Welcome to the St.Amant blog and news page. Here you will find the latest news, event activites, and other useful information to better enjoy St.Amant wines.
Please join us for our ZinFest Open House this Sunday, May 15, 2016 from Noon - 4pm. The open house is combined with our May wine club party and we will be featuring three new and very limited production wines. Sunday's activities will feature our 2014 Lodi Native Marian's Zin, 2012 Trousseau, and 2014 Touriga. We are also bringing back Wine Chef Tony Lawrence to create some delicious parings to go with the above wines. Tony is highly regarded for his innovative and out-of-the box creations. It's an event not to be missed!
Harvest & Crush 2015
Early and light! 2015 was the earliest harvest in my memory. We started with our Verdelho on August 12th, and then Tempranillo on August 20th - a whole month earlier than last year. Our old vine Zins started on August 28th and we finished picking them by September 15th, the usual starting point. Many ask if the early harvest was due to the drought, but in our experience it was the warm spring coupled with low yields that allowed the grapes to ripen up early. The vines whole growth cycle was essentially moved up a month. It’s also interesting to note that we essentially dry-farmed our vineyards in Amador County this year. We gave some of our vines a little water after the September heat spells, but many things had already been picked.
And the most important point, the quality of the young wines looks to be outstanding. We saw some of the darkest and most aromatic wines from this year’s harvest. That may be drought related, and could be yield related as well, but that’s part of the mystery. Unfortunately, for us as farmers the yields were pretty low this year. We had some blocks that came in about 1/3 of last year, and others hovered around 50% of normal. Fortunately, the Zins were up a bit after 2014’s dismal yields. But that is farming, and that is winemaking, and that is what makes it fun and interesting.
Holiday Open House
December 5-6, 2015
Please join us for our Holiday Open House, December 5-6, 2015 from 12:00PM – 4:00PM. We will be featuring several new wines and have some delicious foods to complement the wines including the infamous Lockeford sausages and my sister's decadent Bootleg Brownies. We've also made it an annual tradition to open a few bottles of aged Vintage Ports. These wines, some dating back to the mid 1980's, are a real treat and absolutely delicious.
St.Amant 2015 Awards
San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
Gold Medal – 2013 Verdelho
Gold Medal – 2013 Barbera
Gold Medal – 2012 Tempranillo
Silver Medal – 2012 Vintage Port
Silver Medal – 2012 Bootleg Port
Bronze Medal – 2013 Mohr-Fry Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel
Orange County Wine Competiton
4 Star Gold Medal – 2013 Tempranillo
Gold Medal – 2014 Barbera Rose
Gold Medal – 2013 Touriga
Gold Medal – 2013 Souzao
Gold Medal – 2012 Vintage Port
Gold Medal – 2013 Bootleg Port
Silver Medal – 2013 Barbera
Bronze Medal – 2014 Verdelho
Bronze Medal - 2013 Speakeasy Red
California State Fair
Double Gold Medal (Best of California Port) – 2013 Bootleg Port
Gold Medal – 2012 Vintage Port
Silver Medal (Best of Class of Region) – 2013 Souzao
Silver Medal (Best of Class of Region) – 2013 Speakeasy Red
Silver Medal – 2014 Verdelho
Silver Medal – 2013 Tempranillo
Silver Medal – Syrah
Silver Medal – Tawny Port
Bronze Medal – 2013 Marian’s Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel
Bronze Medal – 2013 Barbera
Bronze Medal – 2013 Touriga
St.Amant won a trio of Gold Medals at the 2015 San Francisco Chronicle wine competition held in early January. Below are the award winning wines.
2013 Verdelho - Gold Medal
2013 Barbera - Gold Medal
2012 Tempranillo - Gold Medal
2012 Vintage Port - Silver Medal
2012 Bootleg Port - Silver Medal
2013 Mohr-Fry Ranch Old Vine Zinandel
St.Amant has also been blessed with some good recent press.
Cliff Brown's Wine Picks recently reviewed our 2012 Mohr-Fry Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel and recognized it as his "Wine of the Week" giving it a score of 91 points. Cliff's Review -
"The wine is a ruby to garnet color. The enticing nose has brambly berries, warm baking spices, dusty minerals, black pepper, dark bittersweet chocolate, vanilla bean, dried flowers and a touch of subtle earthiness. This has a fairly full body with soft to moderate tannins and good acidity. The spicy, brambly berries coat the palate on the front end with dusty minerals, black pepper and dark chocolate coming in later. The finish has nice length with a nice floral note and subtle earthiness joining the berries and spice. This is a very easy wine to enjoy now and over the next couple of years. (91 pts)"
Alder Yarrow writing for Jancis Robinson's website recently wrote a very complimentary article on our Lodi Native Zinfandel project that we are involved in. He called the Lodi Native project, "One of the most exciting things to happen to California wine in years."
He also reviewed our 2012 Marian's Vineyard Lodi Native Zinfandel
"Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of candied cherries, candied plum, and cola. In the mouth, cherry cola, candied plum, and wonderfully juicy strawberry flavours have a faint and charming sweetness to them, while suede-like tannins add grip to the palate. Quite juicy thanks to excellent acidity. Delicious. 17.5"
Wine Enthusiast - 92 Points - 2012 Marian's Vineyard's Lodi Native Old Vine Zinfandel
Not a fruit bomb, it’s suave and complex. Aged in neutral oak, this limited-production wine shows baking spices in aroma, a smooth, lush texture and good concentration. Plum and blackberry flavors are layered, sophisticated and linger on the finish. It’s full-bodied, but has enough tannin and acidity to balance out the richness."
Please join us for our Holiday Open House, December 6-7, 2014 from 12:00PM – 4:00PM. We will be featuring several new wines including the 2012 Vintage Port, 2013 Marian’s Zin, Mohr-Fry Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel, and 2012 Tempranillo. We'll have some delicious foods to complement the wines including the infamous Lockeford sausages and my sister's decadent Bootleg Brownies. We've also made it an annual tradition to open a few bottles of aged Vintage Ports. These wines, some dating back to the mid 1980's, are a real treat and absolutely delicious. We hope you can join us!
As the sun sets on the 2014 growing season, it provides us with a moment to reflect on what went well, what went wrong, and what we would like to do a little different. These points of introspection are essential to improving the quality of our wines, and continuing to keep our winery relevant in today’s world. And it’s also what keeps winemaking interesting, fun, and rewarding. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, going through the motions of growing the grapes and making the wine, but taking the time to reflect on what you are actually doing is central to insuring our family business thrives for the next generation. A few thoughts on 2014 -
- Celebrating our 41st vintage as winegrowers it’s never more apparent that the wine business is a long-term endeavor. The decisions and actions of today may not bear fruit for many, many years.
- Seasonality – we are not making wines by a formula. We are making hand-crafted wines from single vineyards that will express the variation of each growing season. And over the course of the past five years we’ve experienced incredible variation, but we think that variation is part of what makes wine special.
- Fine winemaking requires intuition and an intimate understanding of your vineyards. This is only gained by spending time, season after season, walking the vineyard, and making adjustments in your farming to suit your goals. And it’s why we prefer working with the same vineyards year after year.
- There are no real secrets in winemaking. It simply comes down to execution which requires having a great team of people with a singular goal of making the best wines. We were fortunate to have Joel, our assistant winemaker, Max, our harvest cellar hand, and Todd our vineyard manager on board this season. Their combined efforts and attention to detail will produce some fabulous wines from 2014.
Check out some of the photos from this year's harvest.
Photo credit to Randy Caparoso
One sure way to guarantee something gets done is to make it illegal. Such was the case during Prohibition, that ill-conceived period in our country’s history, where our government outlawed the commercial production, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages. As is often the case, the unintended consequences led to widespread flaunting of the law as bootlegging, rum running, and speakeasies flourished. Alcohol poured in from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Lodi even went through a period of vineyard expansion as hundreds of rail cars left for east coast markets loaded with crates of grapes packed with instructions on “how not to make wine.”
Speakeasies replaced saloons, and provided well-to-do Americans with clandestine drinking establishments. These bars were hidden from public site, often behind secret doors and passages, and many required patrons to utter passwords to gain entrance.
Our longtime customers are all probably well aware of our beginnings in the wine business as my father bootlegged our 1981 Vintage Port out of a less-than-reputable winery that refused to pay us for our grapes. That began our adventure in the wine business, but the similarities to Prohibition run far deeper than our bootlegging past.
For many years, my father operated what could best be described as a modern day Speakeasy. There were no signs directing patrons to our entrance, guests often circled the building looking for the front door, and if they happened to make it that far, they were often greeted with a brusk, “Did you call for an appointment?” That phrase was more than just a question – it was a test, and if you passed, you gained admittance to the St.Amant Speakeasy. You were told the call sign - that if the blue pickup was parked out front, St.Amant was open.
Clearly my father never attended the Disney school of customer service, but it worked for him, and many customers came to love his direct style. But at the end of the day, he always let the wines speak for themselves, and more often than not, they spoke well.
The Bootleg Society Poster
So when we decided to create our wine club, it seemed fitting to name it the Bootleg Society, a name that reflected not only our beginnings in the business, but the spirit of the brand and our against-the-grain approach to wine. We also wanted to create a piece of art that helped identify and give our club its own personality. I turned to my good friend and artist Vince McIndoe. I had come to know Vince through Zinfest – I had worked with him to create the iconic posters that helped define and promote Lodi’s premier wine event. We had become good friends and I knew he could create the perfect poster for our wine club.
The poster has been a hit! We even created a new wine, our Speakeasy Red that features the poster art on the label. It’s been a very fun project and we look forward to creating more prohibition themed events, wines and experiences for our loyal club members.
We hope you enjoy!
I’ve been told by those that knew my father well, that he’s rolling in his grave at the thought of St.Amant bottling a Cabernet Sauvignon. And not only are we releasing a Cab with this month’s wine club, but I went ahead and planted 10 acres of Cabernet in our Amador County vineyard two years ago. You have to realize my dad hated all things Cabernet. It wasn’t that it made bad wine, although there are plenty of bad versions, but to him it was overplayed and symbolized all that can be wrong with the wine business. So I’ve been told to take cover during thunder storms. But one thing I learned from my dad is that you need to set your own course in life and business, and not worry about what others will think. Including him!
In this month’s club selections you will find the 2012 Lloyd Martel Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. To me it’s a wine that transcends the variety, and connects me with my past, present, and future. Lloyd was one of my dad’s best friends, an ag teacher, and local winegrower. He was a pioneer in Lodi, planting one of the first Cabernet vineyards, and producing one of the first and finest vineyard-designated Lodi wines back in the early 80’s. For several decades Lloyd taught a wine appreciation class at our local community college where my parent’s first took his class in 1974, and I’m pretty certain well over half of the Lodi wine and grape community took his course over the years. Lloyd flunked my dad (he missed the final for work), but mom got an A. Lloyd was instrumental in planting the seeds of the artisan wine movement that’s blossoming in Lodi today.
He still meticulously farms that original Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard surrounding his house on the east side of Lodi. And when he learned that I was planting a Cab vineyard to the same high quality clone found in his, suggested we make a couple barrels of wine. It has been an incredible project and has produced a delicious wine. It has connected me with my past, present, and future in ways that are hard to describe, and reminded me once again that the best wines are the ones that tell stories.
This month’s club selections include two other wines; our 2012 Syrah, that without a doubt is our best Syrah ever, and the 2012 “Lodi Native” Marian’s Vineyard Zinfandel. The Lodi Native Zin is part of a collaborative project I undertook with five other local winemakers to shine the spotlight on some Lodi’s heritage Zinfandel vineyards. Each of us produced a few barrels using minimalist winemaking protocols that included native yeast fermentations, no new oak, water, acid, or any other conventional winemaking practices. The wines were designed to be a pure expression of the vineyard rather than varietal character or brand. It’s been a very rewarding project and the wines are receiving critical acclaim from wine writers across the country.