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.
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.