Female Winemaker?

She Found Us!

Winemaker Ashley Herzberg, Amista Vineyards, Harvesting Chardonnay for Sparkling Wine

…and spearheaded our journey into sparkling wines.

 

 

I’ll never forget the day (December 2, 2010) when Ashley said, “I would like to be your winemaker.” I was honored and thrilled to hear her question and knew my husband Mike would feel the same. We had been working with Ashley in her role as assistant winemaker for several years at the winery where we custom crush our grapes. Custom crush refers to making wine in a facility with equipment and resources provided by the facility under the direction of your own winemaker. It’s a great way to make wine without the overhead and capital investment of a dedicated winery.

Ashley had decided to strike out on her own and become a consulting winemaker so she would have more flexibility to start a family. She identified us as potential clients because she liked the quality of our fruit, both from our own estate and that purchased from our Dry Creek Valley neighbors, and she enjoyed working with us – go figure! We didn’t hesitate to say “Yes” because we felt the same way about her.

Little did we know that when Ashley joined us, we wouldn’t just get an amazing female winemaker, we would also get two delightful children in training. From the time her kids were very little we would see her walking our vineyards holding one by the hand with the other in a baby sling. They have grown up in the vineyards and have become experts in knowing when to pick. Ashley brings her talent and unbridled enthusiasm to everything she does, from leading our shift in focus to Rhône varietals and sparkling wines, to being an incredible mother, gardener, and friend.

Vicky Farrow
 
August 5, 2019 | Vicky Farrow

5 Fabulous Pairings with Sparkling Syrah

I’ve had such fun learning to pair wine and food

Taco Salad Pairs with Sparkling Syrah from Amista Vineyards, Healdsburg, California

Impress your friends with these great pairings!

 

Our Sparkling Syrah is a Rosé. I call it “joy in a bottle” because its shimmering cranberry color makes it festive. When we first launched Amista Vineyards, the only thing I knew about pairings was that Cab was good with steak. Then we started making Sparkling Syrah! You might be surprised how versatile this wine is and how much fun it is to try it with a wide variety of foods. Here are five of our favorites.

  1. Thanksgiving. There are so many assorted flavors on the Thanksgiving table, it’s hard to find a wine that works. Enter Sparkling Syrah! Because it spends several hours on the skins, it has added heft that enables it to work with the bigger flavors of roast turkey and stuffing. At the same time, its fruit characteristics pair well with the cranberries and sweet potatoes. The bubbles cleanse the palate and the wine’s effervescence is a welcome counterpoint to the richness of the Thanksgiving feast. Added bonus – the brilliant color turns any meal into a celebration.But don't take my word for it. It comes highly recommended by the Jetsetting Fashionista.

  2. Taco Salad. This is a casual summer meal for us. The combination of spicy taco meat coupled with garden fresh lettuce, tomatoes and cilantro makes this a challenging pairing. Sparkling Syrah comes to the rescue. Plus, it is so refreshing on a warm summer evening.

  3. Cranberry Brie Phyllo Cups. This is a delicious and beautiful appetizer that is spectacular with Sparkling Syrah. The tartness of the cranberries, the creamy brie, and the crunchy phyllo cup come together with the Sparkling Syrah and everything pops! This easy appetizer is sure to impress your friends.

  4. Hot and Spicy Baked Crab is a favorite of our winemaker, Ashley Herzberg. It has long been a tradition on Christmas Eve and serving it with our Sparkling Syrah has become her family’s new tradition. In fact, Sparkling Syrah is a fabulous choice with all kinds of spicy cuisines, like Thai, Szechuan, and Indian dishes.

  5. Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis. We served this at one of our annual Sparkling Holiday Soirees and it was a homerun! The Sparkling Syrah was dazzling with the tart, sweetness of the raspberry coulis and the silky panna cotta.

Have fun pairing this unusual bubbly with your favorite dishes. I’d love to hear what you discover.

 


 
Why A Blog?

As a woman winery owner, I have been asked lots of questions about what it’s like to be in the wine business and live the wine country life after spending decades in the corporate world. Here are my stories about the wonderful world of sparkling wines – which I love – and owning a vineyard in Dry Creek Valley. I am grateful I get to live near the charming town of Healdsburg, California, in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country. As with any endeavor, there are glorious moments and difficult moments. For me, each of them brings new discoveries and learning, which is why I call them “sparkling moments”.

About Me

I started with an education in psychology - pretty much useless for getting a job - which led me to explore breakthrough leadership and a career as an executive in several global corporations. Following my corporate career, I became an executive coach helping CEOs and their teams build the leadership skills they need to achieve top performance.

Getting into the wine business wasn’t exactly a plan. As I look back, I believe it was a dream that my husband Mike and I didn’t know we had and didn’t know we shared. When we started out together, we never knew we'd end up living in Sonoma's beautiful Dry Creek Valley surrounded by our own vineyards. From planting our first vineyard in Silicon Valley, to tasting our first “garage-made” wine out of the barrel with friends in our basement in New Jersey, to eventually moving to this beautiful property in the Dry Creek Valley, the creation of our winery, Amista Vineyards, unfolded over many years and in several locations.

Owning a winery has catapulted me into a leadership role that is both challenging and exhilarating. I love crafting our business strategy, meeting our guests, and nurturing the growth and development of our team. I also love living the wine country life – farm fresh foods, beautiful wines, good friends – all in a stunning setting surrounded by vineyards and rolling hills.

About Amista Vineyards

We are dedicated to crafting distinctive wines that inspire you to celebrate the special moments in life and experience the friendly spirit of wine country living. We are proud to produce the best sparkling wine and Rhône varietals in Sonoma wine country, the perfect collection of wines for making everyday moments special and special moments extraordinary.

We are Michael and Vicky Farrow, co-founders of Amista Vineyards. Since we released our first wine in 2005, our goal has been to provide an exceptional wine country experience of Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley.  It is a dream come true to live in this special place and we’re excited to share it with you. We will remain small, and family operated, offering our wines through a personal connection with each guest, whether in person or on-line.

We are local. Our grapes come from our estate vineyards just outside the charming town of Healdsburg, California, and from our neighbors in Dry Creek Valley and Rockpile. We want to be able to walk the vineyards, taste the fruit and have a personal relationship with the people who grow our grapes.

We are sustainable. In August of 2018, our estate Morningsong Vineyards became Certified Sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.  This certification is only one part of our commitment to our land and people. We were part of project to restore the incredible beauty of Dry Creek and at the same time recreate a vibrant habitat for endangered Steelhead trout and Coho salmon. We built our tasting room with energy efficient insulated concrete forms (ICF's) and constructed a solar structure that powers the tasting room and vineyard irrigation. We believe a vital part of our business is to provide extraordinary learning experiences to people on our team who aspire to be leaders and innovators in the wine business and to impact others in lasting and significant ways.

We are friendly. Amista, loosely translated, means making friends in Spanish and we want your experience to be welcoming, engaging and fun. If you visit us in person, you can look forward to a friendly welcome in a beautiful setting surrounded by vineyards. We are also known as the best dog friendly winery in Healdsburg, California.

 

Vicky Farrow
 
July 1, 2019 | Vicky Farrow

How do you Press Syrah in Your Garage?

With just a little pressing and a lot of cleaning!

Pressing 2002 Garage Syrah at Amista Vineyards | Healdsburg, California

…and it’s all faster with friends

 

 

Our dear friend, Juergen, was visiting from Germany and got roped into helping press the Syrah grapes for the first wine Mike made from our Healdsburg vineyard. The grapes were crushed and then sat on the skins for 10 days in our garage. We used a basket press (seen at the right of the photo above) loaned by one of our neighbors. The press extracts the juice from the crushed grapes leaving behind the skins and seeds. The grapes are pressed gently to avoid crushing the seeds and releasing undesirable tannins.

It’s strange that this step in the wine-making process is called pressing, when much less time is spent pressing and a lot more is spent washing barrels! The importance and amount of time spent on cleanliness in winemaking is often a surprise to beginning winemakers.

Mike and Juergen did a great job! This 2002 Syrah turned out to be delicious. It eventually came to be called Garage Syrah and was responsible for seducing us into starting a winery. Like most things, we just didn’t know it at the time!

Vicky Farrow
 
June 3, 2019 | Vicky Farrow

How do you Punch Down Syrah in Your Garage?

Make Sure You Have Friends Visiting!

Punching Down 2002 Garage Syrah at Amista Vineyards

…because it's a lot easier and more fun!

 

 

Mike had harvested 3 tons of Syrah grapes from our Healdsburg vineyard, and they were soaking in bins in our garage to develop color and flavors. While the grapes are soaking, a cap of grape skins rises to the top of each bin. That cap needs to be “punched down” daily to reincorporate it with the juice. Punch down is hard work, which why it’s best to entice friends to help. Enter our long-time friends Meg and Dale who came to visit from our home state of Colorado.

Dale helped Mike 8 years earlier with punch downs in another garage at our home in Silicon Valley when Mike made his first wine from Cabernet grapes. They had just as much fun then as they did in their long-awaited encore performance! Meg and I once again made sure we had something else to do – shopping, lunch, sipping a glass of wine.

That’s probably why I didn’t recognize that Mike was becoming captivated with making wine and that we would eventually find ourselves in the wine business with our friends cheering us on every step of the way!

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