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.
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!
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.
What are you used to paying for that killer Pinot Noir from Sonoma that you love so much? $40? $50? What if we told you that you could have a Pinot that good (maybe better) for $20? Seriously.
Announcing the newest member of the Amici family: the 2012 Olema Pinot Noir. This is some exciting stuff: a Sonoma Pinot Noir for $20 that tastes fantastic? That’s a game changer. We promise you, this wine competes way above its weight class. A blend of 80% Pinot Noir grapes from Russian River Valley with 20% from premier vineyards in Sonoma County, this Pinot features the classic Russian River Valley characteristics of perfumed aromas and bright, focused red fruit flavors framed by delicate tannins.
That perfect 2012 vintage has created some of the best Pinot Noirs to come out of Sonoma County. The 2012 Olema Pinot Noir opens with a burst of beautiful berries intertwined with sweet florals on the nose. Flavors of cherry, cola and raspberry with a hint of sweet vanilla and a silky smooth mouthfeel make it a deliciously drinkable wine.
If you want to check it out for yourself, you can find it on our website.
Over the next several months, wine stores across the country will be unveiling a brand new label for our Olema wines. For the uninitiated, Olema is Amici’s sister brand showcasing excellent quality wine at friendly prices, and it has gained a tremendous following over the last couple years. We thought that it was only fitting that a rising star like Olema get a makeover suitable to its pedigree: and so, violà, a brand new look:
The new look!
…and the previous label.
How did we end up with a wine named “Olema” anyway, you ask? Good question. While Amici’s primary focus is on showcasing the best of Napa Valley, Olema looks to celebrate Sonoma. The name Olema, which means “coyote” in Miwok, honors the Coast Miwok Native Americans who lived along the Sonoma Coast and in northern Marin County. Olema wines feature fresh, vibrant flavors and excellent value.
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.
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!
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!
Goodies await the arrival of managers from Total Wine & More stores around the country.
Amici’s Bob Shepard with Total Wine’s Director of Wine Operations Robb Kimbles.
A group shot before the Palisades backdrop (and no, Total Wine does not believe in child labor–those children in front are part of the Amici family!)
For more photos of the evening, view the photo album.