Monday, April 18, 2011

Ampelos Cellars & Vineyards

The second stop on our Sustainable Vine Wine Tour today was at the Ampelos Cellars & Vineyards, situated on one of the loveliest rolling hills in the area.

Important to note: Ampelos was the first vineyard in Santa Barbara County and one of the first in the United States to receive all three certifications — sustainability in practice, organic and biodynamic.

Ampelos, which translates to "vine" in Greek, is owned and operated by Peter and Rebecca Work, former corporate types who gave up one life to pursue one that was "a dream come true."

The Works planted the initial 15-acre vineyard in 2001, with10 acres of Pinot Noir (clone 115 and Pommard) and five acres of Syrah (Estrella and 99) and about one-fifth acre of Viognier in a classic Rhône  tradition.

In 2004, the couple expanded the vineyards and selected eight separate, small areas on the property to plant 10 additional acres, lovingly called "baby blocks." The Works continued their focus on Pinot Noir and Syrah but added a small block of Grenache. In 2008, another adjustment was made. The Works grafted the one acre of Syrah clone 99 over to Grenache.

This morning, Peter led us around the vineyards, stopping often to tell us about some of the technicalities of growing grapes in harmony with nature. We learned about why rows and vines are spaced as they are, how the planting area is kept clear of weeds, how the vines are carefully pruned by hand, etc. Fascinating!

Mid-day we all sat around a long table under a big shade tree and enjoyed a gourmet picnic lunch, all the while tasting more and more of the Ampelos wines.

I couldn't help but pause and reflect as I sat there: "I can't think of anything in the world more delightful to be doing on such a bright and beautiful spring day! Gosh, I love my job!"

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