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Amista Vineyards

News from Amista Vineyards

Amista Vineyards
June 20, 2024 | Amista Vineyards

Amista Vineyards - Sonoma Sparkling Wineries - Discover 10 Of The Best

Amista Sparkling Wines

We are thrilled to learn that Amista has been recognized as one of the top sparkling wineries in Sonoma wine country by Grape and Barrel. When asked to recommend a tour of the best sparkling wineries in Sonoma for a group of friends, Grape and Barrel eagerly shared their top ten picks, saying, “…we want to personally introduce our readers to the incredible creators who strive to make the best sparkling wine in Sonoma County.”

In addition to the Top Ten list, the article delves into the fascinating history of Champagne, debunking the myth that it was invented by the monk Dom Perignon. It also explains the unique method used to make Champagne and sparkling wines, highlighting the key difference from still wines: sparkling wines undergo a second fermentation process, which creates their signature bubbles.

Amista: One of the Top 10 Sparkling Wineries in Sonoma

We are truly honored to be included among this all-star cast of sparkling wineries. The description states, “Amista’s owners had their minds set on producing sparkling wine when they acquired the winery…” To be completely honest, we didn't even consider making sparkling wine until several years later. Our first releases were Chardonnay, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Cabernet.

Amista’s First Sparkling Wine: Sparkling Syrah

The idea of making sparkling wine first occurred to us in 2007, thanks to a class project by our then consulting winemaker. We are forever grateful for his initiative, as he and his class created a Sparkling Syrah using the Methode Traditionnelle (also known as Methode Champenoise). When we tasted it, it was love at first sip. Inspired by this success, we produced our first Sparkling Syrah for Amista in 2008.

A Collection of Unique Sparkling Wines at Amista

Over the years, with the enthusiastic encouragement of our current winemaker, Ashley Herzberg—who loves bubbles—we have expanded our collection to seven unique sparkling wines. While traditional Champagnes and many sparkling wines worldwide are made from a few classic varieties (only six grape varieties are permitted in Champagne, with most wines made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier), we have become trailblazers by crafting sparkling wines from mostly non-traditional grapes, just as we did with our Sparkling Syrah.

We honor tradition with our Blanc de Blanc and Amistara, both made from Chardonnay. However, our other sparkling wines, crafted using the traditional Champagne method, are made from Rhône varieties or unique blends. This showcases our innovative spirit and commitment to creating distinctive wines.

What is Estate Grown?

The grapes for all our sparkling wines are grown right here on our estate, Morningsong Vineyards. Here's an insider tip: the names of the wineries that produce the wine and the names of the vineyards where the grapes are grown are often different, even when the estate belongs to the winery, as in our case. This can be confusing. Wines can be referred to as vineyard designate wines, meaning that 95% of the grapes must come from the particular vineyard listed on the label. It’s similar to how a department store like Bergdorf Goodman sells brands identified by the supplier’s name, such as Prada or Ferragamo.

For example, our Amista Vineyards Zinfandel is a vineyard designate from a neighboring vineyard, Saini Farms, while our Sparkling Syrah is a vineyard designate from our own estate, Morningsong Vineyards.

Amista Sparkling Syrah – A Daring Move

Grape and Barrel highlights, “…they launched their sparkling Syrah – a pretty daring move in Sonoma but a longstanding practice in Australia, where Syrah grapes are made into sparkling Shiraz." Truth be told, it didn’t feel daring, although we knew it was unique. We had never tasted a sparkling Syrah until our consulting winemaker's class created one. Before that, we had been producing a rosé of Syrah, also the result of a happy accident, which served as the base for the class’s sparkling wine.

In Australia, Sparkling Shiraz is quite different. Unlike our Sparkling Syrah, which is technically a rosé, Sparkling Shiraz is a sparkling red wine, much deeper in color. Despite the difference in name, Shiraz is simply another term for Syrah, and both wines are made from the same grape variety.

Plus an All-Sparkling Amista Wine Club

“The Farrows were so obsessed with sparkling wine that they founded the Amista Sparkling Friends wine club in 2014,” the article continues. By then, we had enough sparkling wines—our collection of sparkling "gems"—to create a sparkling-only wine club. As lovers of bubbles, we knew other enthusiasts would want the same option. While we already had a wine club for our red and white wines, we launched “Sparkling Friends” at Passport to Dry Creek Valley, the premier wine and food event in the area, showcasing our Blanc de Blanc with freshly shucked oysters!

We want our sparkling-loving club members 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.

We like to joke that we make sparkling wines for ourselves and love to share! That’s what friends do—share their discoveries with their friends! Amista means making friends, so it just makes sense.

See the whole list in Sonoma Sparkling Wineries Discover 10 Of The Best in Grape and Barrel


Still Thirsty?

If you want to learn more, here is a curated list of resources.

What is Sparkling Wine: Sparkling Wine Defined

Traditional Method for Making Champagne & Sparkling Wines: Méthode Champenoise

Sparkling Shiraz: Sparkling reds & why you should be drinking them!






Time Posted: Jun 20, 2024 at 10:00 AM Permalink to Amista Vineyards - Sonoma Sparkling Wineries - Discover 10 Of The Best Permalink
Amista Vineyards
June 12, 2024 | Amista Vineyards

Discover Amista Vineyards in Healdsburg - One of California’s Most Walkable Towns

Healdsburg Plaza by Amista Vineyards

Healdsburg is a fantastic place to visit and an even more special place to call home. One of its main attractions is the downtown area, centered around a charming town square filled with shops, restaurants, and hotels, all within easy walking distance. The Plaza, as it is called locally, features towering trees, a picturesque gazebo, and a bubbling fountain. It's the perfect spot to relax, watch children play in the water, and enjoy a snack from one of the nearby shops.

A recent article in World Atlas highlights seven of California's most walkable towns, noting, "California has many stunning small towns. Walking through these towns enables visitors to immerse themselves in and appreciate their natural beauty and culture up close." Exploring these towns on foot is indeed a delightful experience. Having visited all seven, we can say they are all worth the trip. Each has its unique charm, but we must admit, Healdsburg tops the list. It's home and the home of our winery, Amista Vineyards—but more on that later.

Why Healdsburg is So Charming

Healdsburg's downtown comes alive, especially during the warm months, bustling with both visitors and locals. Blessed with beautiful weather for most of the year, the town's charm is always on display. Locals know the best spots for breads and pastries, coffee roasters, ice cream shops, and their favorite restaurants. From April through November, the farmer’s market is a lively hub for finding fresh local produce, cheeses, and flowers, and catching up with friends.

Our Favorite Healdsburg Restaurants

Visitors enjoy exploring the shops and boutiques, tasting wine at the in-town tasting rooms and trying out the many excellent dining options. For a town of just under 12,000, we have a vast array of great restaurants. Some of our personal favorites are Baci, Guiso Latin Fusion, Bravas, Willi’s Seafood, Rooftop 106, Costeaux French Bakery and Valette.

Discover Healdsburg's Hidden Gem: A Delightful Walking Trail

If you want to take a walk away from the bustle, there’s Foss Creek Pathway that runs from downtown to the Community Center on the north edge of town. You’ll see runners, walkers, bicyclists and dogs (on leash) enjoying the trail. If you’re a local, you’re sure to see someone you know. Also on display are sculptures of metal or stone. A favorite is a life-size creation called Grazing Horse, sculpted of metal and driftwood by a local Sonoma artist. There is also a playful sculpture of a blue sofa complete with end table, lamp and a red telephone.

Sculpture on Healdsburg's Foss Creek Pathway, Photo by- Amista Vineyards

Edge Esmerelda Chooses Healdsburg for Its Walkability

Healdsburg's walkability received a glowing endorsement with its selection as the host this June for Edge Esmerelda,  a month-long event dedicated to building the future. This pop-up village is attracting visionaries from around the globe who believe in creating a better tomorrow and are actively working towards it. All lodging, workshops and communal meals are located within close proximity of Foss Creek Pathway to encourage walking and biking. The event planners brought in hundreds of bikes for guests to use during their stay.

Bicycles imported to Healdsburg for Edge Esmerelda Photo by Amista Vineyards

Discover Our Vineyard Walk at Amista Vineyards

The World Atlas article praises Healdsburg, noting, “Healdsburg is home to over 90 vineyards and wineries, including Amista Vineyards, which offers guided hikes and tastings.” Located just four miles from downtown, at Amista we feature a special walk of our own, with more to see than just grapevines! Stand beneath our majestic 200-year-old oak tree and imagine life in California when it was just an acorn.

Then check out our backwater pond on Dry Creek that was constructed in partnership with the Sonoma County Water Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. The project’s goal is to restore the habitat for the Steelhead trout and Coho salmon that inhabit these waters. When you return from the vineyards, treat yourself to a wine tasting on our solar covered patio and gaze over the vineyard up to the tree-studded hills above. You may want to start planning your next stop among California’s walkable towns.

See the whole list of 7 Of The Most Walkable Towns In California by Amanda Jennings in the Places section of World Atlas.

Time Posted: Jun 12, 2024 at 10:00 AM Permalink to Discover Amista Vineyards in Healdsburg - One of California’s Most Walkable Towns Permalink
Amista Vineyards
May 7, 2024 | Amista Vineyards

Spotlight on Amista Vineyards Brian Shapiro and The Wine Business Institute

Amista Vineyards Brian Shapiro in Front of the Tasting Room

We’re thrilled to share that Amista Estate Director, Brian Shapiro, was recently featured in an article about the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University. A 2010 graduate of the program, Brian reflected on his experience, saying, “I knew I wanted to study at the Institute and appreciated the interconnection between business and academia.” His unique blend of practical experience and academic knowledge, along with the strong network he built during his time at the Institute, has been invaluable to our team. “I valued the opportunities to work and learn with people in the industry,” he added. This connection between academic coursework and industry professionals is a hallmark of the Wine Business Institute, where many courses are taught by seasoned industry veterans.

What is the Wine Business Institute?

Founded in 1996, the Wine Business Institute was established in collaboration with Sonoma State University’s School of Business to address the business aspects of the wine industry. Sonoma State was the first university in the United States to offer an undergraduate degree (since 1998), an MBA (since 2008), and an Executive MBA (since 2012) specifically in wine business. While many programs focus on viticulture and winemaking, the Wine Business Institute stands out for its unique emphasis on the business side of the wine industry. Even today, it remains the only program of its kind in the U.S. and one of only three worldwide.

Gary Heck, Owner and President of Korbel Winery, was an early supporter and continues to serve as Chairman of the Board. The board includes leaders from various sectors of the wine business, from small to large wineries, online retailers, distribution companies, corporate finance and accounting, winery M&A, and wine associations.

Amista Proprietor Vicky Farrow’s Longstanding Connection to Wine Business Institute

Amista’s own Vicky Farrow has a rich history with the Institute, having served on its Board of Directors since 2022. Her involvement began in 2011 when she met Executive Director Ray Johnson and was inspired by his innovative work. Vicky’s enthusiasm led her to volunteer in expanding the board and facilitating strategic planning sessions. Over the years, she has witnessed the Institute’s growing impact and the rise of its graduates as the next generation of wine business leaders.

Amista Celebrates Our Wine Business Institute Graduates

At Amista, we take great pride in our team members who are graduates of the Wine Business Institute. One standout is a team member working in hospitality and sales in our tasting room. He took a brief leave to gain hands-on experience as a harvest intern at Kosta Browne Winery and returned to manage our local wholesale program. Starting as an intern during his senior year, he has continually grown in expertise and confidence.

We have welcomed several Sonoma State graduates over the years, each bringing fresh ideas and energy. We are dedicated to supporting their development, offering hands-on experience and opportunities for growth. While we know many will move on to bigger roles, we take pride in watching their careers blossom and knowing we played a part in their journey.

Amista Salutes the Wine Business Institute's Track Record of Success

In 2016, the Institute broke ground on the Wine Spectator Learning Center, a dedicated facility on the Sonoma State University campus, funded in part by a three-million-dollar gift from the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation. Marvin Shanken, editor and publisher of Wine Spectator, along with California Governor Gavin Newsom and Representative Mike Thompson, attended the groundbreaking ceremony.

Bill Silver, then Dean of the School of Business, remarked, “Success in the wine business depends on human capital. In the future, we will see the children of winemakers and vineyard workers coming through those doors." His words were prophetic, as today, dozens of children of vineyard and winery workers have graduated from Sonoma State thanks to the Wine Industry Scholars Program (WISP) launched in 2017. These graduates, with determination, family support, and financial assistance from WISP, have become the first in their families to earn a college degree.

Arguably, the most notable accomplishment of the Institute is the number of graduates who represent the next generation of leaders in the wine business. They are making their marks in renowned wineries and distributors such as Silver Oak, J Vineyards, Rombauer, Korbel, Tablas Creek, Duckhorn, Jackson Family, Gary Farrell Winery, Young’s Market, and Constellation Brands, to name a few. At Amista, we are committed to the growth and development of everyone on our team and look forward to welcoming future WBI graduates.

Learn more about the Institute and its graduates in From Root to Shoot, SSU's Wine Business Institute Grows Success Stories.





Time Posted: May 7, 2024 at 10:00 AM Permalink to Spotlight on Amista Vineyards Brian Shapiro and The Wine Business Institute Permalink
Amista Vineyards
December 27, 2023 | Amista Vineyards

Amista Featured in Vineyard Specific Sonoma County Bubbles for New Years

Amista Sparkling Grenache with Vineyards in Background

Amista Sparkling Grenache

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.”

Exploring Vineyard Designate Sparkling Wines

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.

Non-traditional Grapes Varieties for Sparkling Wines

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.

The Debut of Amistara, a Sparkling Blanc de Blanc to Celebrate 20 Years

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.



Time Posted: Dec 27, 2023 at 10:00 AM Permalink to Amista Featured in Vineyard Specific Sonoma County Bubbles for New Years Permalink
Amista Vineyards
December 16, 2023 | Amista Vineyards

Amista Vineyards Sparkling Wine and Caviar Featured in Holiday Gift Guide

Amista Sparkling Syrah and Caviar Tasting for the Holidays

Amista Vineyards Sparkling Wine and Caviar - The Perfect Holiday Gift

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.

Sparkling Syrah – The First Sparkling Wine from Amista

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.

What to Pair with Amista Sparkling Syrah

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 well with 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.

Time Posted: Dec 16, 2023 at 10:00 AM Permalink to Amista Vineyards Sparkling Wine and Caviar Featured in Holiday Gift Guide Permalink
Amista Vineyards
December 12, 2023 | Amista Vineyards

Amista Sparkling Syrah - Wine Roads Wine Style of the Month

Amista Vineyards Sparkling Syrah, Bottle and Glasses

We are thrilled to announce that our Sparkling Syrah was selected as one of the top six sparkling wines featured by Wine Roads in their Wine Style of the Month! Wine Roads praised our Amista Sparkling Syrah from our estate Morningsong Vineyard, describing it as “an effervescent delight that is fresh and bright.”

Each month, Wine Roads highlights a specific wine style or varietal, showcasing the incredible variety and richness of wines produced in northern Sonoma County. And we have to agree with their notion that “sparkling wines aren't just for holidays and celebrations—they're a perfect choice for everyday meals and pair beautifully with a wide range of foods.”

What Pairs with Sparkling Wines?

In the past, pairing sparkling wines was simpler, mainly because the options were limited. The mention of sparkling wines typically conjured thoughts of traditional French Champagne or similar styles made with the same grapes outside of Champagne.

However, the world of sparkling wines has exploded in the last two decades. Today, sparkling wines are crafted in many regions using a wide range of grape varieties. In Champagne, only six grape varieties are permitted, with most wines being made from the three primary grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Outside of Champagne, there are fewer restrictions on both the grape varieties and the methods used to produce these wines.

While Champagne adheres strictly to the Methode Traditionelle (or Methode Champenoise), which requires a secondary fermentation in the bottle, sparkling wines from other regions often explore different techniques and grape combinations, creating a rich and diverse array of flavors to enjoy and pair with food.

What Pairs with Champagne?

Classic brut Champagne, with its slight hint of sweetness and dry taste, pairs beautifully with oysters on the half shell or roast chicken. For a unique twist, Eileen Crane, the founding winemaker and CEO at Domaine Carneros, recommends enjoying it with a filet mignon. (Learn more about Eileen’s sparkling career and her other favorite pairings).

Blanc de Blancs Champagne, meaning "white from whites," is made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes and typically has a lighter body than brut. This elegant Champagne complements caviar, scallops, and other delicate fish. Surprisingly, it also pairs wonderfully with French fries.

What is Sparkling Syrah?

Sparkling Syrah is crafted from the red Syrah grape and is typically produced as a rosé. The grapes are left on the skins for just a few hours, imparting a slightly darker hue than most rosés. This extended skin contact gives the wine more body and tannins. While there are many styles of Sparkling Syrah, the common thread is this richer, more robust profile.

On the other hand, Sparkling Shiraz, which originated in Australia, is a different style. Unlike Sparkling Syrah, it is a sparkling red wine, much deeper in color than its rosé counterpart. Despite the difference in name, Shiraz is simply another term for Syrah, and both wines are made from the same grape variety.

Why Does Amista Make a Sparkling Syrah?

Our first Sparkling Syrah began serendipitously in 2008, and it quickly became a cult favorite. We call it “joy in a bottle.” This was our first sparkling wine, and it sparked our passion for creating non-traditional sparkling wines. In fact, we were the first winery in Dry Creek Valley to make sparkling wines, and we now craft seven unique offerings.

What Pairs with Amista Sparkling Syrah?

This is where the adventure begins—not just with our Sparkling Syrah, but with the wide variety of sparkling wines made from different grapes in various styles. Pairing food with sparkling wines becomes an exciting journey of matching diverse flavors with an equally diverse selection of dishes. While we haven’t explored all the possibilities yet, it’s definitely on ourlist!

Let's focus on our Amista Sparkling Syrah. Marcy Gordon, in the Wine Road feature, highlights spicy crab cakes as a fantastic pairing. Here are five more of our favorite pairings:

  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.
  2. Taco Salad. This is a casual summer meal. 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 in her family on Christmas Eve and serving it with our Sparkling Syrah has become their 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.

What We've Learned About Wine and Food Pairings

Over more than two decades of experimenting with various wine and food combinations, we've discovered that there are often delightful surprises. Some pairings that sounded perfect didn’t work out, and there are no strict rules to follow. Instead of striving for the perfect pairing, the real joy lies in tasting, experimenting, and finding your own favorites.

Discover all six featured sparkling wines in Wine Roads Wine Style of the Month – Sparkling by Marcy Gordon.


Still Thirsty?

If you want to learn more, here is a curated list of resources.

Champagne Pairings: Expert Tips to Pair Champagne with Food

Food and Champagne: Food and Champagne: The Perfect Match

Sparkling Shiraz: Sparkling reds & why you should be drinking them!







Time Posted: Dec 12, 2023 at 10:00 AM Permalink to Amista Sparkling Syrah - Wine Roads Wine Style of the Month Permalink
Amista Vineyards
June 23, 2023 | Amista Vineyards

Dry Creek Wineries and Amista Vineyards Mark Milestone Anniversaries

Overlooking Dry Creek Valley by Amista Vineyards

Amista is fortunate to be among the incredible array of Dry Creek wineries that came together to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Dry Creek appellation at a special tasting high above Lake Sonoma. Dr. Liz Thach, Master of Wine, professor, and wine writer was in attendance on a beautiful day in June and writes about the virtues of Dry Creek in Forbes magazine.

“If you enjoy food and wine get-aways with magnificent vineyard views, the Dry Creek Valley AVA of Sonoma County may be the next wine region you should visit. And the timing couldn’t be better, because Dry Creek Valley wineries are celebrating their 40th anniversary of being an official AVA (appellation) this year,” declares Dr. Thach.

Why Dry Creek Valley is Special to Us

We are grateful every day of every year that we found this incredible valley and the town of Healdsburg on our first visit in 1984. We eventually decided to make it our home in 2002. A lot has changed in that time, but the sense of community, the pioneering spirit and love of the land remains. We are humbled to be surrounded by pioneering wineries. Dr. Thach identifies them in her article, “The two oldest existing wineries in Dry Creek Valley are the Frei Brothers and Pedroncelli, but other famous wineries, established in the 1970’s include A. Rafanelli, Dry Creek Vineyards, Mill Creek, Preston, Lambert Bridge and Lytton Springs.”

The other special aspect of Dry Creek is that it is small – just 16 miles long and 2 miles wide – and rural – just two stop signs. The views of the tree-studded hills from the valley floor are as spectacular as the views of the vineyards from the hills. There’s something about gazing out at acres of vines that is both calming and uplifting at the same time.

What Makes Healdsburg So Charming?

“Located 70 miles north of San Francisco, and just outside the charming town of Healdsburg, Dry Creek Valley is one of the oldest wine regions in California, settled just after the California Gold Rush of 1849,” writes Thach. But what makes it charming is the combination of an authentic sense of community where people know and care about each other and the exhilaration of welcoming visitors from all over the country and the world. Together we share the enjoyment of incredible weather, a diverse selection of Dry Creek wineries to visit, world class cuisine and lots of outdoor activities.

Dr. Thach’s mentions several restaurants, “The 3-Michelin star restaurant, Single Thread…along with other popular establishments such as Barndiva, Dry Creek Kitchen, the Matheson, Valette, The Madrona, and many others.” Among the many others we also love are Baci, Willi’s Seafood, Bravas Tapas, and Guiso Latin Fusion plus Diavola and Catelli’s in the nearby village of Geyserville. Yes, there are lots of great dining options! And can you believe that a town of under 12,000 would have three fantastic bakeries – Downtown Bakery, Quail and Condor, and Costeaux French Bakery?

For locals and those fortunate enough to visit at the end of May, there is the quintessential small-town event, the Healdsburg Future Farmers Fair and Twilight Parade. It is truly a celebration of Healdsburg’s roots in agriculture and community. Next year the event will celebrate its 75th anniversary. The tractors, flatbed trucks, fire trucks, 4-H clubs and school bands have a great time “performing” in the parade while the onlookers pack the streets and front yards along the route complete with picnics, barbecues and plenty of local wine.

How About the Dry Creek Wines?

The early Italians who originally settled Dry Creek planted and produced primarily Zinfandel and field blends. But the pioneering spirit generated other varietals that expanded the diversity of Dry Creek wines, from Sauvignon Blanc to Bordeaux blends and Rhône-style varietals like Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. At Amista, we make all three of those Rhône-style wines plus a blend of the three we call Tres.

Is There Sparkling Wine in Dry Creek?

Yes! “During the reception, Amista Winery shared one of their sparkling wines, made from mataro grapes. ‘We have become known for making sparkling wine from unique varietals,” stated Amista Estate Director, Brian Shapiro.” In fact, at Amista we currently produce six sparkling wines, all made using the traditional Methode Champenoise, the same process used to make French Champagne.

Next year we will introduce a 7th sparkling wine to mark our 20th anniversary. We are far younger than the original pioneers and half the age of the Dry Creek AVA, but we are committed to upholding the pioneering tradition and the friendly spirit of Dry Creek Valley. After all, Amista, roughly translated, means making friends.

Read Visiting The Dry Creek Wine Region Of Sonoma County by Dr. Liz Thach in Forbes.



Time Posted: Jun 23, 2023 at 10:00 AM Permalink to Dry Creek Wineries and Amista Vineyards Mark Milestone Anniversaries Permalink
Amista Vineyards
March 8, 2023 | Amista Vineyards

Amista Owner Vicky Farrow Profiled for International Womens Day

Amista Winemaker Ashley Herzberg and Owner Vicky Farrow in Vineyard with Bottle of Blanc de Blanc

I am honored to be included in an article profiling women in wine for International Women’s Day, plus  “the Wines We Are Toasting Them With” by Devin Parr. I’m even more excited to be toasted with a wine created by the women of Amista, our Blanc de Blanc.

A Sparkling Wine Created by the Women of Amista

What makes this wine extra special for toasting International Women’s Day is that it was created as the result of a spontaneous conversation between me and our newly hired woman winemaker, Ashley Herzberg, shortly after she arrived at Amista in 2011. We were standing in the Chardonnay vineyard one day and I asked her, “Do you think we could make a Blanc de Blanc from our Chardonnay?” She didn’t skip a beat when she answered, “Of course!” Mind you, she had not yet made a sparkling wine in her previous winemaking career. But, like me, she loves bubbles. Plus, Ashley is a woman who loves to learn and is always up for a new challenge.

Her First Sparkling Harvest

That fall, Ashley did her first harvest specifically to make a sparkling wine. She picked the grapes earlier than she would for a still wine to achieve lower sugar levels and thus lower alcohol, and higher levels of acid. She was nervous about how to know when the grapes would be ready to pick.

She got some sage advice from another woman winemaker, Penny Gadd-Coster, who had been making sparkling wines for over a decade. Penny told her, “You just still pick for flavors. You're shifting what you're looking for in those flavors. But you're still picking for flavors.” Ashley did just that and 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.

Women Making Progress in Wine

As we toast to women in wine on International Women’s Day it’s worth celebrating that “Women have long been making strides in wine and, although the work is by no means done, it’s an exciting time to be a woman in the industry,” says Parr. She’s right.

A lot has changed over the years for women in wine. I have had the privilege of talking with several women involved in making sparkling wine as part of my project Sparkling Discoveries and there is a clear difference in the experiences of the young women of today as compared with the women who began their careers over two decades ago.

The trailblazing women who started their careers back then were consistently told they could not be winemakers because the work was too difficult for women. In my conversation with Eileen Crane, founding winemaker at Gloria Ferrer and Domaine Carneros, she told me that the first professor she met when she was exploring a degree in enology at Davis told her she couldn’t be a winemaker because she wouldn’t be able to do the work in the cellar. “You can’t handle the barrels,’ he told me. He suggested I finish my PhD in nutrition. I told him I’m not going to be doing that. I’m going to be a winemaker.” It took courage and determination to challenge such attitudes.

Today’s Challenges for Women in Wine are Different

The younger women working in wine today no longer face that kind of active opposition. Women are being encouraged to go into winemaking and wine business. They are celebrated, honored and recruited.

Challenges remain however, although they are less blatant. One has to do with the automatic assumption that the man is the winemaker or CEO. When a man and a woman are both pouring at a tasting, the questions about winemaking are typically directed to the man, although that appears to be changing. Kathleen Inman, Owner and Winemaker at Inman Family Wines, says, “I’ve noticed that people are less surprised to find out that I’m the winemaker, and not my husband, than they were 10 years ago.”

The other two challenges are pay equity and the presence of women in the most senior positions in wine businesses. A 2020 study by Wine Business Monthly shows 28.8% of the wineries had a female as Winemaking Director, although the average of the salaries for those females was 8% lower than the average for males. The same study shows 22% of winery CEOs were female but total cash compensation of the men was nearly double that of the women (1.95 times greater). 

Inspiring Stories of Today's Women in Wine

So yes, there is still work to do. That is why it’s inspiring to read about examples of women with “extraordinary talent in wine” as described by Parr, and to hear what embracing equity means to each of them.

Read “15 (or so) Women We Are Toasting This International Women’s Day…And the Wines We Are Toasting Them With” by Devin Parr.



Time Posted: Mar 8, 2023 at 10:00 AM Permalink to Amista Owner Vicky Farrow Profiled for International Womens Day Permalink
Amista Vineyards
March 8, 2023 | Amista Vineyards

A Toast to Ashley Herzberg Next Generation Winemaker from Amista

Ashley Herzberg Amista Winemaker with Bottle of Sparkling Wine in Vineyard

“As the consulting winemaker for Amista Vineyards and Cast Wines, Ashley’s talents have produced many memorable wines. If you haven’t tried the Amista sparkling wine collection, be sure to stop by soon,” writes Rebecca Germolus in her article “A Toast to Women Winemakers.”

“In honor of Women’s History Month, let’s explore the paths of a few women winemakers along the Wine Road,” adds Germolus. If you are familiar with Sonoma County wine, you’ll know the names of the three women she features as pioneers, Carol Shelton, Julia Iantosca and Phyllis Zouzounis. Not only do they craft amazing wines, but they truly have been part of blazing the path for a future generation of women winemakers in Sonoma County. Rebecca proposes a toast to these pioneering women, saying, “A big thank you to Carol, Julia and Phyllis for staying the course.” We couldn’t agree more.

We are thrilled that Ashley is recognized as one of the next generation women shaping winemaking in Sonoma County. She is in good company on this list of other extremely talented female winemakers. She knows and interacts with all these women. That is one of the most wonderful things about Northern Sonoma County. There is a sense of connection, mutual support and admiration that permeates our wine community. By the way, men are not excluded, although I suspect the bond with other women is something extra special.

One of the ways Ashley stands out is making sparkling wines. Only a handful of winemakers in Sonoma County can make that claim plus Ashley is equally talented at crafting still wines. Her focus at Amista is on creating elegant, approachable sparkling wines from varieties that are not traditional - Rhône varieties - though she uses the traditional method, the same process that is used to make French Champagne. She is currently making six sparkling wines for Amista, all grown in our estate vineyards, and has another fermenting in the bottle to be released in 2024 to celebrate our 20th anniversary.

If you haven’t tried her sparkling wines or need to treat yourself again, we invite you to Taste With Us and toast to the women winemakers along the wine road.

Read “A Toast to Women Winemakers,” by Rebecca Germolus.

Time Posted: Mar 8, 2023 at 8:00 AM Permalink to A Toast to Ashley Herzberg Next Generation Winemaker from Amista Permalink
Amista Vineyards
February 23, 2023 | Amista Vineyards

Amista Wine - Sparkling Grenache an Effervescent Dream!

Amista Wine - Sparkling Grenache with Vineyards in Background

“This effervescent dream benefits from being made using the Methode Champenoise, which is the process used to make fine French Champagne,” suggests a feature called Special Sips in the Scottsdale Airpark News.

If you happen to be in the Scottsdale airport, you might see Amista featured in this magazine. We are delighted to be included with so many other fine wines from Sonoma County along with a few from Napa Valley. Our Sparkling Grenache is described as an “effervescent dream” adding, “If nothing else, try this one for its nose, which is bursting with tangerine, grapefruit, and Meyer lemon.”

But what would be the point of just sniffing the wine when you can experience the joy of bubbles dancing on your tongue and treat your palate to the flavors of freshly picked strawberries?

Why Sparkling Grenache?

At Amista we specialize in estate grown red Rhône varieties. We also specialize in making sparkling wines using the classic method used in Champagne. So, it’s no surprise that we love to make sparkling wines from our Rhône varieties. Winemaker Ashley Herzberg loves all bubbles – Champagnes, especially those made by small grower/producers, Crémants, Cava’s and sparkling wines made in the U.S. She had been making a sparkling rosé from another Rhône grape from our estate vineyards since she joined us in 2011. In 2013 she was ready to make another sparkling rosé and thought the Grenache grown on our estate Morningsong Vineyards would be perfect. She was right!

Amista Sparkling Grenache in Glass on TankOur First Sparkling Grenache

She harvested the grapes earlier than for the still Grenache to achieve the right balance of sugar, acid and flavors for a sparkling wine and left them on the skins for just a few hours to achieve a delicate pink color. She calls is “ballet slipper pink”.  I will never forget experiencing this wine for the first time. We were in the cellar, and she took a small sample from the tank. The color was amazing, and yep, it was ballet slipper pink. Our first taste was before its secondary fermentation in the bottle, which is what produces the delicate bubbles. Even as a still wine it was beautiful on the palate.

Amista Sparkling Grenache Selected as One of Ten Hot Brands

It would be 18 months before we could taste the resulting sparkling wine. We feel in love. But we weren’t alone. Wine Business Monthly selected the inaugural release of our Sparkling Grenache and Amista as one of 10 Hot Brands in 2017.

"Sparkling wine isn't just for celebrations anymore.  That's not to say we shouldn't be drinking sparkling on momentous occasions or for holidays - if you asked Vicky Farrow and Ashley Herzberg, we should be drinking it every day of the year.  Maybe they're a little biased - they're in charge of the sparkling wine program at Amista Vineyards, tucked away along Sonoma County's famed Dry Creek Road - but it does sound like they're on to something big." says Wine Business Monthly.   

We now have a collection of six sparkling wines with a seventh to debut in 2024 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Amista. Stay tuned!

Check out "Special Sips" in the Scottsdale Airpark Magazine.

Time Posted: Feb 23, 2023 at 10:00 AM Permalink to Amista Wine - Sparkling Grenache an Effervescent Dream! Permalink

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