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Singing “Purple Rain” to the end of Harvest 2014

What a great fall season (earthquakes notwithstanding).  We celebrated the official end of harvest for Amici on Monday as we brought in our last load of grapes (from the famous Tokalon vineyard, no less—look out for that one in a couple years).  After nine weeks of harvest craziness, the last grapes rolled off the sorting table as the crew cheered and champagne corks popped to the strains of “Purple Rain” by Prince. We caught it all on video, so we hope you enjoy this little glimpse of life around our winery.
Loud music warning:  if you’re watching this at work, you might want to get those headphones on!

Celebrating the Close of Harvest 2014

A Look at Amici Harvest Boot Camp

Every fall we have fun hosting a series of visitors from the wine industry who come to us to take part in Amici’s “Harvest Boot Camp.” It’s a unique way to truly understand what happens at a winery during the harvest season, and provides an opportunity for our “boot campers” to put their own personal stamp on a wine, knowing they played a part in its creation.

One of our recent boot campers, Heather Boysen, wrote an article for the Argus Leader on her experience at Amici:

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http://www.argusleader.com/story/wineblog/2014/10/01/amici-farm/16540209/

The Napa Earthquake: Showing the Spirit of Cooperation

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You’ve seen the photos: barrels toppled into chaotic heaps and rivers of red wine running though floors strewn with the glass shards of broken bottles. As Napa struggles to recover from Sunday morning’s 6.0 earthquake, the valley’s well-known spirit of cooperation amongst its wineries is once again shining.

We were one of the lucky ones: our winery was unscathed and the only sign of the earthquake was a slight shift in the barrels stacked six high floor-to-ceiling. Our wine inventory, which sits in a warehouse just a quarter mile from the epicenter, remains fine. You can bet we’re counting our lucky stars.

About 80% of the wineries in Napa fared well through the earthquake with little or no damage. But for the ones that did suffer damage, the timing was about as bad as it gets. With harvest having arrived about two weeks earlier than normal, and what looks like an exceptional-quality vintage in store, wineries across the valley were in full-action mode when the earthquake hit. Newly harvested juice is undergoing fermentation, a process that needs to be watched and controlled carefully for the best outcome. And new loads of beautiful quality grapes are coming in daily, whether or not wineries have recovered enough to resume harvest.

But this is where the Napa wine industry shines: there is a long-held spirit of professional cooperation here, which means that this week all hands are on deck helping our fellow vintners restore power, clean up barrel rooms and fix equipment so that harvest can continue. No one wants to see a fellow vintner have to miss out on an excellent harvest, one that last week we were all so excited about.

Most vintners attribute the spirit of professional cooperation in the Napa wine industry to Robert Mondavi. He always had a generous “we’re all in this together” approach to building the valley’s reputation as one of the world’s premier wine regions, recognizing that he couldn’t successfully build his own winery’s reputation without first promoting the region as a whole. There are well-known stories amongst the older generation of vintners of Bob Mondavi pitching in to help fellow vintners down on their luck, lending his equipment or doing whatever he could to help rescue a neighbor. Something tells me that at a time like this, he and his legendary generosity would really shine.

Are We Looking at a “Three-peat”?

Sauvignon Blanc grapes from the Laurent Vineyard in St. Helena ready for crush at Amici Cellars.

Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Laurent Vineyard in St. Helena ready for crush at Amici Cellars.

That’s the question on everyone’s lips these days as we start harvest under what appears, for now, to be ideal conditions for a third year in a row. After the banner vintages of 2012 and 2013, which delighted everyone with exceptionally high yields and gorgeous, complex flavors, vintners across the valley are knocking on wood after daring to hope that we just may be in for yet another ideal vintage.

At Amici we kicked off harvest last week, bringing in our Sauvignon Blanc from St. Helena and Rutherford. “Everything looks absolutely perfect right now,” says winemaker Joel Aiken. “The flavors and the sugars in the grapes are ideal. We’re bringing in the Sauv Blanc at 23 brix and are starting another fermentation today.” This year’s harvest is about two weeks earlier than normal.

The current weather of foggy mornings and warm days in the mid-80’s is ideal for this time of year. The red varietals, which are still on the vine, are enjoying slow, even ripening in the sunny days and cool mornings, allowing complex flavors to develop without the threat of sunburn or rains. And although this past winter was one of the driest on record, the springs rains that did come were in February and March, at just the right time to create slow and steady growing conditions perfect for a high-quality crop.

Joel estimates that if the weather stays consistent, we’ll start bringing in our Cabernet grapes early to mid-September. Stay tuned for more harvest updates!

A Smashing Success for the Barrel Auction

It’s tough to have a bad day wandering the beautiful grounds of Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, but Friday’s barrel auction hit an all-time high note for picture-perfect weather, stunning wines and delicious food.

Two thousand attendees came to sample and bid on wines from 100 barrels inside the Charles Krug Redwood Cellar at Friday’s barrel auction, part of Auction Napa Valley.  The wines were almost all from the celebrated 2012 vintage and as a group wowed attendees with their depth, complexity and sheer deliciousness.  Amici’s barrel of 2012 Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet was a huge hit with tasters, who bid more than $2,000 per case to get their hands on it.

Outside the barrel room, attendees wandered the Marketplace in the gorgeous weather, sipping white and rosé wines and tasting amazing bites of food cooked on site by the crème de la crème of Napa Valley’s restaurant and catering scene.  Yesterday’s barrel auction was an astounding success by any measure, and while the final numbers are not in yet, the unofficial word is that the charitable funds raised may be close to last year’s record of almost $1.7 million.  And to top that, things really kick into high gear later today with the live auction at Meadowood Resort, while the e-auction continues until Sunday.

The calm before the storm: minutes before attendees arrive.

The calm before the storm: minutes before attendees arrive.

Pouring at this year's barrel selection.

Pouring this year’s barrel selection.

Cooks from Meadowood prepare fresh spring peas for their dish at the Marketplace

Cooks from Meadowood prepare fresh spring peas for their dish at the Marketplace

The top bidder gets a commemorative signed barrel head.

The top bidder gets a commemorative signed barrel head.

Nothing matches the excitement of the barrel auction.

Nothing matches the excitement of the barrel auction.

Always a favorite, Woodhouse Chocolates presents samples of their amazing creations.

Always a favorite, Woodhouse Chocolates presented samples of their amazing creations.

The boards are full from generous bidders.

The boards are full from generous bidders.

The final bids are posted, the confetti has flown, and another great barrel auction comes to a close.

The final bids are posted, the confetti has flown, and another great barrel auction comes to a close.

Summer Whites to Pair with Your Summer Fun

iStock_000016498332_MediumThe official change from spring to summer may be a few weeks away, but around here summer has already arrived, if Mother Nature has anything to say about it. These beautiful warm days have us turning our attention to poolside cocktailing and summer entertaining with friends— in short, it has us thinking about sipping some cool white wines.

Joel blended 50% Sauvignon Musque clone into our 2012 Amici Napa Sauvignon Blanc, giving it tropical, round notes not found in some other leaner and greener examples of this varietal.  For our Olema Chardonnay, a portion of the blend was fermented in barrels for a rich, creamy texture with the remainder fermented in stainless steel which preserves the bright, vibrant fruit and crispness. The tropical fruit characteristics of the Russian River Valley fruit marry beautifully with the citrus and mineral notes from Sonoma Coast, giving the final blend a Burgundian style with California roots.

Great partners to virtually all summer foods, these wines are a perfect choice to pop open poolside when you’re enjoying the warm weather.  Here’s what the experts are saying about them:

Image 2012 Amici Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley

“An aromatic, extremely distinct Sauvignon. It is full bodied, round, and crisp and very long on the finish, with aromas/flavors reminiscent of pineapple, lemon peel, lemon grass, guava, and lime. Very fine quality.” — Restaurant Wine

“A smooth and juicy white, offering lemon curd, lime, peach and apple flavors, balanced by good intensity and accents of citrus zest on the finish.” — Wine Spectator

“More complex than most sauvignon blancs, this treat has fresh citrus and pineapple aromas with round tropical fruit, lemon and a dash of wet stone on the finish. That half the wine comes from the sauvignon musque clone is no surprise. Winemaker Joel Aiken has done a very nice job with this brand.” — Capital Gazette,

 Chard No Date2012 Olema Chardonnay Sonoma County
“A bold and assertive style, with rich, honey-laced melon, pear, apricot and fig flavors that are pure, focused and persistent.” — J.L., Wine Spectator

“Bright full yellow. Musky aromas of candied apple, nutmeg, honeysuckle and toasty oak, complicated by a leesy nuance. Round, sweet and ripe, with a savory aspect to the flavors of ripe apple, pineapple, toast and brown spice… Finishes with good lingering fruit. Remarkably inexpensive.” — S.T., International Wine Cellar

“This approachable chardonnay was fermented half in oak and half in stainless steel, giving the wine a crisp and refreshing acidity; apple and citrus notes balance the wine and bring a creamy quality to the finish.” — Beverage Dynamics

“…a wine with universal appeal, with bright pineapple, lemon-meringue pie and honeysuckle flavors.” — Wine Enthusiast

Gather Your Friends and Enjoy a Weekend in Napa Valley


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3 couples, 2 nights, 1 beautiful home, tons of great food and wine… it all adds up to one fantastic weekend!

Bidding opens today on our e-auction lot for the 2014 Auction Napa Valley, and you can join in for a chance to win a wonderful weekend of wine, food and fun.  Don’t worry if you can’t make it to Napa Valley for the auction — you can bid on this great lot from your own computer at home. Three couples will spend a weekend at Amici Cellars in Calistoga enjoying a vineyard tour, barrel tasting and gourmet lunch. The six of you will also enjoy a two day/two night stay in Amici’s beautiful winery guest house and join Amici co-owner John Harris for an insider’s look at Napa Valley winemaking.

ImageFrom your rooms at the guest house located in Jericho Canyon near Calistoga, you’ll wake up to the sun rising over the majestic Palisades Mountain Range. Then John will take you on an insider’s tour of the famous Morisoli Vineyard on the Rutherford Bench, followed by a barrel tasting of Amici’s single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons. After your barrel tasting, you’ll enjoy a gourmet lunch and wine pairings prepared by Amici’s private chef. To top off your stay, you’ll receive six bottles each of Amici’s extremely limited production Cabernet Sauvignon from Spring Mountain District (200 cases produced), Gary Morisoli Vineyard (125 cases produced), and Oakville (100 cases produced) from the 2011 vintage.

Register here to take part in the online bidding.  Bidding for this one-of-a-kind wine lovers’ weekend opens today, June 1, and the e-gavel comes down on Sunday, June 8.

Review Roll-up: more from Spring 2014

Things are really buzzing these days!  We’re so pleased with the friendly comments that have greeted so many of our new, and even not-so-new, releases. Here’s what was being said out there about Amici wines this spring:

2010 Amici Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

91 Points. This classic Napa Cabernet (with a splash of Petit Verdot) is elegant, streamlined and absolutely lovely to drink now. It’s dry and balanced in acidity and tannins, and has rich layers of cassis, mocha, plums and toast.” — S.H., Wine Enthusiast

2010 Amici Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

“The Reserve is full bodied and intensely fruity; a rich, toasty, somewhat rugged wine with complex character and a long, tannic finish. It tastes of blackberry, cassis, cedar, toast, and spicy oak.” — Restaurant Wine

2010 Amici Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 

94 Points. A big, aromatic and very youthful wine from this great vineyard; vivid berry fruit with spice and vanilla oak; layered, complex and yet all of a piece; rich, generous and showing huge potential; don’t rush to drink it-time will make it even better.” — Tasting Panel Magazine

90 Points. Beefy with scents of black olive skin and tar, this is all tense tannins as a young wine. With air, its density begins to show a wild herb character, the power of the tannins needing five or six years to relent. This grows at a prime bench land site just south of Rubicon.” — Wine & Spirits

 2010 Amici Spring Mountain Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 

“92 points. Mountain-grown tannins provide some detail and complexity to this youthfully aggressive cabernet; they also completely dry out the mouth. Still hard after a day of air, they begin to allow red fruit to show in the middle, iron-like in its bloody redness, raspberry-like on its kinder side. There’s generosity to that fruit, and plenty of structure to carry this in the cellar for ten years or more.” — Wine & Spirits

2012 Amici Cellars Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

90 Points. Bright medium red. Aromas of raspberry, musky tobacco and herbs are lifted by a floral topnote. Offers lovely balance and intensity to its red berry and spice flavors. Harmonious acidity energizes this silky, expansive pinot. Lovely pinot fruit and length here, and the fine-grained tannins will not get in the way of enjoying this wine right now. I”d consume it over the next two or three years.” — S.T., International Wine Cellar

2012 Olema Pinot Noir Sonoma County

90 Points.  It’s rare to get a twenty buck Pinot Noir this good.  The wine is dry, silky and elegant, almost faultless in its precision.  With savory cherry, red licorice, cola and sandalwood flavors, it’s not an ager, but a very pretty wine for drinking now. Editors’ Choice.” — S.H., Wine Enthusiast

90 Points. Bright medium red. Aromas of cherry, raspberry, fresh herbs, rose petal and spicy oak. Less fat than the Russian River Valley bottling but with very good definition and lift to the high-pitched red fruit and spice flavors. Not a fat style but juicy and easygoing, finishing with good grip and lift. A terrific value in California pinot.” — S.T., International Wine Cellar

“Radiant ruby-magenta color; plums, mulberries and cranberries, brier rose; hints of cloves, rhubarb and pomegranate; dense, supple and satiny; ripe and lightly spiced red and blue fruit flavors; a few moments in the glass brirg in notes of roses and violets, leather and tobacco; undertones of graphite, earth and mild tannins. Really lovely. Now through 2016. Excellent. About $20, marking Great Value.” — Bigger Than Your Head

Review Roll-up March 2014

We’ve enjoyed some really flattering reviews of our wines over the last few months, and we’re happy to share them with our readers.

Restaurant Wine tasted four current releases and here’s what they had to say:

AMICI  2010  SPRING MOUNTAIN DISTRICT  **** (4 stars: “excellent”)
Very fine quality:  supple and very ripely flavored, with full body, good balance, and a long, mildly tannic finish. Combines fine fruitiness (plum, blueberry, violet, cassis) with smoky, toasty oak character. Can be aged. 11% Cabernet Franc. Aged 20 months in French oak barrels, 80% new. 200 cases.

AMICI  2010 MORISOLI VINEYARD RUTHERFORD  ****+ (4+ stars: “excellent+”)
Very ripe and rich in style, this is a powerful, near-jammy Cabernet with tremendous depth and length. It has rich blackberry, cherry, and plum fruitiness, and spicy, toasty, cedary oak overtones. Aged 20 months in French oak barrels, 80% new. Very fine quality. 100 cases.

AMICI  2010  NAPA VALLEY  ***** (5 stars: “exceptional”)
Rich and ripely flavored, this is an impressive Cabernet, especially at the price. It is full bodied and very long on the palate, with a mildy tannic finish. In aroma/flavor, it tastes of cassis, tobacco, blackberry, plum jam, cedar, and toast. Remarkable Napa Cab value! 2% Petit Verdot. Aged 18-20 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. 4,200 cases.

AMICI  2012  NAPA VALLEY  ****+  (4+ stars: “excellent+”)
An aromatic, extremely distinct Sauvignon. It is full bodied, round, and crisp and very long on the finish, with aromas/flavors reminiscent of pineapple, lemon peel, lemon grass, guava, and lime. Very fine quality. 50% Sauvignon Musque. 10% aged in French oak barrels; 10% ML.

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Steve Heimoff, meanwhile, featured our 2012 Olema Pinot Noir in his blog post from 3/7/14 as one of his “Top 10 Wines of the Week.”  “Anytime you can get a 90 point or above wine for $30 and under, you should grab it,” he says in the post.  We’re hoping that, at $20, the 2012 Olema Pinot Noir made it onto a few readers’ shopping lists.

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Joe Roberts of 1WineDude blog fame included Amici in his “Best of the Best” blog write-up of February’s Premiere Napa Valley wine auction.  He says, “Ok, ok, I love these guys, they love me for talking about how much I love them, so we can just dispense with the formalities and enjoy the love-fest. If someone is making a Cab with better QPR than these guys, let me know (never mind, you can’t, because it ain’t happening). Fruit from Spring Mountain hath produced a most agreeable beverage here; in fact, a beautiful one. Dried herbs, dark fruit, tannic grip. One for a long haul, as I’m fond of saying, from people who know how to do it without charging you a mortgage payment for it.”  We’re blushing!

******

Fredric Koeppel, he of the funny-named but very professonally-written blog “Bigger Than Your Head,” included our 2010 Amici Cab Napa Valley in his Weekend Wine Notes survey of a handful of Napa Cabs. Common threads, he states, were wines that were relatively low in alcohol and where “the emphasis is mainly on structure rather than ripeness.”  He writes of the Amici 2010 Napa Cab:  “Dark ruby with a magenta-violet rim; black currants, raspberries and cherries, juicy, spicy, lots of graphite and lavender; that gratifying blend of ripe fruit and a rigorously tannic and mineral-tinged structure; oak providing a firm framework and foundation; lithe, almost sinewy, quite dry, even a little austere but lively, attractive, with an engaging personality. Now through 2018 to ’20. Excellent.”  Now that’s nice:  whether it’s in a blind date or in a wine, “lively, attractive and engaging” will keep anyone coming back for more!

New Release: Amici 2012 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

We’re happy to announce the release of the newest wine from Amici Cellars: the 2012 Amici Pinot Noir Russian River Valley.

There’s been a lot of buzz about the 2012 vintage for Pinot Noir from Sonoma County appellations: Robert Parker rated the vintage 93 points (“outstanding”), his highest rating ever since he started rating the vintages for this region in 1978. Wine Enthusiast, meanwhile, rated the 2012 vintage for Russian River Valley Pinot Noir a staggering 95 points (“superb”).

This wine certainly delivers on the promises of those enthusiastic ratings: Beautifully aromatic, the wine opens with a dazzling bouquet of rich raspberry and fragrant violets. On the palate, flavors of black cherry, raspberry and cola spice swirl around hints of earth. Velvety tannins lead to an excellent length on the finish, with a persistent core of fruit that lingers for minutes, not seconds. A true beauty of a wine, it is delicious now but will age well for 5-7 years.

You can find the 2012 Amici Pinot Noir Russian River Valley on our website.

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