It’s a cloudy morning and I’m sitting here with my morning coffee while I look over … my swimming pool. While Peter is playing host in New York, I hijacked the newsletter to give you another look into all things Ampelos.
I’m Cobie – the Ampelos “marketing” gal, but I really do a little of whatever is needed. I have had the pleasure of meeting so many of you and I’ve been hanging around here for about 10 years now. I’m often asked how I got “into wine” and the truth is I stumbled upon it or it was fate or I showed up and just never left – all truths in my book! I was actually looking for Ken Brown one fine Vintner’s weekend and when I found him I also found Peter and Rebecca and my life took a totally different path.
This path became my cork stories. In the middle of my living room is a “coffee table” a half barrel with a glass top and a hole in the middle for corks to be tossed in. My cool husband made it for me from a left over winery barrel. In it are corks, lots of them, and most are written on in some form or fashion.( I really recommend a Sharpie) Those scribbles have become mine and my families stories.
Let’s read some corks…
Cork #1: 1st Pruning 2007 -I showed up to Ampelos with very little wine knowledge, but if you have ever spent any time with Peter or Rebecca you know their passion for sharing wine and winemaking. They are ever the gracious host and you will never leave them not knowing more about what is in your glass or how it got there. The first time I encountered pruning I finally thought I was home free… I can cut old vines… NO problem give me those shears. WRONG! Pruning is one of the most tedious happenings in the vineyard. There are vines to cut one way and distances to leave between others and canes to move another way. Andres (our vineyard foreman) was so patient with me and I was completely sure that I scalp a whole row and no grapes would grow there come fall. Glad to report no damage was done.
Cork #2 : Wine Family – I have a wine family! They are more than friends, they are family and I have been blessed by finding them through my years here. From my “perfect day” cork (which involved a picnic at Alma Rosa and tasting through the valley), to Filos parties where “the family” swoops in to help do the lion’s share of the work, to having the honor of helping release new labels into the world that found their start in the Ampelos winery (I’m look at you GoGi family), so many corks with your names… so many great memories!
Cork #3: Water Polo -WHAT… you might be saying about right now?! I hear ya, but hang on! If I’m not pimping wine then you can find me on a pool deck. My three daughters play a LOT of water polo. After a great day (or a bad one) of watching polo the parents are inclined to celebrate with a glass of vino! A glass or two of wine with dinner can mean “team pizza party” as much as filet mignon. A note on kids and wine… a friend of my daughters’ once commented on how many corks we had in our home. My daughters’ commented without missing a beat.. “oh yea, my mom works for a vineyard and we grew up there!” I am proud that my girls’ understand the full circle of winemaking – the farming, the work at harvest, the importance of organic and biodynamic farming and the years it has taken for Peter and Rebecca to build Ampelos. I started here when they were between 3rd and Kinder – they are now in college and Sophomores in high school. They indeed have grown up here and their respect for the “industry” is immense. No smoke and mirrors here and I hope I have spared them their intro into wine via Boone’s Farm!
Cork #4: “The Dorn” & Moving – My husband’s favorite wine is the Dornfelder that Peter made once upon a time. The color was so dark you could tie dye a t-shirt with it. It was an “epsilon” bottling – meaning something rare and special that doesn’t always come around. My hubs is still holding out for Peter to talk Rebecca into agreeing upon making it again. My husband was in the Air Force for over 20 years which means we moved around a bit. Like “the Dorn”, the rare part is that Peter and Rebecca have kept me on at Ampelos no matter where the Air Force sent us. When you move around not much stays the same and that can be bittersweet. One piece that has stayed the same is Ampelos. Peter and Rebecca’s friendship and their belief in what I can offer, their commitment to high quality farming and the wine they offer YOU, the friends and family I’ve made along the way – they have all remained. I am so grateful!
Cork #5: Shhh! These are the corks that fall into the hands of one who might have had more than a glass or two. Go ahead… give the Sharpie and a cork to “that friend” – you will laugh about it later!
So we try to keep these newsletters short and sweet and I have definitely broken all the rules! If you are reading this then you are part of the Ampelos cork stories and we are indeed glad you are here. Thank you!
OK, this week is cold! Strange weather: A few weeks ago it was above 80F and felt like a Danish summer – and now we have frost in the mornings. I’m sitting here in the mountains where I woke up to 11F – time for hot coffee! We actually got snowed in yesterday. CHP advised us not to leave the cabin unless necessary, and if so snow chains were required.
Back to the vineyard: Frost is not really a problem right now, as long as we don’t have “green stuff” out. The hot days gave the vines a signal that spring is coming and we were watching for the buds to start pushing. Not much happened in our vineyard, but some of our neighbors had signs of bud break. The frost stops the timer – at least for now.
We need it desperately! We are at around 3 inches since July 1 and would like to get another 9+ before spring. Every morning we check out the Wunderground app (not meant to make a commercial but its a great app!) and with disappointment we see the same thing: 10-20% chance of rain a few days in the next week and 30-50% in 10 days – and its been like that for the last month….
Heading to NYC
Next week will be an exciting one! We will officially release our new vintages of Viognier, Rose’ and Grenache to wine club members at our winter Filos pick up party this Saturday at the winery. We Love getting to mingle with everyone and share stories, food and delicious wine. I am heading to New York early Sunday morning for a bunch of trade events and tastings. I am very excited to be pouring at the SLOW Wine tasting at Eatly for the first time. If you are in NYC feel free to reach out to me to connect.
Before you know it I will be in Austin for SXSWand can’t wait to speak and see everything the week has to offer! Are you in the Austin area – reach out to me and lets meet up!
Peter and Rebecca
WE WANT YOU…
and your photos…
Back by popular demand we will be featuring photos sent in by YOU! Send us how you celebrate life with Ampelos wines and we will choose 1 or 2 photos to be part of these newsletters. THANK YOU Rupi S. from CA for sending our featured picture.
January was a different month – well in our “jobs” all months are somehow different. One of the many reasons it is such a great job to have being a farmer/winemaker/storyteller!
We like out Rosé and Viognier to get in bottles as soon as they are done fermenting and stabilized. The long cold fermentations take a good part of the fall and before they get clear and stable we are into the new year. End of January – early February is bottling time.
We work on organizing barrels and tanks, racking and blending, tasting and measuring volumes, ordering glass and corks, adjusting label layout, fining and filtering, sending samples to the lab, coordinating with the bottling truck and crew and my 110 line to do list is updated daily. Then comes bottling day where it all comes together – exciting to see as the bottles, cases and pallets get filled! Stay tuned for the 2017 Viognier and Rosé of Syrah to come out – they are delicious! 100% estate Rosé for the first time – which means organic/biodynamic/sustainable.
In the vineyard Andres and I met up with Ruben “The Vine Whisperer” a week ago to visit each block and determine the pruning strategy. It’s one of the most important decisions we make during the farming year and every cut will impact not only this year, but also next years growth and crop. We review previous years decisions and evaluate the results – not just crop level, but also quality. Key decisions are made. Andres and his small crew are now carefully working their way through our 46,000 vines – almost a month of work.
In the meantime, Rebecca and I are planning the spring as we start to hit the road to make our annual visits. We have some exciting places to pour and we look forward to seeing some of you out on the road. More to follow… stay tuned!
It is August and it is a quiet time in the vineyard…we are just waiting. The vines have been tucked, long shoots twisted around the top wire, clusters have been thinned, laterals removed, bird nets are up and now we are waiting for the clusters to reach their optimal point of ripening. We love August! No more flying around the globe presenting wines and telling stories – it is time for us to put the farmer/winemaker hat on full time.
At the winery the destemmer and the press have been inspected and maintained and declared fit for the fight! The new barrels will be delivered over the next couple of weeks, the new upright Cuve’s (large wooden fermenters) will arrive any day, the cellar rat crew is getting organized and its time to clean everything. Jesse is (as usual) reorganizing all the barrels and once again shaking his head about my plans to bottle right before (or maybe after the beginning of) harvest.
At this time of the year a grape farmer’s favorite tool is: “The Weather Channel” app on my iPhone! We carefully watch the weather forecast and adjust the irrigation schedule accordingly to give the vines a little cool shower as needed. We notice on a daily basis how the grapes are turning almost black as they react to the weather and we pay attention to how consistent ripening happens. Harvest is around the corner and we are excited and always a little anxious – hoping nothing will go wrong. Our friend Doug Margerum picked his first grapes a few days ago… the train has left the station.
In the meantime, Rebecca and I are enjoying how peaceful life in the valley is. Yesterday we enjoyed a glass of wine with a beautiful sunset and then took the backcountry road to Los Alamos for a great dinner at one of our favorite local farm to table restaurants ‘Full of Life Flatbread’. Laotian eggplant and heirloom tomatoes with radish sprouts salad, followed slow braised tuscan kale flatbread with burrata and a ricotta and prosciutto flatbred – delicious! It is amazing that you can still get an amazing (organic) meal for less than $40. Of course is was accompanied by a 2013 Ampelos Grenache. After dinner we gathered with our neighbors at Apple Creek Ranch where Todd offered a game of bocce ball, country fireplace, fresh organic watermelon, passionate students from Tanzania. Great wine, dogs playing at our feet and a good conversation – it was a late night and our cup runneth over with blessings!
Sometimes there is too much going on in a day…and Friday was one of them. A late dinner Thursday at Flatbread in Los Alamos with good old friends turned into a blending session of 2015 Syrah and Grenache the next morning. Rebecca and I love working on custom winemaking projects where we help great friends create a wine of their preference. Wow, it will be an awesome blend for Jay and Virginia.
Next we moved on to finalizing the blends of 2014 Gamma, Delta, Nu, Rho….. last minute adjustments – we are bottling on the 21st. Bottling involves lots of moving parts. When is the glass coming? Are the label proofs ok? It always comes together and ends up being some of our favorite days of the year.
Traveling Is Part Of The Job
Heading up to our cabin for Wines in the Pines at Pine Mountain Club. Our good friends Kate and Norm from Flying Goat Cellars are hanging with us for the weekend. Today I will also be pouring at the Vintage Hollywood event off Sunset Blvd (the mansion with the statues). Monday morning onto New York for a week sales trip….
And lots of them. Andres built three chicken coops a couple of years ago and placed them close to sections of the vineyard where we have had problems with mealybugs. These little white insects spin a dew around the clusters that no-one wants in their wines. A common problem in vineyards, but instead of spraying insecticides we learned that ants are “managing” the mealybugs – and chicken like ants! So our little “army” of s150 chicken are sent into the vineyard and they sure do their job: last harvest we did not have a single cluster with mealybug-dew! Nice way to work together with Mother Nature! On the flip side, between coyotes, bobcats and eagles we loose a bunch of them throughout the year so we have to “make” new ones. Right now the horse barn is full of two new crews of “field workers” – 20 days old!
Good morning from 30,000 feet and a beautiful blue sky… these updates are a team effort at times and today it’s me (Cobie) typing Peter’s insights from the friendly skies over Arizona. Rebecca is driving to LA and Peter’s Friday email turned into this Monday morning greeting while he is Denmark working and traveling! This is the reality of a small business, but we love it!
Have hat… still traveling
It’s Mothers Day – in Sweden! So first a Happy (belated) Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there – including Rebecca!
Right now I am sitting in our good friend Carsten’s kitchen in the Swedish archipelago where I am spending the weekend with friends relaxing between hectic weeks in Denmark. My sister Anne from Greece has joined us as well.
It has been a couple of super busy weeks with business meetings, wine presentations to buyers, winemaker dinners, wine club sessions etc. Meeting happy and curious people, sharing wines and telling stories, late night catch-up with old friends, dinner after dinner tasting new nordic cuisine, a traditional Danish hotdog now and then and I even got my aunt’s 100th birthday to fit into the program. Fun and exhausting to be back “home”.
I also had time to visit Harald Krabbe at Frederiksdal who makes the most exciting dry cherry wines from his own fruit. Later on with Erik Vind at Sanderumgaard checking out his newly planted hectars of asparagus. So exciting to meet with passionate farmers and discuss challenges, success stories and life. Reminds me of how lucky we are to be responsible for a part of the earth.
From back home Rebecca, Andres and Jeff keep me updated about the vineyard. We got a little rain last Sunday, but not enough to cause trouble. Pinot Noir has started flowering and it looks like the temperature next weekend will be in the 80’s which will help to accelerate flowering. We have sprayed the biodynamic quartz silica on the shoots to prepare them well for the next step in their development.
In the meantime I will enjoy a last busy week in Denmark before I head back to California….
Looking forward to our next Filos wine club pick up party… see you soon!
Morning coffee at the ranch, but with one foot out the door heading to Denmark on my annual sales trip!
Chores before I go…
Always something to fix here! When Rebecca and I moved up to the ranch in 2001 we realized that when something breaks – and it happens pretty often – it cost $300 to fix it. No matter what it was. Now it is more like $650… We loved getting the rain this winter, but there was a price to pay. A 6 inch waterline totally fractured last week. Andres and Chencho’s pants turned brown that day and the 3 foot diameter and 20 foot long culvert pipe at the “dry” creek crossing gave in and we had to replace it. They call the new 3 x 20 foot metal pipe a “stick” at Farm Supply. No water at the house one morning – and Joe had to replace some corroded wires under the driveway. Always something – that’s life as a farmer.
Monday was bottling day and it was a great day! 1930 cases got filled including our next release of 2014 Pinot Noir “lambda” and 2014 “Syrache”. Stay tuned – they are very promising. For the first time the Syrache is all estate fruit! Following our branding strategy with reversing the colors on estate/biodynamic/organic fruit we decided to do this for the Syrache. We are all in love with the new label! Bottling is done and I’m heading out of town so our amazing assistant winemaker Jesse will get the honor of reorganizing the winery and will probably spend a week moving pallets and barrels…..
I am now sitting in LAX sipping bubbles waiting for the Norwegian Shuttle direct to Copenhagen. Working with our great distributer in Denmark, Otto Suenson we have created a three week back-to-back program with winemaker dinners, wine club presentations, trade samplings, vineyard visits, media meetings and even Pinot Noir clone blending with custom bottling clients. Just checked in a 12 pack with samples – they asked if I had any extra! Here and there I will spend a little time with old friends and family as time allows, including my aunt’s 100th birthday. Its going to be some exciting and exhausting weeks! Nothing better… I love it.
Oh… that pink stuff…
I don’t talk much about scores, but Cobie insisted I mention that our 2016 Rosé of Syrah just got 91 points from Wine Enthusiast! It is flying out the door and somehow at least two Rosé magnums seem to disappear at the ranch every weekend… what can we say, but ” Rosé all day” seems to work for us!
Thank you for letting us share our lives with you!