August: State of the Vineyard Address from Phillip

Wow, so much has been going on at AmByth, it is hard to know where to start. Let’s begin with the vineyard, as that is the heartbeat of our operation.

  • 2013 is running 20% higher than average in degree sun hours, it is the 2nd hottest season in 17 years (1997 was the hottest by only a few hours)
  • We have had two years of drought conditions with 7 inches of recorded rain in the last 12 months
  • Paramount Farms (the new owners of Justin Winery) has planted a 600+ acre vineyard at the base of our hill which is being farmed conventionally and for the first time this field is irrigated, this most certainly will affect our water table

We don’t know yet what all of the above means in the short and/or long term.  The vines seem not to notice, although we have earlier-than-usual veraison (grapes changing color and plumping up). This would suggest an early harvest, but of course nature will take its course and we’ll find out later. From a pure farming point of view, the vines are behaving more responsibly this year. We do not have the typical crazy foliage going nuts in every direction. They seem to be saying “hmm, let me think about this…not a lot of water, having to work hard to find it, super high heat all of the time, I think I’ll take it easy.” (We tend to view our vines as individual humans, each one of them, so it makes total sense to us that they would talk…).


In the winery, the Amphora (clay aging vessels) seem to be doing exactly what we thought/wanted. There are no addition to flavors (our dry-farmed, Biodynamic, head-trained, non-poisoned grapes don’t need that), perhaps a hint of minerality (or is that Astrality?) and a pureness of flavor that is very exciting. We’ve bottled the Amphora Grenache Blanc Orange Wine, which will be released in 2 weeks. The 2012 Amphora Rose is next. The other seventeen 2012 wines are being racked and bottled as the calendar allows.

Europe 2013 017

Mary, Bede and I visited the manufacturer of the Amphora, just south of Florence, Italy last month. It was the highlight of our Italian visit (bearing in mind the amount of wines we enjoyed made in Amphora, that were natural with no added sulfites, that’s saying something). The word Artisanal is the only word that can be used to describe these handmade clay vessels. Every single step is made by human hands. These vessels can only be a pleasure for our wines to be hanging around in. The bad news…more are on the way for next year (mucho dinero).

Spring is definitely here at AmByth.  We had a beautiful Saturday, April the 21st, and took the opportunity to move the amphoras and barrels outside for a little boost to primary and secondary fermentations.  It was necessary to taste everything (sigh), the report is good.  2012 will not be a disappointing vintage.  Not a huge crop load, so only 18 or 19 different wines made, a few more than ’11 but less than ’10.  The rose in particular is still working away by itself, we of course, refuse to add anything to speed it up or filter it so it can go on the market.  With any luck it might be ready for mid to late summer but if it isn’t then it will be wonderful in Spring 2014.  We leave a little longer skin contact on our Rose, so that allows for good aging as well as good early drinking, a great combination in any wine.

Cheers, and enjoy the Spring, Phillip & Mary

spring amphora