While You’re in Town: Hike Calistoga’s Newest Trail

LOHMT_trail_trees_sky_higherHere’s one for the “While You’re in Town” file:  the next time you’re visiting our winery, take a few hours to hike the Oat Hill Mine Trail, an historic carriage and mining road in Calistoga.

As a visitor, there’s so much fun to be had in the upper Napa Valley just by spending your days eating and drinking that it’s easy to overlook another draw of our region:  the miles of beautiful hiking trails that meander through unspoiled forests and mountains surrounding the valley vineyards.  This weekend the Lower Oat Hill Mine Trail in Calistoga will be dedicated as the most recent portion of the Bay Area Ridge Trail.  For those unfamiliar with the Bay Area Ridge Trail, this admirable project seeks to create a continuous 550+-mile trail for hikers, mountain bicyclists, and equestrians along the ridgelines surrounding the San Francisco Bay Area.  With 340+ miles of trails on the Ridge Trail already open, the Lower Oat Hill Mine Trail adds 4.5 miles to that growing total.

The Ridge Trail website describes the beauty of the Lower Oat Hill Mine Trail best:  “This 4.5 mile trail follows an historic carriage and mining road, crossing seasonal creeks as it climbs through oak woodlands and chaparral, offering clear views of the Napa Valley and Mt. St. Helena.”  The Lower Oat Hill Mine Tail connects with the Palisades Trail, which wanders along those stunning Palisades cliffs visible from our property.  Time to grab those hiking boots!

When Parker Reviews Napa

Whether or not you agree with the amount of influence wielded by the 800-pound gorilla of our industry, the fact is that Robert Parker still remains a force.  And so when Parker published his largest ever compilation of Napa Valley reviews last week, even his critics sat up and noticed.  We at Amici certainly did, and we’re thrilled that he had such nice things to say about our wines.  Here is what Parker says about our current releases:

2010 Amici Cellars Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon  “The dense ruby/purple-colored 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Morisolli from Rutherford boasts a stunning perfume of blueberries, black raspberries, acacia flowers and spice. This rich, layered 2010 is the most complete and impressive wine of this quartet. Still youthful, it will benefit from several more years of bottle age, and should drink well for two decades. Impressive!  93 Points”

2010 Amici Cellars Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon  “The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District, an inky/ruby/purple-colored wine exhibiting notes of licorice, graphite and black currants, offers a classic display of fruit, body, texture and structure. None of the famed floral/blueberry characteristics that often come from Spring Mountain have yet emerged, but this wine is fresh and vibrant with plenty of energy and richness. Enjoy this successful 2010 over the next 15-20 years.  90+ Points”

2010 Amici Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley  “The deep ruby/plum/purple-tinged 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa offers notes of cassis, blueberries, graphite and toasty vanillin. A nicely proportioned, medium to full-bodied, seriously endowed, elegant, restrained wine with admirable purity, it can be drunk now or cellared for 10-15 years.  90 Points”

2010 Amici Cellars Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley  “The black label 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve reveals beautiful cedary, black currant fruit, a well-integrated touch of toasty vanillin, medium to full-bodied flavors, sweet tannin and a fleshy, opulent mouthfeel. Approachable now, it has the richness to last 10-15 years.  88 Points”

Parker also had important comments to make on Napa as a wine-growing region.  He says, “… world class quality from Napa Valley is a fact, not a myth. All of the fallacies about Napa wines being too rich, short-lived and over-the-top are, in fact, absurd drivel often created by Euro-centric wine drinkers that have been proven false time and time again. If you are not following what is going on in Napa Valley, you are missing some of the world’s most compelling and provocative wines. End of story.”

Hear, hear!

What to Expect from the 2013 Vintage (Hint: Expect a lot!)


This morning’s harvest on a crisp, beautiful morning atop Spring Mountain

Last year at this time all anyone could talk about was how 2012 was a great year.  Well, then, what does that make 2013?  There’s only one answer:  a really, really great year.

The season got started with huge amounts of rain in December followed by drought conditions throughout the spring.  Warm conditions and early flowering meant that ripening was several weeks ahead of the norm.  The lack of spring rainfall allowed us to control irrigation in the vineyards, keeping vines and canopies healthy but maintaining small, concentrated berry size.  The summer continued with warm but not excessively hot conditions, and just when things were looking like we’d harvest early completing a very good season, Mother Nature gave us an even better gift:  conditions cooled down to slightly below normal, extending the growing season for several weeks. Weeks of sunny days and cool nights in September and October allowed the grapes to continue maturing and deepening their complex flavors without danger of over ripening, creating the best of all conditions.

With small berries providing higher skin to juice ratios for fermentation, the warm days helped the grapes retain their color while cool nights aided acid retention.  We’re very excited about the concentration in the Cab we’ve brought in this year.  The wine is intensely colored and rich in texture and flavor, with very good, balanced flavors and nice acid retention.

We have two Cabernet vineyards left to harvest, and will bring in the final grapes by mid-week next week.  Then we will most certainly toast to an incredible vintage, courtesy of Mother Nature.


Review Roll-up: August 2013

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

Throw a “Wine Country-Style” Party – Anywhere!

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:

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Serve the food family style at casual long tables. Baskets of fresh bread and a few simple flower sprigs from your garden are all you need to create a beautiful, informal table.


For a rustic touch of wine country, use two empty barrels and a plank of wood to create a wine bar.

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Create these fun and easy wine cork napkin rings for each placesetting to highlight the “wine country” theme.

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Place several open bottles of nice wine along the tables and encourage people to explore the different wines and discover their favorites. After dinner move any unfinished bottles to the wine bar and let people serve themselves as they continue to mix and mingle.

Winemaking 101: Cleaning the Barrels

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.


Bobby does the “smell test,” alert for any off odors from any barrels.


Wine sediment from the barrel washes out during the initial rinse phase of cleaning.

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.