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.
I love to see it 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.
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 wider glass. I know it enhances the aromas, but it kills the bubbles and the flute just feels more elegant.
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!
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.
I already have my next five reasons. What are yours?
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 rose, cranberry in color and dry. I call it "joy in a bottle". It's festive! It shimmers! It's delicious!
But Winemaker Ashley 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 joy ever since.
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 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.
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!
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!
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.
Keep up to date on the latest wine releases, events, and promotions.