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).

A Little Bit of an Italy Recap

Over the next few months I’ll be detailing our visit to Italy, where we were invited to pour at Vino!Vino!Vino!, Wine by Second Nature, a wine expo of naturally grown/made wines held in Cerea simultaneously as VinItaly in Verona. This was an amazing event, it was held over 3 days, from 10 to 6. It completely wiped us out! This was a serious wine-drinking crowd that was nonstop: importers, distributors, restaurateurs, wine bar owners, journalists, etc. As the days and hours waned on, the crowd did not thin or become obnoxious, hardly was a drunk patron seen! It was invigorating to see and experience. There were 130 producers present, the majority of them owners/winemakers; Phillip made his way around the exhibition hall every day, yet he still wasn’t able to taste all of the wines present. We made excellent contacts and discovered beautiful wines, ever heard of Schioppettino…well, neither had we!

Our wines were well received, we poured our white, Priscus (Grenache Blanc/Viognier/Roussanne/Marsanne), Venustas (cheeky bugger Phillip is, taking a Sangiovese blend to Italy), 100% Grenache and ReVera (Mourvedre blend). Everything (36 bottles) was carried over in our suitcases, and surprisingly, the Grenache showed the best–which was our No Added Sulfite wine. We guess it liked the travel! (Although, we were concerned how it would hold up after being subjected to extreme temperature changes, being man-handled, etc.) Everyone there was skeptical about our wine, in a sense that they expected the big, fruit forward, high alcohol California wine. But once they tasted, they knew we were more European in our style. Many winemakers visited our tasting table, and they even enjoyed the Sangiovese!