I’ve been a longtime fan of Ampelos Cellars, but I had never been to their tasting room at the Wine Ghetto in Lompoc, California. On my quest to discover more about biodynamic wines and farming, my Partner in Wine, Adrienne and I made a trip there and arrived just as they opened. There is nothing better than having the tasting room all to yourself if you want to have a conversation with the person behind the bar.
The wine lineup did not disappoint. We tasted through a Viognier, Rose of Syrah, two Pinot Noirs, Grenache, Syrache (Grenache/Syrah – read my review here), and a Syrah. I hoped to try the new bubbles, but none were open. The tasting notes provided were fantastic and fun with descriptions like, the Pinot Noir is “your best friend from childhood. The one who never told your mom.”
Ampelos Cellars is known for using organic, sustainable and biodynamic farming techniques, and was the first vineyard in the US to be certified in all three. This means they focus on what is good for the environment as well as for the grapes. They “follow the earth’s schedule,” and don’t use tools to measure the brix of the fruit at harvest. Instead, they look at the grapes and taste them to decide when the time is right.
We learned that Ampelos believes in showing the grape in its purest form, using a minimalistic winemaking approach. The Viognier and Rose of Syrah were both fermented in stainless steel, with cold fermentation to retain the character of the varietals. Whereas the Pinot Noirs, Grenache and Syrah were treated “gently” with cold storage, twice daily hand punch downs to extract the juice, a kiss of oak and bottle aging.
All of these techniques seem to work, because their wines were clearly well crafted and absolutely delicious. There was not a bad one in the bunch!