We were finally able to move to our Healdsburg vineyard in June 2002. We had replaced half of the Chardonnay vines with Syrah in 2000 and the young vines were just starting to produce fruit. A true viticulturist would have advised dropping all the fruit and letting the vines mature another year. This is so the fruit will not compete with the vine reserves needed to develop the vines and root system. Well, Mike had other ideas. He wanted to MAKE WINE!
He harvested 3 tons – which sounded huge to me – to make wine in our garage. Mike’s brother Bob and wife Anne came to help. Our neighbors also came to lend a hand and loaned us a small crusher/destemmer. Having a machine that crushes the fruit and removes the stems in one step not only saved us a lot of time but also results in better wine by making sure all the stems are removed.
We learned right away that Healdsburg is a friendly place and neighbors are always willing to pitch in. The friendly spirit of Dry Creek Valley turned out to be one of the most wonderful aspects of living in this special place.
As a lover of Champagne and sparkling wine, I know that bubbles lovers want their bubbles. We already had a wine club for our red and white wines. But if you're like me, you want the choice to get only sparkling wines in your club.
We will use any excuse to share an extraordinary wine and food pairing. We launched “Sparkling Friends” in 2014 at Passport to Dry Creek Valley, the premiere wine and food event in the area. And we showcased our Blanc de Blanc with fresh shucked oysters!
Winemaker Ashley Herzberg and I like to experiment with grapes that are not traditionally used in Champagne, especially our Rhône varieties. Having a wine club sort of pushes us to play with new wines to keep things interesting. We now have a collection of sparkling "gems”, and we want to keep creating more!
We want our Sparkling Friends to have first “pop” at our limited production, estate grown sparkling wines. We are a small “grower sparkling house", much like the small grower Champagne houses in France. Our production is extremely limited, and our sparkling wines often sell out before the next release.
Ashley and I say we make sparkling wines for ourselves, and we also love to share! That’s what friends do – share their discoveries with their friends! Amista means making friends, so it just makes sense.
When we left California for my job in New Jersey we brought along a barrel of Cabernet, Mike’s first garage-made wine. But it wasn’t enough to drink the wine, he wanted to make more! So, he started searching for properties in Healdsburg, one of our favorite spots in wine country. He came across a realtor’s website and decided to answer a survey. Big mistake! He was soon communicating regularly with said realtor who had three properties “that would be perfect for us, but they wouldn’t last long.”
Somehow, I found myself on a plane to SFO and then off to Healdsburg, where four of our closest friends met us to help inspect the properties. They gave us helpful advice like where we should build the house and place their guest rooms. We decided on this beautiful vineyard in the heart of Dry Creek Valley and the rest, as they say, is history.
I thought we were simply buying a vineyard property. Little did I know it would evolve into starting a winery, opening a tasting room, and venturing into Rhône varietals and a collection of sparkling wines. It’s been quite a journey!
Two of our dearest friends, Meg and Dale from Colorado, stood with us in our first vineyard as we said good-bye to California just before moving to New Jersey for my job. We all shed a little tear knowing we would never see that Silicon Valley vineyard produce grapes. it was only a year old, and it usually takes three or four years to mature enough to yield a full crop.
Earlier that year they were there to help with the punch-down of some Cabernet grapes Mike bought from a local vineyard to make his first wine in our garage. I learned that a punch-down is when a device (think of a big potato-masher) pushes down the cap of skins that have risen to the surface of the fermenting grapes, breaks it up and submerges it again. Red grapes usually spend a couple of weeks “on the skins” to give the wine the desired color and flavors and need regular punch-downs. We didn’t have a “device”, so Mike and Dale used their arms, and both got purple up to their armpits. Meg and I escaped to a wonderful little bed and breakfast on the coast. My plan was always to be otherwise engaged when there was work to do!
But I was there, and so were Meg and Dale, when the wine was ready to drink. They came to visit us in New Jersey where we had transported the barrel of Mike’s first wine. It spent a couple of years in our basement aging and when it was ready to drink, we bottled some up and served it to friends at dinner. It was delicious! I learned later that Mike said to himself, “I wanna make more wine!” What I said to myself is, “Wine is even better with friends!” Those would turn out to be the themes of our journey into wine.
Amista means making friends and some of our best wine and food pairings come from friends. My friend Hallie is my inspiration. She’s a busy career woman, a mom, and an amazing home chef.
Her simple salad is made with Mache as the greens (butter lettuce would also be wonderful), tossed with sliced avocado and fresh grapefruit segments. The dressing is light with just a touch of Dijon mustard. It’s topped with seared sea scallops and makes a lovely first course or light lunch. Our Blanc de Blanc makes it sing!
We’d been making Chardonnay and Syrah from our estate vineyards and Zinfandel and Cabernet with fruit from our Dry Creek neighbors since we launched Amista in 2004. We made our first Rosé of Syrah in 2005. 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 was beautiful – a glittering raspberry color – and became an instant hit. I call it “joy in a bottle”.
It looks festive on a holiday table and pairs beautifully with a wide array of Thanksgiving dishes. Because it stays on the skins for several hours, it picks up some tannins making it a great match with everything from barbecue to spicy foods like Thai and Mexican. Like many of our unplanned discoveries, it launched a whole new adventure. I am delighted that we were the first to make sparkling wine in Dry Creek, especially since I love bubbles!
I can trace it back to a time when we were captivated by a series of Ernest and Julio Gallo TV ads with lovely music (Hymne by Vangelis) with beautiful images of wine country landscapes, harvesting grapes, making wine, and friends and families enjoying life.
Not long after Mike saw an ad in a local newspaper for "backyard vineyards". He planted 150 Cabernet Sauvignon vines on the hillside of our home in Silicon Valley. Six months later he decided he needed to learn how to make wine and crushed 1/2 ton of Cabernet in our garage. I made sure I was never there to do the hard work!
Six months later I was offered a job in New Jersey. Sadly, we moved before harvesting a single grape from our new vineyard, but we took the barrel of wine with us. After a couple of years of aging, we tasted the wine with friends and it was great! Mike decided, "I'm a winemaker!" Who knew it would eventually draw us into the wine business where we would be making delicious Rhone reds and sparkling wines?
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”.
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.
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.
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