Getting Ready!

IMG_9457
It is getting closer
This is the most exciting time of the year in the vineyard:  Harvest is coming!  With excitement and a lot of work we have been following the vines as they have gone through their almost magical transition from just a little bud in March to now having up to 10 feet long bright, green branches with dark clusters hanging at the bottom.  So when Rebecca and I see the pickup trucks hauling picking bins of clusters down 246 we get that exiting feeling in the stomach: Its getting close!  Time to dust off the refractometer and pH reader and start checking the numbers.  Time to squeeze clusters in zip-lock bags and taste the juice. And this week was a pretty warm week here in Santa Rita Hills so the grapes are getting ready.
Jesse and Matt is making sure that winery equipment gets assembled, cleaned and fine tuned. Jesus and Chencho is checking tractors, cleaning bins and chasing birds away. Yes, harvest is coming!
IMG_9533
First pick
Speaking of harvest, we actually did the first pick Monday morning at 3 AM.  For five years now we have been working with our good friend Norm Yost who gets grapes from us, makes a batch of Blanc de Noir sparkling wine and we get half of the bottles two years later.  Grapes for sparkling wines are usually picked weeks earlier than for red/white wines to get higher acids and less sugar. The flavors were great and for the geeks out there, here are the numbers: 19.6 brix, 3.07 pH, 9.3g/L total acidity and 4.12 g/L malic acid.
Rebecca and I felt so good about being out in the vineyard with the crew to get started and it is always a special feeling to haul the grapes out of the vineyard.
_MG_5583
Want to be part of the harvest tema?  
Introducing the Virtual Harvest Crew Series at Ampelos!
From the Grapes to the Glass
We have now completed close to 40 virtual wine tasting shows – starting to get a hang of it….  At our brainstorming session with Heather and Cobie the other day we decided to introduce an exciting virtual tasting series for the fall:  Winemaking!  Let’s share this exciting process all the way from picking decisions, harvesting, crushing, fermentation, racking, pressing and all the way up to barrel aging with you all!  We will introduce our weekly Virtual Harvest Crew in an upcoming email – so stay tuned.  A fun way you to be a member of the harvest team!
We will be doing these weekly at 4:30 PM PST and will be including video clips from the week. And off course we will be opening a bottle of wine and get your weekend started with wine, video and a toast!
IMG_9562
Fires!
Based on the 11000 lightnings we had last weekend the state is now under serious fire attacks. We thank all of you for checking with us but we are doing fine. The closest fires are in Santa Clarita about 100 miles east of us. But we are in touch with our friends up and Napa and Sonoma and we worry about them.
Picture above is from Thursday evening where we had a bit of smoke in the valley. Gone the next morning!

Better Late Than Never…

62140f2e-8969-42f9-a1ef-31790a59ae40

What happened?
I know it has been a while since you heard from me late. Nothing earth shaking but just a lot going on…including vacation. I know that many of you have been following Rebecca and I as we traveled up the coast and into Montana but that is a different story. This newsletter I wrote a couple of weeks ago and I decided to send it out anyway. But more will follow soon – since so much is happening right now. Good things!
d4bffcd0-4da4-4485-9f4c-9b095aee76b2
Sunday in Montana…
Its Sunday morning again.  Sitting her with my morning coffee but at a different place.  At 9000 feet looking over the gorgeous Big Sky valley in Montana.  Rebecca and I are hanging out here for a few days at our good friend John Wagner’s place – and it is stunning.
After three months working seven longs days a week to keep the Ampelos wheels turning we thought it would be good to get away for some days.  Every two years for the last decade we have been visiting Montana and we just love it up here.  The mountains, the rivers, the light evenings, the valleys and the new frontier appearance and spirit that still lives here.  Great time to hang out during the nice summer months – the winters and long and brutal (we hear).
89b2c3f0-9707-4ec5-9333-d0fcbcb253f8
Lots of fun and hard work: The Ampelos Wine Channel
Its been an interesting journey the last few months.  Rebecca and I have learned that “stubborn optimism” is the key to keep things going!  Many of you have joined in on the over 30 Virtual Wine Tastings we have done via Zoom so far.  Not only in English but I have done 8 of them in Danish as well for our great wine supporters in my home country.  Check out our website under Events/Virtual Tastings where there are links to the videos.  Not super quality but it’s the real thing.  The two of us have been packing, shipping and hauling boxes to FedEx store.  We have been posting on Social Media, doing podcast and wine tasting interviews, assessing cluster levels for the upcoming harvest, finding good and conscious winemakers for the excess grapes we will have.  And we are constantly in a (stubborn optimistic) discussion of how the two of us can keep it all together and still feed the families that depend on us.  Somehow it looks like we will make it through these crazy times.
3d430a43-3faa-4189-8516-b9faf279c6f4
Back at the ranch….
I am staying in daily contact with Jesus and Chencho in the vineyard and everything is in good shape.  The first color change (veraison) happened a few days ago and I cant wait to get back home and work on the final preparations for the upcoming harvest.  Looks like a great one coming up!
342f1fcd-1cf1-4ddc-b2c7-f355e4c25c7d

May Flowers…

image
May is a great time in the vineyard! The vines are growing as fast as they can – sometimes you can see it from day to day. The clusters are growing, too. They turn from fragile little things with a size like a fingernail to several inches long in a matter of weeks and then suddenly one day as I am walking in block 1 or 9 I spot the first tiny flowers. Almost overnight it seems like I see them everywhere. Vines are self-pollinating so we don’t need bees, but a little heat and a little breeze is fine. Too much wind can become a problem and the storms we had last week got me nervous, but things are looking fine.
IMG_0289
Virtual Tastings! Now that’s fun. Rebecca and I have now done a Friday Happy Hour Virtual Tasting for the last 7 weeks – ever since California started the Shelter-In-Place. We select four wines that we send out to our great, loyal customers and each Friday at 4:30 PM we open a bottle together, talk, tell stories, show around the vineyard or ranch and have fun. It’s really been a great time for us and given us an opportunity to bring different parts of the ranch/vineyard/winery into everyone’s home.
AmpelosVTasting-18
In two weeks we will be doing a special Pinot Noir barrel tasting and blending session! Now that’s different! I am also doing a similar series with our many Ampelos fans in Denmark: 7 PM Copenhagen time – which means that on Saturdays I pop the first bottle of wine at 8 AM! Serious work…
IMG_8710
We are all in difficult times and trying to do our best to keep the wheels turning. As the crisis kicked in Rebecca and I took a serious look at our financial situation to make sure we could stay financially sustainable (here is that word again). Working with landlords, consultants, employees and distributers and using our IT background (although that was way in the past) we developed a good plan and so far it has worked well! We have promised Jesus and Chencho who takes care of the vineyard and ranch throughout the year that they will keep their job and still be able to feed their families. The same with Jesse, Matt and Lucy in the winery and our tasting room. We are so lucky to have these awesome people as a part of the Ampelos family and we could not do it without all of you Ampelos fans out there!!!
IMG_8860
Last, but far from least, Rebecca and I decided that we needed to add a little more happiness/chaos/energy to our life so we found another dog: Athena. A choc lab/pit bull mix that was found in a field outside Bakersfield. What a great dog she is – still a puppy! Driving Artemis and Apollo crazy at times but also making them younger. We get lots of laughs out of watching her and the crew. And enjoying her cuddling with the new family….
Be safe out there and enjoy life and let’s raise a glass tonight!
Cheers!
Peter & Rebecca

It’s a Great Day! It’s Earth Day!

IMG_8716.jpeg

I had a great morning in the vineyard. No one told the soil or plants about the crisis! The vines are as happy as they can be. The soil is full of worms and energy. Yes, it feels good to be a farmer. The nice rain we have had this spring is really showing right now – we are about 25% above average! And it came with a nice pace: Rain for a day – dry for a week – repeat. We have finished mowing the cover crop and disking it into the soil. It provides a ton of natural fertilizers for Mother Earth.

Screen Shot 2020-04-22 at 12.34.37 PM.png

Downtown LA

Its Earth Day! Let’s think about it for a second: it is so much about how can we take better care of the Earth – we really need it! So interesting to hear the reports coming out about clean air in China, LA etc. The other night when I took the dogs out for a last lawn visit I looked at the stars and planets as I usually do and although we have pretty clean air up here I swear that I saw Venus as bright as I have ever seen it. Wow!

IMG_8624.jpeg

We are almost done with bud break and some Pinot Noir and Riesling shoots are already over a foot long. The leaf colors tells us that the vines are healthy and the soil full of nutrients. It’s a true please to see how nature moves on and the little clusters are nicely developing. Could be another great year here in Santa Rita Hills!

IMG_8625.jpeg

Rebecca and I went into think tank a few weeks ago to discuss how we were going to ensure that Ampelos fares as well though this crisis as possible. Our sibling reunion with spouses in Spain got cancelled. My annual trip to Denmark go cancelled. What now? We decided to focus on enhancing our digital relationship with all of you through social media etc. but most important we started an ongoing series of Virtual Wine Tastings using Zoom. Every Friday afternoon we are now hosting a tasting and vineyard tour – three episodes in so far. We are having a blast putting them on. And last Saturday I started a similar series in Danish! Come join us.

AmpelosVTasting-51.jpg

Most important – please raise a glass to Mother Earth tonight!
Peter & Rebecca

 

 

Ampelos Wine Channel – Virtual Wine Tasting

Live From The Vineyard!

image.png

WOW! That was absolutely fun! Last Friday we had out first Ampelos Wine Channel – Virtual Tasting – Episode 1. Rebecca and I had a blast from the chicken coop and the cover crop talking about how we got into this, our farming and organic fertilizing while we were enjoying the 2018 SRH Pinot Noir with you. We almost blew the roof off on our Zoom subscription which is pretty amazing for the inaugural run! We had Ampelos supporters from all over US as well as several from Europe participating – even though it was late there. What a great way for us to start the weekend!

image.png

Rebecca and I have been working on answering all the questions, but there are a few that we will cover in the upcoming episodes. We also learned that we need to improve on the sound and the video and we have purchased additional AV gadgets for the upcoming Fridays and we just managed to get the 1GB video file compressed and uploaded to YouTube – here is the link in case you were not on the Virtual Tasting: https://youtu.be/fDMh0Zv0sSo

So to those of you that are already dialed in for our virtual tasting program: Thanks so much for being part of this, having fun and enjoying our wines.
See You Today at 4:30 PM PST / 7:30 PM EST
It’s been raining a lot, but we hope to still be in the vineyard…
To the rest of you: If you want to join in we can still get you connected!
Join the fun here:
Finally:  Private Virtual Tastings Available
Do you have a special Ampelos bottle in your cellar you have been waiting to drink? Time to celebrate a birthday or anniversary while staying in?
Let’s celebrate together! We are offering private virtual tastings by appointment.
You pick the wine and we will join you via Zoom. This is your time… we can cover wines, winemaking, barrel aging, wine collecting, farming, viticulture… the possibilities are endless!
image.png
Send Rebecca an email to book a date today!

Better Together (While Apart)

IMG_8412.jpeg
Happy Saturday to you!
I usually promise a fairly short email, but this may not fit….
so pardon me. Got a lot on my mind!
First of all: A Great Spring 
After the last month of rainfall where we got around 50% of the annual allowance (but on and off = perfect) the valleys are as green and beautiful as we have seen them for years. The spring flowers are popping up everywhere, the worms are in every chunk of soil and the little buds are starting to push out – even the Grenache in block 5 has a few small leaves. As we enjoy these tiny, fragile shoots coming out we can see the first clusters – we count them and smile! It may be a vintage with good yields! Mother Nature is enjoying her life and our farming principles and she will reward us – again!
IMG_8395.jpeg
But: The World is Changing…
So we all need to change our daily plans these days. Strange to go through the day without a lot of the usual stuff… But the good news is that we have different forms of social media to help us keep the spirit up, stay in touch and continuously learn and have fun. Rebecca and I are lucky that our business is not forced to shut down! The reason you get this email is that you enjoy wines and we know that you will likely continue to do so even through these difficult time – just like we do. But without a number of the usual interactions we have with you like tasting room sessions, winemaker dinners, release parties etc, Now, we are expanding new, fun channels leveraging from social media.
Let’s start today!
This evening at 6 PM PST I will be live with Lamar from The Wine Militia on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/thewinemilitia/ ) – please join me!
Ampelos .png
We are so excited to start a series of online video (Zoom) based wine tasting sessions. Every Friday starting next week we will pop and taste one of our wines in different settings of our Ampelos world: vineyard/ranch/winery/…. and also talk about what is happening with the vines and between the barrels. We want it to be personal and interactive so please join us with questions and comments along the way. We have put together an awesome wine sale available now! You can choose a 4-pack or a case (12 bottles) of wines that we can ship to you so that you can taste with us! Bonus – shipping is only $5*
Filos Party 2010 - 2.jpg
Private Virtual Winemaker Tastings
This is where it gets really personal! We will be offering one-on-one tastings: What would you like to taste with the two of us? Got a vintage bottle of Ampelos in your stash? Need to celebrate a birthday or anniversary while at home? Answer – surprise party with a virtual winemaker! Vertical tasting of older Ampelos vintages? Ready to have some fun? Contact us at rebecca@ampeloscellars.com to arrange.
Let’s all work together to keep our spirits high and enjoy good food and wine!
We are truly better together while we are apart!
Finally, I want to share that we have seen a significant increase in orders coming in. We want you all to know that we really appreciate your support!  Rebecca and I will make sure that Ampelos keeps going!
Cheers and have a great weekend!
Rebecca and Peter

Finding Joy…

….and they will never stop: Worms keep making soil – soil keeps feeding plants – plants will starting the new growing year – and we will get some awesome grapes and make wines! The worms didn’t check the Internet this morning.
IMG_8308.JPG
Spring is starting in the vineyard and last week I found the first shoots pushing out. There is nothing as special (well maybe a few things…) as watching the first tiny, fragile and bright green leaves meet mother sun. The curtain has lifted and the show begun! Wow, what a pleasure and a gift it is to be a farmer! As we walk the vineyard once again we realize how lucky we are.
Grape farming is a little beyond most farming and wine making beyond most food production. One of the things that we enjoy the most about our “job” are the amazing people we meet along our journey. Last week we had a great dinner in Larkspur with our old “cellar rat” Nico who started his wine journey day one plucking individual green grapes from our Grenache clusters (=very tedious) over a decade ago and now has 23 harvest behind him including some very prestigious wineries. We have also visited with passionate organic and biodynamic focused wine buyers in the Bay Area and the ongoing influx of visitors at the ranch that want to experience paradise in the valley. We are so blessed to live here and be stewards of the land.
I don’t want to come across as ignorant to the horrible reality that we are all faced with right now from the virus, but I want all of us to realize that no matter how scared we are, no matter how much money we have lost in Wall Street, no matter how much our “previous great life” is being distorted: Life goes on and in a matter of months it will hopefully just be a bad dream behind us. In the meantime, let us enjoy the wonderful presents Mother Earth gives us most of the time. Like Rebecca and I enjoy bud break right now
IMG_8342.jpeg
We are spending the weekend in the cabin and they are predicting 10 inches of fresh snow tomorrow. Maybe some cross country skiing with the dogs! Be safe out there! Check CDC guidelines, check out website for up to date information on our tasting room policies and don’t forget to live life to the fullest in whatever way can – and drink some wine!
Cheers
Rebecca and Peter
That smile…
Rebecca and I recently spent some time in the Bay area. We hopped over to Sausalito to do a bit of work and enjoy the gorgeous views. Every once in awhile we have to decline the wine and enjoy a great cocktail. During these uncertain days surrounding us I am so grateful for this beautiful smile. Let’s all find joy in the beautiful everyday moments of those we cherish.

Springing Forward… Almost

IMG_8086.jpg
Weather can be strange! February is supposed to be the wet month and we are now leaving it with not a single drop! Global warming? But we have had some very cold mornings…hard to figure it out. Bottom line is that we have been running our sprinkler system to get some “rain” to the cover crop and now we see the bell beans and sweet peas pushing out like crazy. When we cut it down in a few weeks we will be harvesting ton of nitrogen to feed our healthy soil. Whatever mother nature gives us we will get the best out of it!
image.png
A few weeks ago we were again wine provider for an Outstanding In The Field event – this time at Coleman Family Farms in Carpinteria. It is an amazing organization that Jim Denevan has built and he told me that last year he served 21000 farm-to-table dinners throughout the country and abroad. So cool that he was honored with the Man In The Field documentary. Check it out at http://www.outstandinginthefield.com. Soon OITF will announce that they will do another dinner at our ranch this fall!
IMG_7993.jpg
Jesus and Chencho has been working like busy bees in the vineyard getting pruning and tying done to get all the vines ready for the next journey. This is a great time to get an idea of how the upcoming year will be so we are anxiously checking the thickness of the new canes and spurs, the distance between the buds and the overall health of the vines. And its looking like we are off to a great start!
image.png
The beginning of the year is always bottling time at Ampelos. Rebecca, Jesse and I have been working on getting the wines ready, glass, corks and labels ordered and crew lined up. The new vintage of Rose of Syrah and Viognier (2019) got bottled and the flavors are amazing. We also made a small batch of new Riesling – this year it behaved well and finished fermentation in January!
Off to the vineyard…

Looking Ahead and Making a Difference

image.png
Off to a New Year! Our amazing journey continues…
Back to reality after a wonderful Christmas at the ranch with great friends and an amazing New Year in the Big Apple. Rebecca and I are recharged for 2020 – a year with strong business as usual combined with cool new projects. We are so lucky to be living in this dream job/hard work spiced with wonderful friends, great food…and wine!
January is about getting the new wines ready: 2019 Rose’, Riesling and Viognier. Think about it: We just picked the grapes a few months ago, took them through crush and a slow, natural fermentation and here we are getting them fined and clear, blending the Syrah, Grenache and Riesling for the Rose’ and tomorrow we will be bottling them. Viola! The flavors are amazing for such young wines….I was about to describe them, but realized that would far exceed how short I like our newsletter to be. Check the testing notes when we release them – the wines are awesome!
image.png
We are so proud to offer wines sustainably certified by CSWA! Read more below…
I know I have talked a lot about the rain, but together with our rich, yet stressed soil it is so crucial to give the little vines the right growing conditions. So far we have received nine inches of rain since July which is a GREAT start. The wet months are still coming. Chencho and Jesus are working in the vineyard getting things ready for pruning next week, maintaining equipment, spraying Biodynamic preparations (BD500) and fixing damages from the rain. Weak vines have been replaced with new cuttings from last year’s growth. All good stuff – reminds me that farming is the best job in the world!.
image.png
Chencho is stirring the biodynamic preparations (BD500).
We all follow the news with speeches from the Economic Forum in Davos, statements from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock etc. and we ask ourselves: “What can I do?”. Sustainability is the answer! And responsible farming is the only correct approach. Mother Earth only has so much topsoil and we need to take real good care of it – it is the main reason why we are here! The more I get involved in sustainable programs the more I realize how important they are. Rebecca and I are very proud that when we bottle our wines tomorrow the labels will carry the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance logo for the first time (see photo above of Rose’ label)! We just completed our vineyard-to-wine certification in this program. We were previously with the SIP sustainable program. Look for the logo out there when you make your next wine purchases – and ask for it! Support Mother Earth!
Drink consciously in 2020 and enjoy!
Rebecca and Peter

image.png

Feeling Thankful

IMG_7372.jpeg
Our gorgeous vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. We continue to marvel at how amazing it is to work alongside Mother Nature. The rewards of farming organic, biodynamic and sustainable are endless.
Harvest:DONE!
Wow, harvest happened fast this year. Rebecca, Jesus, Chencho, Jesse, Matt and I have been very busy since last email. Great harvest – and we are all excited about the outcome. So now that it’s all over it’s time to look back at the year:
  • It started with a wet winter! We farmers love rain – especially at the right time. 50% above average! A good beginning.
  • A cold spring slowed down bud break, which is a good way to avoid spring frost.
  • May is usually the month for flowering and the cold weather continued. Now, that’s not necessarily a good thing and later in the summer we noticed a good amount of shatter – flowers that didn’t get pollinated…
  • The summer was relatively mild with a few heat spikes and the clusters developed nicely. We knew now that it was going to be a later harvest than the previous three years – actually more normal timing.
  • On September 13 we started picking Pinot Noir and then the warm Indian summer kicked in – the warmest day of the year was in late September. It accelerated harvest and we picked all Pinot Noir in 13 days – the shortest picking window since 2015.
  • Jesus and Chencho made sure that the equipment was ready by midnight and kept the vineyard well prepared for every picking day no matter how hectic it got – always with a smile!
  • And since the warm weather continued both Syrah and Grenache got ready and by October 23 we had all the fruit in the winery.
  • Jesse and Matt wrangled a winery full of fermenters, tanks, destemmer, press and barrels and made sure we had a nice, clean fermentation process.
  • Rebecca handled the destemming and made sure we all were fed well – her Danish hotdogs were amazing!
  • One thing that always stand out from harvest is TEAMWORK and what a great crew we have!
  • As the grapes turned into wine we noticed with pleasure the development of the flavors, color, tannins and acids and we are really thrilled about this vintage. Stay tuned for some awesome 2019 wines coming out in a few years…

1c4b0755-b241-4276-84f7-8ba5afbe9e1f.jpg

Last day of harvest – picking Grenache from block 5!

73552d5f-a04e-451a-ba4e-1a48a766296a.jpg

LOOK AT THAT! The cap was so amazing.Twice daily punch downs – where we take the handy stainless steel tool in the picture and push down on the cap until it is completely wet with the juice underneath it. This is an essential part of the fermentation process. (It’s quite the workout, too!)
e61588a2-c07b-471a-a4ed-b2b1582883bb.jpg
A floor full of fermenters! That’s Jesse, our assistant winemaker, up top doing those punch downs and Matt, our cellar rat working on the floor. These two men kept the winery in tip top shape throughout harvest and are one of the main reasons you have delicious wine in your glass. Thank you gentlemen!

 

And then: Party!

Saturday we had our quarterly Filos wine club release party at the winery and shared some amazing 2016 wines with a big group of our passionate wine lovers. Great time as the ‘Lambda’ Pinot Noir and ‘Delta’ Grenache stood up as rising stars.

Now time for some catch up after the race. Enjoying my morning coffee by the fireplace here in the mountains where the sun just rose over the hills.
Cheers,
Peter & Rebecca