A Great Way to Support Public Schools

SONY DSCLast weekend we had the chance to host what has become tradition for Amici, the 3rd annual Amici/Las Lomitas Education Foundation fundraiser.  As anyone who lives in California knows, our public schools in this state need all the help they can get these days, and  this fundraiser has been a great way to raise funds for the public school district in Menlo Park and Atherton area.  Parents and wine lovers at the event were the first to get to try all three 2011 single vineyard barrel samples side by side.  Also in the line-up was the pre-release 2010 Amici Reserve Napa Valley Cab , as well as all of our new spring releases.  It was a great line-up of wines, a fun evening and, best of all, with 25% of all proceeds going straight to the school foundation, thousand of dollars were raised for public school programs.  Sounds like a win-win-win to us!

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Exploring the Terroir of Napa Valley Sub-Appellations

Last week we had the pleasure in taking part in an exploratory “terroir” tasting of Cabernets from six of the 16 appellations in the Napa Valley.  While the concept of terroir comes to us from France, arguably there is no better place to explore it and taste it in the glass than here in the Napa Valley.

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Terroir is an imprecise concept of how the geography, geology and climate of a specific grape-growing location can affect the resulting wine.  The relatively tiny Napa Valley, just 1/8 the size of Bordeaux and only 30 miles long by 5 miles wide, offers winegrowers a dizzying array of elements that create vastly different terroir from one appellation, and even one vineyard, to the next.

Our tiny valley has 100 different soil variations and fully half of the world’s soil orders. With five mountains surrounding the valley and volcanic knolls throughout, as well as the Pacific Ocean sitting 30 miles to the west, the valley contains micro-climates of valley and hillside vineyards facing all different directions, some cooled by ocean fog sneaking in, some much warmer.  Vineyard soils can be alluvial, volcanic, clay, loam or other.  Add the winemaker’s influence into that mix, and what you have is a concoction of almost infinite variables influencing a wine’s terroir.

Tasting Cabernet Sauvignons from various Napa appellations side by side is an entertaining, always-educational exercise that I highly recommend for anyone interested in wine.  The six wines we tasted last week, every one of them an exceptional and delicious wine, spanned a wide variety of flavors and profiles:  some showed red perfumey fruit, others deeper black fruits, some tannins were gripping and powerful, others were velvety.

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At Amici in addition to our Napa Valley blends, we love to create vineyard-specific wines that allow people to explore in-depth the characteristics of the sub-appellations of Napa Valley.  From Spring Mountain to Rutherford Bench to Oakville, we have an exciting array of vineyard-specific wines in the bottle and in the barrel now.  Each one has its own distinct personality, an expression of its terroir, waiting to be expressed when the cork is pulled.

Special thanks to those involved in this tasting: it was organized by the Concierge Alliance of Napa Valley and Sonoma (CANVAS), led by the Napa Valley Wine Academy, and hosted at the beautiful Alpha Omega Winery.  

Farmers’ Markets and a Pairing Menu for Friends

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In just one week, one of the first rites of the Napa Valley summer season arrives:  the opening of the St. Helena Farmers’ Market.  A beloved small-town institution, the St. Helena Farmers’ Market is a bustling event every Friday morning that brings together local farmers offering produce fresh from the fields, gourmet food vendors and demonstrations by well-known local chefs.  In short, it’s a foodie paradise.

To celebrate the opening of the Farmers’ Market season and the upcoming release our new wines, we invited Chef John Adamson to create a pairing menu that would celebrate the season and be fun to prepare together. Coming from Amici, a winery created and run by friends, it’s fitting that these recipes are designed for sharing and pairing.  Many hands make light work!  You can each tackle a recipe, or divide the tasks and create the dishes together. Either way, it’s an enjoyable, shared experience, and each course pairs beautifully with an Amici wine. So grab your basket and your best friends and toast the arrival of Farmers’ Market season!

Pour yourself and your friends a glass of Amici Sauvignon Blanc and start cracking on our recipe for Dungeness Crab Cake with Lemon Aioli and Spring Greens.  Serve it with a garnish of micro-greens, simply dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt. The wine’s lively citrus and tropical fruit flavors and crisp minerality bring out the best in the sweet, succulent crab.

Next up: markets are brimming with spring peas and farm-fresh butter. Put them together in Seared Gnocchi with English Peas, Pancetta and Parmigiano-ReggianoAmici Pinot Noir shows plum and black cherry flavors with a hint of cedar-a perfect pairing with the gnocchi’s earthy notes of browned butter and caramelized pancetta. For a quick and easy dish, you can use any good quality prepared gnocchi, found at many gourmet food markets. For true foodies, break out your potato ricer and try Chef Adamson’s homemade Gnocchi recipe.

For the main course Grilled Herb-Marinated Chicken with Farmers Market Vegetables lets you enjoy the flavors of summer. Fill your basket with fresh herbs and vegetables—parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, asparagus, spring onions and more—and a plump organic chicken.  Marinated overnight then grilled over mesquite charcoal, the juicy, smoky chicken and vegetables are the perfect foil for Amici Cabernet Sauvignon‘s wild berry aromas, supple tannins and dark fruit, toffee and mocha flavors.

Download all three recipes here.

Spring in the Vineyards

The vines are letting let us know that spring has officially arrived.  Stirring from their months of dormancy, they’re optimistically sprouting verdant new growth and seem to be basking in sunny, warm days.

Budbreak on a Rutherford Bench vine.

Budbreak on a Rutherford Bench vine.

Inside the winery, barrels tower floor to ceiling and front to rear, and it feels like we’re bursting at the seams after the blockbuster 2012 harvest.  Yields across California were the largest on record last fall, and that had winery staff across the valley (including ours) scrambling to find space for load after load of perfect grapes coming in.  Tastes from the barrels of the 2012 vintage haven’t disappointed:  these young wines are showing a delightful intensity and depth of flavor.

Assistant Winemaker Bobby has finished up the racking on the 2012s and now he and Joel can turn their attention to working on the 2011 blends, purchasing new equipment and all of the good stuff that comes with preparing the winery for the 2013 harvest.

The rest of us at Amici are busy getting ready for our Spring 2013 new releases and looking forward to sharing some seriously good stuff with our friends.  Spring is in the air!

Review Roll-up: January 2013

Notable reviews of Amici wines during the month of January:

2009 Amici Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – Restaurant Wine:  “Very fine quality. Luscious and complex, this is an excellent wine: very ripely flavored (cassis, black licorice, plum jam), smooth and long on the palate, with a very persistent finish. Delicious. 4+ stars.”

2009 Amici Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Restaurant Wine: 
“Full bodied and fairly rich, this is an intensely flavored Cabernet with cassis, blackberry, cooked meat and spicy aromas/flavors, and a long, moderately tannic finish. An excellent wine and a fine value. (4 stars)”

Olema 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County  – Restaurant Wine:  “Excellent:  supple in texture, full bodied, and long on the palate; a Cabernet with moderate richness, good balance, and a smooth finish, tasting of blackberry, toast, pepper, cherry, and sage. (4 stars)”

Olema 2010 Chardonnay Sonoma County – Restaurant Wine:  “Fairly complex in style; a Chardonnay that is full bodied, softly textured, lightly oaky, and long on the finish. It tastes of ripe fruit (pear, apple), toast, oak, honey, and grapefruit. 50% aged in oak barrels. (4 stars)”

Review Roll-Up: December 2012

December was a busy month for Amici wine reviews as critics published their “Best of the Year” lists.  Of course, we’re thrilled by every mention we got and are grateful to all of those reviewers for taking the time to taste our wines.  Some of the highlights:

2009 Amici Morisoli Cabernet Sauvignon95 Points, Wine Enthusiast Best of the Year Buying Guide:  “Another successful Cabernet from Amici, who turns to this esteemed vineyard for sourcing. It shows real pedigree and finesse, and it’s instantly appealing for its soft tannins and complex cherry, red currant, cocoa and spice flavors. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s Amici’s best Cabernet of the vintage, and this is as upscale as Napa Cabernet gets.”

2009 Amici Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon - 94 Points, Wine Enthusiast Best of the Year Buying Guide:  “This 100% Cabernet is soft, rich, fruity and almost sweet in ripe, jammy blackberry and cherry flavors… The acidity is firm and mouthwatering, and the tannins are wonderful. Drink now-2015.”

2009 Amici Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon - Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wine:  “This wine is deep in cassis and tobacco-tinged fruit and hints at dusty soils from first to last. Its evident ripeness is never an issue or concern because the finely focused fruit stays the course and brings good balance and youthful energy to the insistent flavors. Supple in its texture in a way that belies its solid, tannin-firmed underbelly, it is a wine that is going to last for years to come even if capable of pleasing in the here now.”

2011 Amici Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley – Wine Enthusiast:  “Tart, clean and juicy, this has ripe flavors of apricot, citrus, tropical fruit and spice. With zesty acidity, it feels basically dry, despite the honeyed finish. A touch of oak lends vanilla and smoke notes.”

2011 Amici Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley – Wine Spectator:  “Touches of fresh herb highlight the crisp, juicy citrus, apple and pear flavors that lead to a refreshing finish. Drink now.” – M.W.