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August 27, 2013

Our Blog Has Moved!

You can now find the Amici Cellars blog at

blog.amicicellars.com

 

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October 22, 2012

Pleasures of the Harvest Table

Posted by Celia

The pounding rain on the roof last night confirmed to all that autumn has indeed arrived. Many wineries around the valley had a busy weekend getting those last loads of grapes off the vines and hauled in for pressing before this storm arrived, and now it's time to raise a glass to what was a wonderful season. A great way to toast a successful 2012 harvest would be to gather some friends and have a harvest dinner party, pairing a delicious recipe with a wine from our own Napa Valley. The Napa Valley Vintners have compiled a beautiful electronic cookbook called "Pleasures of the Harvest Table" featuring pairing recipes from some of Napa Valley's best chefs. We're pleased that our own recipe from Chef John Adamson can be found on page 49. Click on the photo below to explore this fun cookbook:

 

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October 19, 2012

Harvest 2012: Nearing the Finish Line

The photo above was our view this morning as we harvested Cabernet from the beautiful Oakville Ranch vineyard, 1400 feet above the valley floor. While the fun chaos of crush season is still in full swing around the winery, we're close to wrapping up harvest in the vineyards. Every day this week brings a new vineyard and a new adventure: Atlas Peak came in earlier this week, today was Oakville Ranch, tomorrow we'll harvest Morisoli Vineyard, and Sunday brings Old Toll Road and Spring Mountain. While we're still enjoying days in the 80's now, current forecasts call for a storm to move in on Monday. We'll get all the grapes in before the rains, and smiles are all around as we couldn't be happier with the vintage. Every single vineyard reached optimal ripeness and, true to predictions earlier in the summer, crop yields are very large. Flavors from the grapes are explosive, so everyone is anxious to try the 2012 vintage wines as soon as possible. Could this be Napa's benchmark vintage? Time will tell!

 

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October 9, 2012

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin of Beef

The 2009 vintage of Amici's long-awaited single vineyard wines has just been released, and Chef John Adamson developed this recipe for Bacon-Wrapped Beef Tenderloins specifically to pair with the Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. He notes, "The richness of this tenderloin of beef showcases the deep, concentrated flavors of the Morosoli Vineyard Cab, while the fresh flavor of the chimichurri highlights the wine’s dark fruit characteristics." The addition of Crispy Yukon Gold Potatoes completes the meal and makes an elegant presentation worthy of your next dinner party.

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin of Beef with Chimichurri and Crispy Yukon Gold Potatoes
and
Amici Cellars Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Recipe Courtesy Chef John Adamson

Serves 4


For the Beef:
4 ea Bacon, sliced
4 ea Tenderloin of Beef, 7-8 oz
4 ea Skewers, 4”, soaked in water
1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Fill a one-quart saucepot with water and bring to a boil. Place the bacon into the boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes. Remove from the water and cool to room temperature.

Preheat an oven to 450°. Wrap the blanched bacon around the tenderloin and secure with the skewers. Place a cast-iron skillet or heavy bottomed sauté pan over high heat. Season the bacon-wrapped tenderloins with salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle the tenderloins with the olive oil, and place the bacon side down into the pan, allowing them to cook on each side for approximately a minute. Lay the tenderloins, flat side down, and place in preheated oven. Cook for approximately five minutes, and turn. Cook another five minutes or until medium rare. Remove from the pan and remove the skewer. Rest for five minutes before serving.

For the Chimichurri:
1 c Parsley, washed
¾ c Cilantro, washed
¼ c Oregano, washed
1 ea Garlic Cloves
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 c Olive Oil, pure
2 T Red Wine Vinegar
to taste Salt and Pepper

In a food processor, add all ingredients and puree the mixture until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to sit for at least two hours, keeping cold until ready to serve.

For the Potatoes:
8 ea Yukon Gold potatoes, about 1½”
2 c Olive Oil, pure (as needed to fill sauté pan)
to taste Sea Salt, coarse
to taste Pepper, freshly ground

Place potatoes in a two-quart sauce pot. Cover the potatoes with salted water and place over medium-high heat. Cook until tender, approximately 15-18 minutes.

Remove the potatoes from the water when done and cool to room temperature. When cool, “smash” the potatoes with the palm of your hand until they are slightly crushed, but still in one piece. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and place the potatoes into the heated oil. Cook until the potatoes begin to turn golden brown, turn and repeat. When finished, drain the potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

On each plate, arrange several potatoes topped by a beef tenderloin and dotted with chimichurri. Serve with Amici Cellars Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and enjoy!

Click here to download a PDF file of this recipe:

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin of Beef with Chimichurri and Crispy Yukon Gold Potatoes.pdf

 

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October 2, 2012

Herb-Marinated Lamb Skewers

To celebrate the release of the 2009 Amici Cellars Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Chef John Adamson developed this wonderful recipe featuring grilled lamb skewers. The fresh notes of the herbs and the complex flavors of grilled lamb and peppers are wonderful complements to the wine’s dark red fruits and silky tannins. Accompanied by Chef Adamson's Harvest Ratatouille and Parmesan Polenta Squares, it's a perfect meal to enjoy during the harvest season.

Herb-Marinated Lamb Skewers with Harvest Ratatouille and Parmesan Polenta Squares
and
Amici Cellars Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon


Recipe Courtesy Chef John Adamson


Serves 4

For the Lamb:
1½ lb Lamb top sirloin, trimmed of all fat, thinly sliced to ¼” thick
2 T Marjoram, fresh, roughly chopped
2 T Thyme, fresh, roughly chopped
2 T Mint, fresh, roughly chopped
2 T Parsley, fresh, roughly chopped
2 T Olive Oil, extra virgin
to taste Salt and Pepper
16 ea Padrón Peppers, or other small sweet pepper
8 ea 6” Bamboo Skewers, soaked overnight

Lay the thinly sliced lamb onto a baking sheet or large plate. Season with the chopped herbs, (reserving some for garnish) olive oil, salt and pepper. Starting with a pepper, skewer the marinated lamb, and alternate until three peppers and two strips of lamb have been placed on each skewer.

Build a fire with charcoal or preheat a gas fired grill to medium. If building a charcoal fire, allow the fire to cool quite a bit; grilling the skewers over a medium fire is important to not burn the skewers. Grill the skewers 4 minutes per side, or until well caramelized and the meat is medium rare.

For the Harvest Ratatouille:
as needed Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 ea Garlic, clove, minced
2 tsp Thyme, fresh, chopped
8 ea Button mushrooms, small, chopped
1 ea Red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, small dice
2 ea Green zucchini, seeds removed, small dice
1 ea Red onion, small, small dice
1 c Japanese eggplant, seeds removed, small dice
2 T Parmesan cheese, grated
2 T Basil, fresh, roughly chopped
½ c Tomato purée, jarred or canned
to taste Salt and Pepper

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat until it is very hot and has smoke emanating from the edge of the pan. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Add the garlic and cook until it just begins to brown. Immediately add the thyme, followed by half of the mushrooms, lightly season with salt and pepper, and cook, resisting the urge to move them, until browned on one side. Toss gently and then remove from the pan and place on parchment lined sheet tray. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms. Continue this process, allowing the pan to recover to the smoking point before starting with the red bell pepper, zucchini, red onion, and eggplant, cooking each separately, in small batches and removing to the sheet tray.

When finished, place the sautéed vegetables in a bowl, and add the parmesan cheese, chopped basil, and the tomato purée. Gently mix and keep warm.
(NOTE: This ratatouille is a versatile dish which is wonderful on crostini, in risottos, and with eggs.)

For the Polenta Squares:
1 T Butter, unsalted
2 ea Garlic, clove, minced
3 c Milk, whole
¾ c Polenta, yellow
¼ c Semolina
3 oz Fontina cheese, grated
½ c Parmesan cheese, finely grated
3 T Butter, unsalted, softened
1/3 c Parmesan cheese, finely grated
to taste Salt and Pepper

Add one tablespoon of butter to a heavy-bottomed two-quart saucepot over medium heat. When butter is melted, add garlic and cook until it begins to brown. Add milk and bring to a boil. In a slow and deliberate stream, whisk in the polenta stirring constantly. When polenta begins to thicken, change out the whisk for a wooden spoon. Continue to cook until polenta is tender and peels away from the side of the pan. Remove from heat. Add fontina and parmesan cheeses to the pan and incorporate. Season with salt and pepper to taste and pour into a rectangular (6”x3”) pan, and cool in the refrigerator until completely set.

Preheat the oven on the broiler setting. Cut the polenta into squares or rounds with biscuit cutters. Spread the softened butter evenly over the top of the polenta and then dip the buttered side into the parmesan cheese. Place on an oiled tray and brown in the broiler until golden brown. When ready to serve, top the polenta with the warm harvest ratatouille.

Serve the lamb skewers accompanied by the polenta squares topped with harvest ratatouille. Enjoy alongside a bottle of Amici Cellars Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.

Click here to download a PDF file of this recipe:

Herb-Marinated Lamb Skewers with Harvest Ratatouille and Parmesan Polenta Squares.pdf

 

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September 7, 2012

Celebrating the Kick-Off to Harvest 2012

Posted by Celia

Champagne corks were popping as we celebrated the kickoff of our 2012 harvest last week. Here's a 2-minute look at the team bringing the grapes in:

 

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August 28, 2012

Closing in on the Sauvignon Blanc Harvest Date

Posted by Celia

Our Sauvignon Blanc harvest is only days away and Joel is checking the grapes daily for flavor development. Hear what he's looking for, and how he knows when it's time to make the call to pull the grapes in for crush:

 

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August 20, 2012

Harvest 2012 Update: Verasion

Posted by Celia

Verasion in the vineyards is well underway! Verasion is the process of grapes ripening and sugar levels rising and from this shot taken in the Morisoli Vineyard on Saturday, you can see that the cluster is almost completely colored up. The photo shows an example of what is a typical cluster for this year, large and healthy-looking. Note that even though the cluster is fairly large, there is still plenty of space between the berries for air movement and for filtered sunlight to get in which helps color development. According to Joel, it looks like this season is about two weeks ahead of last year at this point, and the weather forecast is for continued warm and sunny days. Stay tuned for more harvest updates here as we head towards Harvest 2012!

 

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August 17, 2012

A Debut for Palisades View

Posted by Celia

Those of you who follow this blog know that for several months we've been hard at work finishing up the event space at our guest house, and we couldn't be happier with how it turned out. We're calling it "Palisades View," and now that it's done we're happy to spread the word about what a stunning location this is for wine country events. Surrounded by breathtaking views of the Palisades Mountain range, and studded with mature oak and olive trees, Palisades View is truly a one-of-a-kind space. We took some recent photos from the last week or two and dropped them into a video slideshow to show guests what they can expect when they visit.

Click the picture below for a video slideshow:

 

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August 10, 2012

A Great Night with Total Wine & More

This week 55 managers from Total Wine & More stores from around the country made their annual pilgrimage to Napa and Sonoma to meet winery principals, tour vineyards and taste new releases. For several years it’s been our pleasure to host the group for an afternoon of tasting Amici wines, and we always enjoy our time with this consistently fun and gracious group of people. This year, when we heard that Total Wine & More was giving us a coveted slot on Wednesday night to host the group for dinner, we were delighted.

The temperature in Calistoga topped out at 96 degrees on Wednesday afternoon, so as the buses groaned up our steep driveway and the store managers filed out, they couldn’t wait to get inside the cool winery, where we tasted and discussed current and upcoming releases. We finished off our tastings with a side-by-side exploration of barrel and stainless fermented Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet which everyone found fun and educational.

The party really started when we walked down from the winery to the guest house grounds and were greeted by course after course of magnificent food from Chef Lars Kronmark (Senior Instructor at the Culinary Institute of America) and Chef John Fink (chef-owner of The Whole Beast). The Palisades Mountain range lit up in fiery oranges and purples at sunset, and the balmy evening was so pleasant that no one wanted the gathering to end. We said our goodbyes to our friends new and old as they got on their buses en route to their hotel, and are hoping for a repeat of this great night next year.

Guests are greeted with a glass of the 2011 Amici Sauvignon Blanc.

Discussing current and upcoming Amici wines.

Samples of barrel-fermented and stainless-fermented Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet await tasting.

Chef John Fink and Chef Lars Kronmark discuss the evening's menu.

Everyone enjoyed the views of the mountains at sunset.

Chef Fink serves his delicious fresh-caught roasted salmon.

Relaxing and enjoying the balmy evening.

Click here for more photos of this event.

 

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July 24, 2012

Tasting Barrel-Fermented Wines

Posted by Celia

Last week our good friends Jaap and Janette visited the winery, and Assistant Winemaker Bobby Donnell led us through a very fun and educational tasting of our barrel fermented wines. We did a side-by-side tasting of the 2010 Morisoli Cabernet—with two glasses of wine from the same vintage, same vineyard, picked the same day—except that one wine had been fermented in the traditional manner in stainless tanks, and one had been fermented in new French oak barrels. It was a fantastic opportunity to see the exact effects of barrel fermentation on a wine.

Bob and friends enjoy a tasting of barrel-fermented wines at the winery
Barrel fermentation, a technique which started in Bordeaux and has gained popularity in Napa, is praised for producing a wine that is rounder and softer on the palate. While it is a traditional technique used for whites, its use with Cabernet Sauvignon is growing as winemakers appreciate its ability to impart silky tannins and a lush roundness to “big” Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet. Note that barrel fermenting is completely different than barrel aging. In barrel aging, wines that have been fermented in stainless tanks are then stored in barrels and left to age. With barrel fermenting, the entire fermentation and aging process takes place in barrels.

Assistant Winemaker Bobby Donnell with Janette
Joel is one of the California pioneers of the technique of barrel fermenting, having used it for many years. “The complexity and richness it lends is fantastic,” he says. “The earlier the oak is introduced to wine the better. The wood tannins from the barrels are especially important in stabilizing the color, and any harsher, greener components are dissipated. In my opinion, barrel fermenting makes a ‘sexier’ wine.”

At Amici Joel uses barrel fermentation for our single vineyard wines, such as the 2010 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2010 Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Joel keeps the wines separate right up until the final blending process so that he can fine-tune the blend with just the right amount of barrel fermented wine.


The vast majority of wines will never see barrel fermentation because it’s an expensive, labor-intensive process, no question about it. During the fermentation process, the barrels are rotated two to four turns, several times a day. The technique requires judicious control and strict supervision to obtain best results. Visitors to the winery can see that we use plexiglass heads on some of the barrels to get a visual aid on how the rotation is mixing the barrel, and to make sure the “cap” (the flavor-imparting combination of skins and pulp that floats to the top of the barrel) breaks up sufficiently with each turn. "While the results are great, and we think it's worth the effort, there's nothing efficient about this process," says Joel.


If you’re interested in learning more about how we use barrel fermentation in our wines at Amici, visit us at the winery and we’d love to show you how we manage the process. And if your timing is right, we just may have some individual barrel-fermented lots for you to taste!

 

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July 9, 2012

2012 Vintage: A Mid-Summer Update

Posted by Celia

There's lots of encouraging talk in the valley about how this year's vintage is shaping up. We caught Joel in the vineyards last week and asked him what he thought about the progress of Vintage 2012, and here's what he had to say:

 

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June 27, 2012

Summer Wines and Summer Evenings

Posted by Celia


Our long-awaited summer is here, with its see-saw temperatures of hot days and cool nights. In the hills above Napa Valley, where almost every evening the cooling effects of the Pacific Ocean sweep away the day’s heat (making it an ideal place to ripen grapes), we rarely get to enjoy ourselves outside at nighttime without a sweater. I have come to adore the handful of evenings we get every summer when the day’s hot air remains trapped in the valley, the onshore breezes carrying the coastal fog stalled out at sea for a short time. Those evenings—warm, balmy and virtually insect-free—are the best part of summer. When it looks like one is coming, I try to rearrange our schedule so we can fire up the grill, invite a few friends over and enjoy ourselves in the warm night air with some summer wine.

This summer the wines on our table are the 2010 Olema Chardonnay and the 2011 Amici Sauvignon Blanc. I reach for the Chard when I’m in the mood for something with good acidity, balanced by round, tropical notes that the wine gets from being 50/50 barrel and stainless fermented, and 75% malolactic. It’s superb with cedar plank wild salmon fresh off the grill.

The Sauv Blanc is my choice when I’m looking for a complex wine that has hints of minerality alongside the fruit flavors. I love the elegance of its layers of honeysuckle, guava and melon offset by its clean, wet stone minerality. To create all these complexities Joel blended 80% Sauvignon Musque and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, and barrel fermented 25%.

When plans change at the last minute and we have an impromptu gathering to take advantage of one of those lovely warm evenings outside, I need to keep dinner plans super simple. We like to grill some halibut steaks, seasoned simply with salt and pepper, and finish them with this super simple but wonderfully flavorful Lime Butter Sauce, which I adapted from Gourmet magazine years ago. Serve with Amici Sauvignon Blanc and a balmy evening, and it’s a summer match made in heaven.

Lime Butter Sauce
1/2 large garlic clove, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsated butter, melted

Puree garlic with lime juice, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth. With the motor running, add melted butter and blend until emulsified, about 30 seconds.

 

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June 25, 2012

The Quieter Side of Napa Valley

Posted by Celia

A friend of mine recently referred to St. Helena as the "land of the right hand turn." I got good laugh out of that one because we both knew, from his shorthand reference, exactly what he meant: that God forbid you find yourself, on a weekend afternoon during the summer, on Highway 29 in St. Helena having to make a left hand turn. As you sit there in the your car, stranded in the center of the road, blinker clicking endlessly as the cars full of irritated people back up behind you and the line of cars coming towards you extends into the horizon, your blood pressure tends to rise and your patience fray. We love our visitors in the Napa Valley and we certainly recognize where our bread is buttered, but the fact of the matter is the valley can get a bit crowded around this time of year. It helps to have some strategies to cope.

It’s a great idea for visitors to consider using Calistoga as their home base during their stay in the wine country. Calistoga, by virtue of its location in the north tip of the Napa Valley, stays a bit quieter throughout the busy season, which allows visitors to decide how much of the crowds and bustling nature of the valley you want to bite off. You may want to throw yourself into the thick of it one day, do some shopping, dining, and of course wine tasting along with the crowds, but it's also really nice to have the ability to decide the next day that you want a quieter day, maybe a day to poke around Calistoga which retains its small farming town charm.

A perfect day for those who want a quieter Napa Valley experience is to start your day with one of the excellent cappuccinos at Calistoga Roastery or, for those who like a little more fuel to power them, breakfast at our down-home favorite, Café Sarafornia. After breakfast, explore the variety of shops on Lincoln Avenue, which meld a level of sophistication with a folksy lack of pretension. Along with art galleries, boutique clothing shops, and wine stores, you’ll find an independent bookstore filled with local favorites, my kids’ favorite candy shop, and a hardware store full of hardworking people with dirt under their fingernails. After shopping, pick up some sandwiches from Palisades Deli and visit one or two of the small, family-owned wineries in the area. For visitors whose only experience of Napa Valley wine tasting is at the large wineries along 29 that are open to the public, it is surprising to find that it is a completely different experience to go to small winery where visitors often get to sit and chat with the owner, hearing the ins and outs of winemaking and vineyards from someone on the ground floor. That personal connection makes the wine come alive in your glass in a whole new way.

Finish up your day with dinner at any one of the fantastically reviewed restaurants in Calistoga, perhaps accompanied by a bottle of the wine you tasted earlier that day at a local winery. All in all, I’d say that’s a perfect day for those in search of the quieter side of Napa Valley.

 

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June 15, 2012

2012 – A Blockbuster Vintage in the Making?

Posted by Celia

I know, I should have my wrist slapped for writing a title like that in June, with the entire summer growing season and the fall harvest still ahead of us. It’s just that, after two consecutive vintages of unpredictable weather, everyone around Napa Valley is looking for a perfectly predictable season, something that we sometimes take for granted growing grapes here in California compared to, say, France.

With an assortment of odd weather phenomena during 2010 and 2011, from June rains to cool summers to early fall rains (all interspersed by periods of our typical beautiful warm weather) those vintages truly tested the mettle of winemakers here in the valley. Those with experience were successful when making the gut calls on when to pull in the grapes and when to let them hang to further ripening. We felt fortunate in 2010 and 2011 to have a winemaker with 27 consecutive harvests in Napa Valley under his belt, but let’s just say Joel had a bit more hair in 2009.

If grape growers and winemakers are ready for a good harvest, it seems that the vines are in agreement. One look at the clusters on the vines today, and you can see something noticeably different from the years past: huge clusters point towards yields significantly greater than those of recent years. Having produced low yields for several successive vintages, the vines have extra energy stored and look like they want to use it.

So far, Mother Nature is cooperating for Vintage 2012. We started off with a dry winter, but thanks to several drenching rainstorms in March and April, the vines got a deep soak and reservoirs are full. The summer growing season is progressing as it should, with sunny skies and warm but not hot weather (a primary indicator of this year’s normalcy is that Auction Napa Valley, held the first week of June, was warm and sunny, not wet and muddy like 2011).

Sometimes “typical” and “predictable” are welcome terms. Here’s to 2012, and the hopes that it goes down in the books as one boring year. So far, so good.

 

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June 5, 2012

Auction Napa Valley 2012

Posted by Celia

The gray clouds and rain moved in at just the right time on Monday morning, as out of town attendees for this year's Auction Napa Valley were loading their bags into cars destined for the airport, and vintners were getting little extra sleep after another successful auction. The weather had been warm and beautiful during the weekend festivities, and everyone's spirits around the valley are bouyed by the fact that the total auction proceeds this year are a whopping $8.1 million, up from last year's $7.3 million.

At Amici we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly over this annual weekend of fun, wine and friends. At Friday's barrel auction, Joel poured his 2010 Amici Cellars Gary Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. This single-vineyard wine from the famed Morisoli Vineyard on Napa's Rutherford Bench was a huge hit with attendees and bidding on case lots from the barrel was active. The ten lucky top bidders will be receiving their cases next summer after the wine is bottled.

Bidding was also heated for our e-auction lot, featuring a weekend stay at the Amici guest house for three couples, private vineyard tour and barrel tasting, gourmet wine-pairing lunch prepared by our chef, and two cases of Amici single-vineyard reserve wines. The e-auction bidding was open for seven days, and reached its peak just before close on Sunday night as several bidders competed for the lot. We're excited to host the winning bidders soon, and show them the time of their lives!

Fun was had by all at the barrel auction on Friday, held this year in the beautiful caves at Jarvis Winery.

 

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May 18, 2012

If a Vineyard Could Talk, What Would It Say?

Some of the most well-known vineyards in the Napa Valley are famous for a reason: they consistently produce wines that speak of the singular place of their origin. "Terroir" is an imprecise concept, but it's the combination of soils, sun exposure, elevation, weather, and other factors that make a specific region, even a specific vineyard, produce exceptionally distinct wines, as if the vineyards have their own signature.

At Amici we're getting ready to let two famous Napa Valley vineyards speak for themselves. This summer we'll be releasing our two new single vineyard wines, Cabernet Sauvignons from Spring Mountain and Morisoli Vineyard (Rutherford Bench). These are two wonderful examples of what makes the Napa Valley and the terroir of its sub-appellations so interesting, even mystical, to wine lovers.

Joel has several decades of experience working with the grapes from this Spring Mountain vineyard, as well as Rutherford Bench vineyards adjacent to Morisoli. It was fun for him to get back to vineyards he knows like old friends and, from harvest through release, craft wines that allow each vineyard to express its own unique personality.

Here's a short video on these upcoming releases:

 

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May 14, 2012

Party Central!

It’s the nature of a small winery business that once one large project is done, we’re on to another (it keeps thing interesting - or at least that’s what we tell each other!). Now that the new winery and tasting room are in tip-top shape, we’ve moved our focus on to a new landscaping project on the property. We’ve been excited to start this one: when we first looked at the property and saw the large, flat parcel in front of the guest house surrounded by views of the magnificent Palisades Mountain range, we all looked at each other with eyebrows raised and said, “Parties!” We knew we were looking at the perfect place for wine lovers to gather, relax and share great wine and food while gazing at the purple-tinged mountain range in front of them. We’ll be anxious to show off the setting when the landscape project is done in a few weeks, so stay in touch for your invitation to join us for a harvest get-together.

It may look like a construction zone now, but we envision a beautful event space and fun afternoons/evenings spent with friends of the winery here.

Watch out!

 

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May 10, 2012

Raising Funds for Public Schools through Wine

We were thrilled to host the 2nd annual fundraiser for the Las Lomitas Education Foundation, a Bay Area public school district, last weekend. Over 150 people joined us to taste Amici’s latest releases, try barrel samples of the 2010 single-vineyard Cabernets and support their public schools. 25% of all wine sales from the event were donated directly to the school foundation, and we’re pleased to say that thousands of dollars were raised for the school district that evening. It’s a great event that supports a cause near and dear to us – the state of our public schools. If you would like to host a similar fundraiser for your local school, please contact us.

 

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April 30, 2012

Introducing Our New Digs!

As most of you long-time friends know, Amici Cellars is no newcomer to the Napa Valley. We’re a group of close friends that have been making wine since the 1990’s, because wine and friends and fun are all inseparable parts of a life well lived. Our mission is to create some of the best wine coming out of California, and offer it at prices people can afford. To do this, we’ve been rigorous about keeping our standards up and our overhead low which meant, for many years, no winery and no tasting room of our own.

But when a beautiful plot of land with a home and winery came available last spring at a reasonable price, we knew we could finally have what we always wanted: a place to call home.

The Amici guest house is a newly-built modern farmhouse, where we enjoy hosting friends new and old.

Our winery and tasting room are located outside the town of Calistoga on Old Lawley Toll Road. We love the quiet, rural character of the neighborhood. And we especially love the views of the Palisades mountain range right outside our window.

So, welcome to the new digs. We finally have our winery and our tasting room, which is open by appointment. Now that our tasting room is open, we can’t wait to meet all of you in person. If you’re in the area, we would love to hear from you so we can schedule a tasting and a tour around the new property for you.

Anyone up for a barrel room tasting?

 

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April 20, 2012

Pancetta-Wrapped Salmon w/ Pesto Whipped Potatoes

Friend of the winery and well-known Napa Valley chef John Adamson developed this recipe specifically to pair with Amici Cellars Pinot Noir. The smoky richness of pancetta and salmon balanced by the bright fruit flavors in the Pinot Noir makes it an exquisite pairing. The basil pesto adds an additional layer of complexity that makes this dish one to serve when you need to impress your guests!

Pancetta-Wrapped Salmon with Pesto Whipped Potatoes

Recipe courtesy Chef John Adamson

Serves 4

  • 4 each Salmon Fillet (5-6 oz. each), skinned and pin boned
  • 8 slices Pancetta, sliced 1/16" thick
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil
  • to taste Salt and Pepper
  • 4 each Russet Potatoes, medium (approx. 8 oz each), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • to taste Salt and White Pepper
  • 1 cup Pesto (see below recipe)

For the Salmon: Lightly salt and pepper the salmon. Carefully wrap the pancetta around the salmon fillets. Place a stainless steel or non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the pan has been heated, add the olive oil and wait for a slight smoky haze to rise from the pan. Immediately add the salmon. Cook the salmon for approximately three to four minutes on each side or until the pancetta has crisped. Continue to cook the salmon, turning to crisp all four sides.

For the Potatoes: Place the peeled and cut potatoes in a small stainless steel pot and completely cover with salted, cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until tender. In a separate saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Drain the potatoes and add them to the scalded heavy cream. With a potato masher, combine the potatoes with the cream and continue to mash until smooth. Add the salt and white pepper. Add the pesto, about a cup, folding it in until it is well blended. Place the pesto whipped potatoes on a warmed plate and top with the pancetta wrapped salmon.

For the Basil Pesto:

  • 2 bunch Basil Leaves, fresh, picked
  • 1 bunch Italian Parsley, leaves picked
  • 1 each Garlic Clove, medium
  • 1¼ cup Olive Oil, extra virgin
  • ¼ cup Pine Nuts, toasted
  • ½ cup Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
  • to taste Salt and Pepper

In a large pot bring 4 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil. Fill a medium sized bowl with ice water and set aside. Plunge the basil and parsley into the boiling water, stir once, making sure the all of the basil and parsley leaves are blanched and the pour into a colander to drain. Immediately plunge the leaves into the ice bath and cool completely. With a lint free cloth, squeeze the basil and parsley of as much water as possible, making sure the herbs are very dry. Roughly chop the herbs and place into a blender with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Add the garlic and pine nuts. Pulse the blender three to four times. If the pesto is not blending easily, add additional olive oil. Run the blender for about twenty seconds, or until all ingredients are well blended. When the pesto is combined, remove it from the blender to a bowl and fold in the parmesan cheese. Cover the pesto tightly with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated.

Serves 4 with enough pesto leftover to freeze.

*Note: commercially produced pesto can also be used, but the salt content of the pesto will likely be higher so adjust the seasoning of the potatoes and salmon accordingly.

 

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April 13, 2012

Budbreak

And we have budbreak! It's been a wet spring, the vines are happy, and the new growing season in the vineyards has begun. This shot was taken between storms that brought hard rain, thunder and lightening. Very exciting weather for the Napa Valley.

 

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April 10, 2012

Bottling the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc

Have you ever wondered just how your wine gets into the bottle and off to you? Check out this video of us bottling the 2011 Amici Sauvignon Blanc. If you've never seen a bottling run, it's actually pretty neat to see the process!

 

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April 6, 2012

Cabernet-Braised Short Ribs

To celebrate the newest release of our flagship wine, the 2009 Amici Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, Chef John Adamson created this wonderful recipe for short ribs braised in Amici Cabernet. Don't skip the Parmesan Polenta--it's sinfully good!

Amici Cellars Cabernet Braised Short Rib with Creamy Parmesan Polenta

Recipe courtesy Chef John Adamson

These succulent, fork-tender short ribs pair beautifully with Amici Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Serves 4

For the Short Ribs:

  • 4 short ribs, boneless (approximately 2 - 21/2 lbs)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 2 celery rib, sliced
  • 2 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup Amici Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 14.5 ounce diced tomatoes, canned
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 6 black peppercorns, crushed
  • 3 juniper berries, crushed
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°. Generously season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy 8-quart sauce pot over medium high heat; add the olive oil and short-ribs and brown the ribs evenly on all sides. (You could also do this over a wood fire, which would add a smoky dimension to the finished product.) When browned, remove the short ribs and set aside. Pour off any excess fat and return the pot to the stovetop. Add the onions, carrot and celery to the pot and cook until well caramelized. Add the garlic clove, dried oregano, and tomato paste and cook until the tomato paste is well distributed. Add the Amici Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, and deglaze any bits that have accumulated on the bottom of the pan. Reduce until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot, including the browned short ribs. Bring to a simmer, cover and place in the oven. If the liquid does not completely cover the meat, cut a round piece of parchment paper and place directly over the short ribs, and then cover. Cook for 21/2-3 hours, or until short ribs are tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. When they have cooled, remove the ribs from the braising liquid. Strain the liquid and then place ribs back into the braising liquid and keep warm.

For the Polenta:

  • 1 each Garlic Clove, minced
  • 4 tbsp Butter
  • 1 cup Polenta
  • 2 cups Whole Milk
  • 3 cups Chicken Stock
  • ½ cup Parmesan Cheese
  • to taste Salt and Pepper

Add one tablespoon of butter to a heavy-bottomed four-quart saucepot. When butter is melted, add garlic and cook until just beginning to brown. Add milk and chicken stock and bring to a boil. In a slow and deliberate stream, whisk in the polenta stirring constantly. As the polenta begins to thicken, change out the whisk for a wooden spoon. Continue to cook until the polenta becomes creamy and begins to peel away from the sides of the pan when stirred. Finish with parmesan cheese and butter, stirring until butter is melted, and adjust consistency with additional milk or chicken stock as needed. Serves 4.

 

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March 29, 2012

While You're in Town

One of the great things about having a winery in Napa Valley is that you get to play tour guide for all of the people who come visit. I keep handy a list of my favorite places and activities that I think our guests would enjoy, and I get the chance to pull it out often. Of course there are tons of wineries worth visiting in Napa, from the beautiful and elegant to the rustic and simple, and all of them will let you taste fantastic Napa Valley wine. But there are some non-wine-related places that I like to recommend to visitors, too. We keep a pinboard on Pinterest called "While You're in Town" with these ideas and others for our visitors. We update it frequently, adding new favorites, so if you're interested in places to go in Napa Valley, you'll want to check it often: http://pinterest.com/amicicellars/

Here are some of my current favorites:

The Model Bakery - St. Helena - Don't even think about starting a day of wine tasting without a cappuccino and famous English muffin from this place.

Woodhouse Chocolates - St. Helena - One word: Exquisite.

Café Sarafornia – Calistoga - Just down the road from the winery is the most down-home, comforting diner I know, with the best food. The Huevos Rancheros are famous for a reason (They're not bad as a wine over-consumption cure, either).

La Condesa - St. Helena - I know what you're thinking: Gourmet Mexican food? Who needs it; I like my burrito place on the corner just fine, thanks. But this is worth a stop. Try the to-die-for mole: deep, complex, and thoroughly yummy.

Gott's Roadside - St. Helena - It's not much to look at, and on summer weekends the lines often run through the parking lot and down the street, but for a good reason: don't leave Napa Valley without a stop for a hamburger (or ahi tuna burger, or fish tacos - all delicious) at Gott's Roadside in St. Helena. Yes, it's that good.

Robert Louis Stevenson Park - Calistoga - Take a day off wine tasting and hike to the top of Mt. St. Helena. The 10.2-mile round trip with a 2,000-foot elevation gain is tough, but will reward you with a mesmerizing view of the valley from the top of the mountain. On your way up, remind yourself that you've got a glass of wine and the hot springs of Calistoga waiting for you when you get back.

 

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