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.

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

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.

Kicking Off Harvest 2013

Yesterday was a great day, as we celebrated the start of another harvest and what looks like a killer 2013 vintage!

Wine, and Burgers and Friends…Oh My!

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!

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Goodies await the arrival of managers from Total Wine & More stores around the country.

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Amici’s Bob Shepard with Total Wine’s Director of Wine Operations Robb Kimbles.

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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.

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.

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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.

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

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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.