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The Sta. Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County is a heavenly place of rolling hills, cool coastal climate and a number of unheralded wines. In a mere 40 years, the AVA now stands toe to toe with the Russian River as the preeminent region in the US to grow high quality Pinot Noir. With its recognition comes soaring prices, but Ampelos is able to keep its prices down by doing its own farming. It also helps that they also had the assistance of their son, Don Schroeder, who is the winemaker at Seasmoke.
About the wine
Husband and wife team hand select the grapes that go into this wine from their estate. They begin picking at 2:00 AM in the morning to ensure the fruit arrives cool and fresh. The grapes were fermented with native yeasts in a spontaneous fermentation. The aromatics on this wine are astounding. Varietally correct and quintessentially pinot, the wine is light bodied and a light red-pink in color. But don’t be fooled, the aromas and elegance carry through in the mouth and a lovely finish. The grapes derive from four different pinot noir clones, including Pommard. This pinot noir has a wonderful youthfulness about it that develops into a voluptuous mouth feel with fine tannins. Flavors of dark cherry, rich cola and butterscotch with white pepper and a Burgundian musk cap off the nose. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. Sourced from both the estate and the John Sebastiano vineyard, the wine was in French oak for just under a year. Less than 20% of the wine is aged in new oak, which yields a wine that is fresh, taught, and elegant. This is a wine you’ll want to gulp.
About the winery
On Tuesday morning at 6:30 AM on September 11, 2001 Peter and Rebecca landed in Newark airport to spend the week working with a client. Peter had a meeting scheduled in Wall Street at 9 AM and would have taken the Path train from Newark Penn Station to World Trade Center. The meeting was canceled the evening before, and he never boarded that train. When they finally returned to California, they drove up to their newly planted vineyard and ranch in Sta. Rita Hills and decided to focus on a new life as farmers and winemakers.
Rebecca and Peter planted the Ampelos vineyard in 2001 and started small scale winemaking in 2002 under the Ampelos label. The focus is to be as green and environmentally conscious as possible – they live by motto “we did not inherit the land from our parents – it is on loan from our children”. In 2006, they converted the vineyard and ranch to organic and biodynamic farming and after three years got certified in both categories. Furthermore, they got certified under the Sustainability in Practice (SIP) program in 2008 and with that the first vineyard in US to obtain all three certifications. Production is a mere 5000 cases.
Year after year, this is one of the best value and classic Pinots not only from the esteemed Sta. Rita Hills but anywhere in California that I can find to serve at our restaurant. The aromatics on this wine are so pure and enticing. It is easy to sell a second glass of this wine. In keeping with the natural preferences of the winemaker, the wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered. ~94 pts, Ryan Zeman, Wine Director Civico San Diego
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