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!

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.

2013 Harvest Boot Camp with Amici Cellars

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Here’s a great blog post from Total Wine on the Harvest Boot Camps we hosted last fall. If you work in the wine industry and want to join in the fun and hard work next fall, just let us know!

Originally posted on Total Wine & More:

When you work inside a retail wine shop, your exposure to the wine industry is a bit one-sided.  We see a skillfully crafted, finished product.  A beautiful wine, inside a beautiful package, that customers pick up for a variety of reasons.  It is a package that elicits a wide range of emotions and caters to varied tastes and desires.

That, of course, is just one side of the wine equation.  Behind the scenes, there is an incredible amount of planning, scrambling, organizing, cooperating, praying and hard work. I was part of a small group from Total Wine & More invited to experience this other side at the Amici Cellars’ “Harvest Boot Camp” in Calistoga, Ca.

For a week, six of us joined the Amici crew to participate in the 2013 harvest.  We contributed our labor and lived the winery life alongside owners, winemakers and interns.

(L to R) Rebecca Davidson…

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Announcing our Newest Pinot Noir — It’s a Game Changer!

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.

ImageAnnouncing 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.

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

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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.

 

The Insider’s View of Harvest

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!

Harvest Day for Missouri Hopper Vineyard Cabernet

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.

A New Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

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.