AMBYTH ESTATE was the first vineyard in the Paso Robles AVA in the Central Coast of California to gain full Demeter Biodynamic certification (2006). The estate, located in Templeton, is dry farmed and the wines are often made with no added sulfites.
FOUNDER–OWNERS | Phillip Hart (Welsh) and his wife Mary Morwood Hart (American).
THE NAME | AmByth is a Welsh word meaning forever, the owners’ idea being to create something which is durable economically and environmentally.
VINEYARDS | The vineyard plots are called Mark’s Vineyard, StoneCross Hill, Terrace, and PlayGround. Regarding vineyard size Phillip told me (Mar 2012) ‘it’s pretty difficult to be absolutely definite regarding the size of the vineyard as everything [vines, olives, fruit trees] is inter-planted. An accurate guess would be 17 acres [6.9ha] of head trained, dry farmed vines [see below for the varietals] and 2 acres of olive trees (Spanish varietals: Arbequina, Lechen de Sevilla, Cornicabra, Picual, Hojiblanca, Empeltre, Manzanilla) within the vineyards (all steep hillsides), an acre of fruit and nut trees in surrounding areas (cider and possibly calvados planned for the future).
WINE GRAPES | For whites: Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc. For reds: Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache Noir, Counoise, Carignan, Sangiovese, Tempranillo.
IRRIGATION | No. The vines are dry-farmed.
CERTIFICATION | 2006 Full Demeter Biodynamic certification for the first time.
WINEMAKING | The wines are made without the use of additives (eg. sulfites, acid additions), aids (eg. filtration) or agents (eg fining agents).
DECORUS | In Latin ‘decorus’ means beautiful, graceful, charming. A white Rhône-style blend based around Viognier. / 2010 60% Viognier, 18% each Roussanne and Marsanne, 4% Grenache Blanc.
GRENACHE BLANC | From the StoneCross vineyard. / 2010 100% Grenache Blanc. 13.76% alcohol. No added sulfites. / 2013 Foot trodden. Fully skin fermented. 10 days on skins. Really good, very textured, no funk at the Real Wine Fair 2016.
MARSANNE | 2013 100% Marsanne.
PRISCUS | Priscus means ‘venerable, ancient’ in Latin. The wine can carry a sediment, so decant before serving. / 2010 44% Grenache Blanc, 25% Viognier, 17% Roussanne, 12% Viognier. All four varietals used to make Priscus fermented, using native yeast, until dry in 100% new French oak barrels for 3 weeks until they were transferred to a stainless steel tanks and neutral French oak barrels. Full malolactic fermentation in neutral oak and stainless steel tanks, while cold stabilization took place by moving the wine outdoors, into the breezeway of the winery to take advantage of the cool night-time temperatures in Paso Robles. The blend was made June 2011 and bottled in late November. 13.86% alcohol. 10ppm sulfites. / 2011 Roughly one third each Grenache Blanc and Roussanne, and one third Marsanne and Viognier combined. Fermented and aged in amphora. No added sulfites. 13% alcohol. 150 cases. / 2012 Grenache Blanc 63%, Marsanne 16%, Viognier 14%, Roussanne 7%. Aged in an 800 litre clay amphora. 13.14% alc by volume. 84 cases produced. No added sulfites. / 2013 24 hours on skins. 800 litre amphora. 63% Grenache Blanc, 25% Marsanne, 9% Viognier, 3 Roussanne. Tasted at the Real Wine Fair 2016.
VIOGNIER | 2010 100% Viognier. No added sulfites. / 2012 Fermented on skins for 2 weeks. / 2013 100% Viognier, no added sulfites.
COUNOISE | 2012 100% Counoise. 12% alcohol. 324 bottles.
MOURVEDRE | 2010 100% Mourvèdre. 14% alcohol. 15 ppm sulfites. / 2011 13% alcohol. 100% stems (unbroken as foot trodden). Delicious and fresh, diverting, lovely wine at the Real Wine Fair 2016.
PLAYGROUND | From a plot planted with roughly 40% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache Noir, 17% each Syrah and Counoise, 3% each Carignan and Roussanne.
SYRAH | 2010 13.13% in alcohol. 20 ppm total added sulfites. 600 bottles.
TEMPRANILLO | 2009 A low yield year for Tempranillo so a little Sangiovese was blended in. Aged 30 months in a second-fill US oak tonneaux. 13.28% alcohol.
VALIDUS | 2010 Tempranillo 70%, Sangiovese 30%. 56 cases. 13.17% alc by volume.
VENUSTAS | The idea was to recreate reds made by some Tuscan estates with Tempranillo mixed into their Sangiovese plantings. / 2010 Sangiovese 79%, Tempranillo 21%. 80 cases produced. 13.31% alc by volume. / 2011 The Tempranillo is aged (fermented?) in 500 litres 3rd fill US oak. Lovely sweet fruit, very interesting at the Real Wine Fair 2016.
PASSITO | 2012 Made from Sangiovese and Syrah whose bunches are hung on a clothes line under a tent to deydrate and thus concentrate the sugars (Isabelle Legeron, 2014, p204).
Isabelle Legeron MW, Natural Wine, An introduction to organic and biodynamic wines grown naturally (2014, Cico Books, London & New York).
Oz Clarke, Oz Clarke Wine A-Z (Pavilion, 2015), p27.
Real Wine Fair 2016 in Tobacco Dock 17-18th April.