For those of you who enjoyed the last Thirsty Kitten episode and longed for more fun adventures with our friends, Spot & Stretch, the ultimate wine country hosts— Never fear! The afternoon we described in our previous post did not actually end at Lancaster Estate. As we strolled out of Lancaster that day, with the late afternoon sun just starting to cast a glow on the hills, Stretch said, “I have an idea! Follow me!” So we did.
Making our way from Lancaster’s Estate on Chalk Hill Road back towards the town of Healdsburg, we pulled into Amista Vineyards on Dry Creek Road. Stretch, who just happens to carry a champagne saber with him at all times (doesn’t everyone?), ushered us into the tasting room and immediately procured a bottle of Amista’s Estate Grown Sparkling Blanc de Blanc. For those who have never seen a champagne saber, it looks something like a fancy, ceremonial sword.
Prior to this occasion, I had witnessed sabering only once, 25 years ago in Kenya. The feat was accomplished with a make-shift saber (small machete, as I recall) and a lot of trial and error. The excitement of seeing the entire top of the bottle— cork, glass and metal basket— sheer cleanly off in a profusion of bubbles and sound was so exotic and spectacular I had always wanted to witness it again. I had talked about it many times to my Dear Darling Spouse over the years. In fact, I think he should take up the art some day.
Stretch turned out to be much more expert in the technique of sabrage than the first demonstration I’d witnessed. With one graceful swipe of the saber along the neck of the bottle, the cork was off before we even had a chance to blink. Impressive! The Amista sparkler, crisp and delightful, was shared liberally with the group that had collected to watch.We all joined in a toast.
Amista, which means “making friends,” was so named by founders Mike and Vicky Farrow because they believe “wine is a source of endless discovery and rich friendships.” Regular readers will know that this is our mantra, as well.
“At each step in our journey, we’ve had friends encouraging, guiding and helping us realize our dream of owning a winery. Their enthusiasm and interest taught us that not only do we take great pleasure in growing grapes and making wine, but that we’re invigorated by sharing our experience with others.” — Mike and Vicky Farrow
Before we left, Spot introduced us to Tasting Room Manager Larri Ann Davis who poured some Sparkling Syrah for us to compare to the Blanc de Blanc. You’ll have to forgive us for not taking better tasting notes. We were just reveling too much in the fun. The winery’s notes for the Sparkling Syrah highlight its “lingering aromas of fresh, ripe strawberries, bright cherries, and just a hint of Syrah spice…with flavors of sweet strawberry, raspberry and a hint of lemony citrus.” We can attest to the fact that it is a beautifully balanced bubbly, with just the right amount of acidity countering the hints of sweetness.
Since we failed to take photos while at the winery (again, the reveling interfered), this week’s pictures come to you courtesy of Amista’s website and Facebook page. However, we did manage to capture some video of the sabering. We proudly present our first Thirsty Kitten Film in this post. If only we’d had more time, we’d have sipped everything else they made, which includes Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and even a Rosé of Syrah. Making all these varietals, yet with annual production of only 2,000 cases per year, we can tell that the folks at Amista have great passion for what they do. In other words, we’ll jump at the chance for a return visit the next time we are nearby.
Stretch summed up the spirit of the afternoon quite well when he shared his wine philosophy with us. For him, wine drinking boils down to two simple rules: 1. drink what you like; 2. share it with friends. With all the verbiage that is expended on wine guidelines and recommendations, these two “rules” seem to capture what matters most.
So in the spirit of Amista, whose very name is about friendship, and in gratitude once again to Spot and Stretch for sharing their corner of the world, we toast to drinking what you like and sharing it with friends. Cheers!