Sunday, May 22, 2011

ON THE ROAD AGAIN IN SONOMA-Pt. 4-Amista Vineyards

Part Four
Amista Vineyards
Making Friends

As Bob, Nguyen, Richard and I continued our wine tasting road trip just outside of Healdsburg town proper, we discovered a winery that became one of my favorites: Amista Vineyards.  “Amista” loosely translates to “making friends” – and, that’s not only the slogan for this relatively new winery, but what proprietors Vicky and Mike Farrow practice.  They’ve made friends with the people of Healdsburg, its customers, animal lovers, the ‘earth,’ and they made friends with us.  And to top it off, their wines are user-friendly..

The winery itself is a big barn affair w/ welcoming rustic charm

that includes over-stuffed leather furniture, and walls covered w/ vibrant art hung in gallery fashion by Sonoma artist Carole Rae Watanabe. 

One of Amista’s proudest achievements has nothing to do w/ wine.  It’s the 2010 Amista Dog Day which raised money for CCI, Canine Companions for Independence (assisted living).  A book to commemorate the event is on display in the tasting room.  The winery has stayed committed to this worthy organization and so has artist Watanabe who donates part of the money she makes from each painting to CCI.

As we began our tasting flight, Clayton, our adorable barista, told us that all Amista wines are made from grapes grown “in the neighborhood” making it, like many wineries in Sonoma, a sustainable one - always important to the local economy and the environment as it decreases its carbon imprint.

We lounged.  We admired the art.  We took pictures.

  I took notes.  And, of course, we tasted.

Our first pour was a 2008 chardonnay from Morningsong Vineyards ($25).  This was a crisp, fruity chardonnay. No oak.  No butter.  Think green apples and Meyer lemons, but w/ a soft mineral finish.  Our friend Stu is not a chardonnay lover, but he would love this wine.  The suggested pairing on the tasting menu: sautéed shrimp in lemon butter and shallot sauce over linguine.  You listening Richard???

The 2009 “Rose of Syrah,” also from Morningsong grapes ($17), had a hint of rhubarb giving the wine a tangy acidity.  This wine, the menu told us, goes well w/ steamed mussels, grilled oysters, BBQ shrimp or a Thanksgiving turkey.  Chill it and bring on the mussels and oysters!  Shucks!

Next was the 2007 zinfandel from Saini Farms-Gene’s Block ($34).  This is an elegant  wine w/ rich, full-bodied fruit flavors and a subtle white pepper finish.  Yum.  Food suggestion: fresh seafood cioppino or braised beef over polenta.  A win-zin situation.

On to the 2005 syrah, again from Morningsong Vineyard grapes.  A silver medal winner at the Harvest Fair ($30), it’s described as a “muscular” wine.  I agree.  It was robust and smoky and would go well w/ grilled lamb or beef bourguignon, as stated on the tasting menu.  Where’s my plate?

Then came the tasting of the 2006 cabernet sauvignon, from Francesca’s Terrace ($42)…  this was a gold medal winner at the San Francisco International wine event… a classic cab w/ a deep red color and hints of black cherry and exotic spices.  Start grilling that filet mignon and, as suggested, serve w/ a crumbled Point Reyes blue cheese.  Oh, my… be still my heart.  Loved the wine – loved the food pairing suggestion.

Clayton then offered us two “off the tasting menu” tastes.

The first was a 2010 sparkling syrah ($30) – loved it.  He didn’t make any food pairing suggestions – but I’d definitely serve this bubbly on a warm summer evening, sitting out by the pool w/ Richard as the sun sets, sharing a few light appetizers or a crisp green salad.

The second off the menu taste was my favorite Amista wine… the 2007 syrah ($28) – it was so good, I’d drink it w/ any food or no food at all. 

By this time, Bob was so taken by the wines that he joined the Amista wine club right there on the spot.  That’s what friends are for!

Back to the tasting menu… our last pour was Illusion, a non-vintage wine, and the only blend that the winery makes.  It’s a port style wine made from half syrah and half zin grapes ($24) and a silver medal winner at the San Francisco Chronicle.  The pairing suggestion:  a flourless chocolate torte… or all by itself as a way to end the perfect meal.  Sweet!

Amista Vineyards
3320 Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg CA 95448

Carole Rae Watanabe

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