Syrah • Morningsong Vineyards
California: Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma)
What we say
If you are visiting us for the first time, Welcome! The Wine Spies feature one exceptional wine each day – and we only bring you wines that we ourselves seek out and love. Always, the wines are great. Sometimes even better than that, as is the case with today’s wine from Amista Vineyards.
Mission Codename: A Friendly Pursuit
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Find a great California Syrah half way around the globe.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Amista Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2003 Syrah
Winemakers: Michael Farrow
Syrah continues to be one of the favorite wines for lovers of big reds. This Rhone varietal, although many believe that the grape originated in the Persia region, is 100% French in lineage. The Syrah grape is directly descendant from the Monduese Blanche and Dureza varietals and is grown worldwide with great success.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark purple with garnet edges and a slightly inky quality and lots of long thick legs.
Smell – Medium intensity with tart blackberries, cassis with a hint of oak and a slight herbacious component. As this wine opens and breathes hints of cocoa emerge.
Feel – Rich and dry, with an interesting minerality that smoothes as it breathes.
Taste – Classic big Syrah flavors with tart berries, oak, spice, a pleasant vegetal component and an earthly quality that opens up with flavors of cocoa.
Finish – A medium long finish that is rich and smooth with a solid earthy flavor.
Conclusion – If you love big juicy and flavorful Syrahs, this is a wine for you. Great mouthfeel and big flavors that are not overly fruity. Nice balance with a smooth finish, this wine will complement a variety of foods and is perfect for the upcoming BBQ season.
Kyoto, Japan – 6:27 PM – I’ve always enjoyed travel. As evidenced my my numerous missions to France, Italy and most recently the far east. Its great to try local wines paired with local food served by local winemakers – its a great way to make new friends and drink great wines!
While the details of my latest mission are still CLASSIFIED, I have been given liberty to discuss a brief sojourn from the mission. While in Kyoto, enjoying kaiseki at a ryotie, a woman (and not the geiko entertaining us) approached me. Immediately Agent Blush clenched her chopsticks in an aggressive manner. The woman handed me a small parcel, wrapped in handmade paper, as is typical in Japan. Blush rose from the floor and was wound up ready to deliver a death blow, but the woman immediately bowed in a submissive manner and left the private room.
Deciding not to interrupt our fine dinner, I set the parcel to the side. Later that night, while in the communal bath at our ryokan an older man inquired why I was still here. Puzzled, I asked “Why?”; “Didn’t you open your package?” “No, and this is neither the time nor the place to discuss this!” I was trying to relax, and this was contrary to the Japanese way.
Once back in my room, I opened the parcel and inside was a short note with an address on it and a round trip air ticket to Chennai, India departing at 7 AM the following day. The instructions were clear and I understood the mission. I made arrangements for Blush to stay in Japan while I was away…
Chennai, India – 12:15 PM – From the airport, the instructions were simple. Go to the East India Company Egmore Rail Station and wait at the master schedule board. I had time to arrange for our Ops Center to have our local liaison officer hire a Tut-tut for me for the day – thankfully as I later found out…
1:27 PM – A man handed me a note to go to Saint Andrew’s Kirk about 1 km away. Once there the instructions where clear. Sit in the first row and when the clock strikes 2 PM go to the alter and taste the wine in the goblet on the alter.
At 2 PM I rose from the pews, walked to the alter, reached for the goblet and took a sip. This was not your typical alter wine. It was a Rhone varietal, specifically 100% pure Syrah and definitely not of Indian production. The note next to the goblet had further instructions… I was to immediately head to a small cafe in the George Town area. I took another swig of the the wine in the goblet, made some mental notes (wow – this is a very nice wine) and got back into my Tut-tut.
Once at the cafe, which was mostly empty, surprising this time of day, I sat down and waited further instructions. The waiter came up to me with another glass of wine, a note and a parcel. He said “this is for you kind sir”, and then turned and left. In the glass was the same wine. The note said, “I hope you enjoyed our Friendly Pursuit, enjoy the wine!”, and was signed Vicky.
Turns out that Vicky is the proprietor of Amista Vineyards (meaning ‘making friends’) of Sonoma. As I enjoyed the glass of wine, I sat and wondered, “Why is it that I have to be half way around the world just to enjoy a great Sonoma Syrah?” “Never mind, in this case, the chase was almost as good as the wine reward I was enjoying…”
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Amista Winery in Sonoma’s Dry Creek region can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
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“When I’m not in the vineyards or winery, I’m cooking. I understand what makes a wine food friendly and that’s my goal.” ~ Mike Farrow, Amista Vineyards Winemaker
Awards and Accolades:
2006 Grand Harvest Award Silver Medal
2006 West Coast Wine Judging Silver Medal
About This Wine:
This is a big mouthful with hints of smoke and spice. The full fruit flavors buzz around your mouth and finish with a smooth tannin finish. This syrah wants to share your palate with grilled meat such as a barbequed tri-tip or a fine rib eye steak.
About The Winery:
Located in the heart of California’s Dry Creek Valley, Amista produces handcrafted, small-lot, artisanal wines. Loosely translated Amista means making friends. For owners Mike and Vicky Farrow, Amista is all about friendship. Along the way to realizing their winemaking dreams, a circle of friends cheered them on and grew at each twist and turn in their great adventure. Each precious bottle stands as a personal invitation from Mike and Vicky to experience the pleasures and camaraderie of wine country living.
We dreamed of owning a vineyard and making wine since we first met in 1983. It took us a decade before we’d plant our first vine, and then another six years before we’d find this magnificent vineyard in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. Along the way we learned a lot! Most importantly, that wine is a source of endless discovery and rich friendships.
Amista translates as “it makes friends” and in our experience creating this winery has been all about friendship. 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. And so, we’ve created a winery that welcomes old and new friends alike, to join us in exploring the natural rhythm and splendid beauty of wine country living.
About The Winemaker:
The art and craft of winemaking is a second career, and first love, for Mike Farrow. He planted his first vineyard and began his winemaking education at 51. He made his first commercial wine – under his own brand, Amista Vineyards – in 2003, at the age of 60. And by last crush – in time for the 2007 harvest – self-taught, entrepreneurial Mike Farrow had his own winery – when he was 64. Like wine, life improves with age.
Now, with five vintages under his belt, and eight years of hands-on work in his vineyard, Farrow is determined to make bold wines from the Dry Creek Valley with as little manipulation as possible. He attempts to pick earlier, rather than later to minimize over-ripeness and to gain better balance. “I’m not picking for sugar,” he says emphatically, “I’m picking for flavor.” And he means it.
Hand Harvested: October 20, 2003
Average Brix at Harvest: 23º
TA: 0.41 g/100 ml
Barrel Regimen: 18 months in oak, 50% French, 50% American, 25 % new
Bottled: May 22, 2005
Cases produced: 760