The Sta Rita Hills produces some great world class wines. One stop you must make when you visit is Ampelos Cellars in Lompoc.
Owners Peter and Rebecca Work have an incredible story and are always available to taste their winery guests on some of their fantastic wines.
Ampelos vineyard is one of the first vineyards to be certified as “sustainably farmed”. California is the first state to develop a measurable and recordable point system which covers 9 areas of farming practices. In order to qualify for vineyard certification, growers must farm in a way that protects both natural and human resources.
In 2006 they decided to implement 100% biodynamic farming practices with rich cover crops, their own compost, elimination of herbicides and in general good, environmentally conscientious farming. Then in 2008, they added another level to their commitment to good farming and community practices by participating in the pilot program for Sustainable Certifcation and are now one of the first vineyards in California to be granted the certification after years of hard work.
Ampelos has acquired some pretty high ratings as well for their wines.
James Laube from Wine Spectator tasted the 2006 Pinot Noir from Fiddlestix and reported in the February 2009 issue: “Spicy cherry and candied apple flavors are intense, full-bodied, and complex, holding onto the ripe fruit theme while remaining elegant and structured. Ends with a blueberry and wild berry mix. Drink now through 2013. 189 cases made. 92 points”
And he granted a pair of 92 points to the 2006 “Lambda” Pinot Noir and 2005 “Gamma” Syrah in the April 9th “Insiders Edition”. He noted the Lambda Pinot Noir has “Aromas and flavors of loamy earth, blueberry and wild berry are tight, focused and concentrated, gaining depth and richness. Ends tightly wound in a good way. Best from 2010 through 2015.—J.L.”
For the Gamma Syrah, James had this to say: “Firm and structured, with tight wild berry, spice, mineral and subtle cedary oak touches that are intense, vibrant, focused and persistent, ending with chewy tannins. Drink now through 2013.”
We stopped in to see how harvest was doing on our recent visit. After dropping in on the winery the previous day to a hum of harvest activity and a open house , we ended up early the next morning helping to harvest Pinot Noir.
When we arrived at the vineyard we saw the beautiful Sta Rita Hills with its trade mark “seasmoke”hanging over the valley. This is what makes great Pinot Noir with the maritime influence and the “smoke” hanging over the vineyard sometimes until midday.
The morning was cool and perfect to harvest the grapes and we moved down the rows quickly cutting the clusters off the vines before the “smoke” burns off and the day begins to warm. In our opinion the Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noirs are some of the best in the United States and very unique.
At Ampelos everything is done by hand. The grapes are even hand sorted in the Vineyard and placed in the picking bins and then its off to the winery for crush and punchdowns.
Ampelos is the greek name for “vine”and they produce some lovely varietals from Pinot Noir to Syrah and Grenache . Their hard work in and outside of the vineyard are getting this small family vineyard alot of well deserved attention.
|L lambda pinot noir, sta. rita hills, ampelos vineyard, 2005
Bursting with rich cherry notes and the underlying flavor of cola, this pinot shows us what one more year of growth can do for vines.91 points, Wine Enthusiast
|L lambda pinot noir, sta. rita hills, ampelos vineyard, 2006
Bountiful red fruit dominates the black cherries and the underlying flavor of cola, accented with hints of exotic spice, gingerbread and warm earthiness.
|r rho pinot noir, sta. rita hills, ampelos vineyard, 2005
The nose of brown sugar, sarsparilla, and bing cherries on this garnet hued beauty captivate at first scent. Offering a pleasing palate of cinnamon infused molé , dark berries and bing cherries, the 2005 rho is lush, and fruit driven with a big, long tannin structure that will aid beautifully in aging.90 points, Wine Enthusiast
91 points, Wine Spectator
|r rho pinot noir, sta. rita hills, ampelos vineyard, 2006
The nose of brown sugar, sarsparilla, and bing cherries on this garnet hued beauty captivate at first scent. Offering a pleasing palate of cinnamon infused molé , dark berries and bing cherries, the 2006 rho is lush, and fruit driven with a big, long tannin structure that will aid beautifully in aging.
|G gamma syrah, sta. rita hills, ampelos vineyard, 2005
Gamma offers a nose of tasted oak and dark cherries. The palate of almonds, orange peel and dark chocolate are the signature of syrah from the ampelos vineyard.Gold Medal, Appellation America Best of Appellation
|G gamma syrah, sta. rita hills, ampelos vineyard, 2006
Besides the long palate, gamma offers a nose of dark chocolate and sweet almond. Combined with cracked white pepper a signature of cool climate syrah in sta. rita hills.
|e epsilon syrah, sta. rita hills, ampelos vineyard, 2005
A deep, dark garnet red color promises a big wine. the nose indicates spices and dark fruit as well as a little vanilla and crème brulee. The palate is big: candy, rainier cherries, chocolate-raspberry tart, a hint of cinnamon and violets while the oak flavors are light and very well integrated.
|syrache, santa barbara county, syrah/grenache blend, 2005
Full of bright fruits on the nose and palate especially cherries. This wine is all about the fruit, not the oak. We made a dish of leftover lamb, potatoes, peppers, heirloom tomatoes, fresh black and white pepper, basil, thyme and chipotle for a kick – the syrache was dynamite along side. Give it a try!Gold Medal, LA International Wine & Spirits Competition
|syrache, santa barbara county, syrah/grenache blend, 2006
Full of bright fruits on the nose and palate especially cherries. The wine is about the fruit and not the oak and is designed for those who like to exploreEnjoy !