This week we kicked off the first of several weeks of “Harvest Boot Camp” at Amici Cellars. We welcomed friends from around the country that want to get a true insider’s view of how a Napa Valley harvest works–and are willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard to get that view! The first week of Harvest Boot Camp was a busy one: the crew’s days were filled with early morning harvests in the vineyards, sorting stems and leaves from grapes at the sorting table, building barrels, touring vineyards, cleaning winery equipment — and, of course, plenty of fun times with good food and wine to celebrate their hard work. On Friday we sent our first crew off to the airport, with purple-stained fingers, tired and happy after five days of hard work, and (hopefully) full of great stories to tell their co-workers back home. Now to greet the next crew!
There was a nip in the air on Tuesday morning as we brought in the fruit from the Missouri Hopper Vineyard in the Oakville AVA.
We were happy to see lots of reviews of Amici wines during the month of August:
• 2012 Amici Cellars Sauvignon Blanc — “Made from warm climate fruit that offers both richness and complexity, the sauvignon musqué spent most of its time in stainless steel, although some of it saw some oak and a percentage also underwent malolactic fermentation. It has a grassy nose and treats the drinker to lovely lemon zest and stone fruit on the lengthy finish.” - Pierce Carson, Napa Valley Register, 8/15/13
• 2010 Amici Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon — “Wine Pick of the Week. We found it dense in flavor and not yet yielding the subtlety and nuance it will show will show with a little more age. Dark fruit predominates—Santa Rosa plums, blackberries and black cherries with just a bit of cassis. There are also some licorice and light chocolate notes in the background. At $45, this is a relative bargain for quality Napa Valley Cabernet.” - http://www.tastecaliforniatravel.com, 8/26/13
• 2010 Amici Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon — “If anyone knows how to treat Rutherford Bench fruit, it’s Joel Aiken. Here’s a wine you can enjoy now or lay down for up to 10 years. After impressing with a gorgeous perfumy nose, the wine displays layers of fruit on the palate, most notably plums and black cherries. It’s still a baby and a real bargain for Napa Valley cab.” - Pierce Carson, Napa Valley Register, 8/15/13
• 2010 Amici Cellars Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (September 2013 release) — “The majority of the fruit for this exceptional blend came from Rutherford, with a bit of spice and backbone credited to grapes harvested up on Spring Mountain. With layers and layers of flavor and the finesse that a seasoned winemaker can coax out of a harvest, this reserve has a lot to offer, from mocha to intense flavors of black cherries and blackberries.” - Pierce Carson, Napa Valley Register, 8/15/13
• 2009 Amici Cellars Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon — “This has both length and depth, a 100 percent cabernet from the dust of the Morisoli tract in Rutherford. It’s the most intense of the cabs tasted from this brand, having spent two years to date in bottle. It should age well for a couple of decades. There’s a gorgeous nose of black fruit, followed by a full mouth of black fruit and black olives —an earthy, well-rounded cab for the aficionados.” - Pierce Carson, Napa Valley Register, 8/15/13
We’re getting ready for tomorrow morning’s harvest at our newest source for Pinot Noir: Oakwild Ranch Vineyard, in the heart of Russian River Valley.
Yesterday was a great day, as we celebrated the start of another harvest and what looks like a killer 2013 vintage!
What do you get when you take 10 different wines, and add 1 gourmet food truck and 60 friends from around the country? You get one fun night. We welcomed our friends from Total Wine & More at the winery on Wednesday night for our annual chance to reconnect with old friends, meet new ones, and taste through Amici’s current and upcoming releases together. Famous burger purveyor Gott’s Roadside sent their mobile catering truck and we all enjoyed a wonderful evening of gourmet burgers and ahi tacos, wine (and margaritas — no man lives on wine alone!). It was the kind of beautiful, warm evening beneath the Palisades mountain range that makes everyone want to move to Calistoga and never leave. A warm thank you to Total Wine & More for making time for us during their whirlwind tour of Napa & Sonoma this week–hosting this group has become an annual highlight for Amici and an evening that we truly enjoy!
For more photos of the evening, view the photo album.
August is the perfect month for backyard parties, and a wine country-themed party is always a winner, no matter where you live. We recently threw a fantastic “wine country style barbeque” for a friend’s birthday – at a location two hours from Napa Valley. Here are a few tips for adding a touch of wine country to your party, wherever it is:
Preparing the 2012’s for a long winter’s nap
Last week Assistant Winemaker Bobby Donnell was busy getting the last of the 2012 Cabernets ready for their winter slumber as he prepares the winery for the incoming 2013 fruit. He and winery interns have been finishing up racking the wine, which is the process of removing the wine into stainless tanks, cleaning the barrels, and then replacing the wine back in the barrels so it can rest until an additional racking next winter.
As the wine ferments in the barrels, the sediment (the “lees”) settles to the bottom of the barrel and tartrates gradually build up inside the barrels (tartrates are the harmless crystalline deposits that separate from wines during fermentation and aging). During the racking process, Bobby will pump the wine into tanks and add a little sulfer dioxide to protect it. He’ll then do an initial cleaning of the barrels with water, washing out the sediment. The rinse is followed by a high pressure steam treatment. The steam nozzle seals the bung on the barrel and when the steam hits the cool air inside the barrel, the air expands rapidly. As the air cools, it creates a vacuum effect, pulling wine and tartrates from the pores on the inside of the oak barrel. The wine is then placed back in the clean barrels, and settles in for its long winter’s nap.
Winemaker Joel Aiken heads out to the Sauvignon Blanc vineyards to look at how the grapes are coming along for harvest 2013. At this point, Joel estimates a Sauvignon Blanc harvest date of late August, about two weeks earlier than the usual September date. Chalk that up to a warm, dry spring in which the grapes have ripened evenly in mild temperatures.
It was our pleasure to host Uchi Restaurant Group of Texas at our winery guesthouse last weekend. Renowned Napa Valley chef Morgan Robinson of Smoke Open Fire prepared a fantastic meal outside under the oak trees and everyone had a wonderful evening.
Chef Tyson Cole has brought his Uchi Restaurants (Uchi in Austin and Houston, Uchiko in Austin) to national prominence serving fresh, inventive and beautiful dishes at his Japanese restaurants.
A great example of Chef Cole’s fresh and creative cooking, courtesy of Chef Cole and the Wall Street Journal, is his recipe for Asparagus Three Ways with Fried Capers. It’s not always easy to find a wine pairing for asparagus, but with the addition of briny capers and creamy eggs yolks, this dish makes a lovely pairing with the 2012 Amici Sauvignon Blanc.