Ampelos Cellars makes history and receives some well deserved acclaim

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.

Elaine from Vino Las Vegas grabbed the clippers and jumped right in grabbing the luscious Pinot Noir clusters in one hand and cutting them off the vine with the other.

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 explore

Join Elaine and Scott of Vino Las Vegas as they spend some time in the Ampelos vineyard , harvest some Pinot Noir and speak with Peter Work about this vineyard practices. For more information about Ampelos please visit

The Santa Barbara County Vintners take a break to Celebrate Harvest with great wine and local cuisine

The annual Celebration of Harvest is held in October each year, when the vineyards and wineries are in the middle of harvest . They take a very needed break to showcase their latest wines. This year's Celebration of Harvest was held on the beautiful grounds of Rancho Sisquoc Winery in the Santa Maria Valley.

In Santa Barbara County, the east-west orientation of the coastal mountains forms valleys opening directly to the Pacific Ocean. This unique landscape allows the flow of fog and ocean breezes to shape distinct microclimates, perfect for the cultivation of classic grape varietals and world class wines.

Within Santa Barbara County there are three distinct appellations: Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, and Sta. Rita Hills. In addition, the Los Alamos Valley region, between the Santa Maria Valley and Santa Ynez Valley appellations.

There are over 21,000 acres of vineyards planted in Santa Barbara County, many of those smaller, family owned properties. This all contributes to the diversity and quality that makes this wine growing region so unique. The old adage that “the wine is made in the vineyard” holds true, with vineyards being farmed by owners and vineyard managers and carefully assessed by a community of talented winemakers.

We have visited the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Festival held in April of each year. The Celebration of Harvest festival is held annually in October during the middle of harvest. As well as these great festivals themselves , these festival weekends are filled with open houses, winemaker dinners, special tastings and other very unique events.

This years theme for the celebration of harvest was " Grape to Glass". This wonderful event was held on the breath taking grounds of Rancho Sisquoc with views of the Santa Maria valley. This was not just a "wine tasting " event. There were opportunities to take home Pinot Noir cuttings with complete instructions on how to take care of this very special varietal . Guests could taste the juice of newly crushed grapes and see a mobile bottling line hard at work.

As local wine legend Bob Senn used to say “Wine is food to be consumed with food”, and it would be hard to find either a restaurateur or vintner in Santa Barbara Wine Country who would disagree. Even though the harvest is foremost in growers and winemaker’s minds, tomatoes, tomatillos, melons, apples, walnuts and a cornucopia of other local foods are also being harvested at the same time.This is why the annual “Celebration of Harvest Festival” sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association also features bites and tastes from the area’s finest restaurants, caterers and specialty food purveyors as well.

“Wine and Food go together like yin and yang, salt and pepper, night and day”, enthuses Jim Fiolek, Executive Director of the Vintners’ Association. “Wineries and Restaurants are the same; one would not be successful without the other, and besides we all really enjoy each others company and products. We are thrilled to have over two dozen of our culinary colleagues joining us this year at our annual Celebration of Harvest festival. We can’t wait to see what delicious and inventive tastes they create!”

Guests were able to taste treats from Adrienne’s Gourmet Foods, Babé Farms, Bacara Resort, The Ballard Inn, Brother’s Restaurant at Mattei’s Tavern, Chef Rick’s, Decadence Desserts, Enterprise Fish Company, Far Western Tavern, Fresh and Easy of Santa Maria, Full of Life Flatbread, the Garden Room Restaurant, Global Gardens, Trattoria Grappolo, Here’s the Scoop!, Hitching Post II, Jessica Foster Confections, the Lompoc Kiwanis, Los Olivos Café, Mirabelle Inn Restaurant, New West Catering, the Olive House, Panera Bread of Santa Maria, Pearl Catering, Root 246, Santa Barbara Biscotti, Santa Barbara Jacek’s, the Santa Barbara Pistachio Company, the Staring Gate Restaurant, Trader Joes of Santa Maria, Trattoria Uliveto and The Willows Restaurant. Coffees were provided by Blue Sky Coffee and Rhythms Coffee & Smoothies.

The wineries joined together with local chefs who specialize in wine country cuisine, specialty food Curveyors and local bands Lady Blue and House Red band provided the guests for a beautiful afternoon of great wines, superb foods and lively music .

For those who have been in wine country anywhere in the world during harvest they know how important and stress full this time of the year is. What the vineyard owners and winemakers do this time of year could make or break their entire vintage.

We have had the pleasure of traveling in Santa Barbara wine country for many years and have come to appreciate several aspects of this very unique wine growing area. In this area, you still deal with " farmer" vineyard owners , many of whom rise at 3AM to harvest their own grapes day after day until harvest is completed. They have true passion for what they do and you can taste this passion with every sip of a Santa Barbara County wine.

We plane to attend the Festival in the Spring. For more information on tickets, maps, and alot of great information please feel free to visit Until then join Elaine and Scott Harris from Vino Las Vegas as we take you to the Celebration of Harvest and speak with winemaker Kathy Joseph from Fiddle Head cellars about the event and the challenges of the 2009 Harvest.

Mezzo Bistro Italiano and Jim Lambert of Stanley Lambert wines in Australia team up for a winemaker dinner to remember

Mezzo \Mez”zo\, a.[ It., from L. medius middle, half.]
We have had the opportunity to dine a Mezzo on many occasions. This lovely resturant located in the North West section of Las Vegas only proves what we have been saying for quite along time. There is great dinning OFF the famed Las Vegas Strip.

Mezzo uses only the best ingredients to create traditional dishes over seen by Chef Alfredo. The fish is brought in fresh daily and calamari is hand cut to order. Even their sausages and meatballs are ground and made in house as a well as their sauces and dressings. They even imported a wood burning oven from Naples, Italy just to have the best possible flavoring and addauthenticity to their dishes.
You cant have a great Italian restaurant without wine . They are continually changing their wine list offering wines from all over the world. With a list of over 100 wines by the bottle and more than 30 by the glass, there’s a great wine for for every palate.

On this occasion Jim Lambert from Stanley Lambert wines in the Barossa Valley was "in the house" to show off his great wines.
Winemaker Lindsey Stanley has been making award winning in the Barossa Valley for over 30 years and is considered one of the best around.

Jim Lambert and Chef Alfredo teamed up for a 5 course dinner with each course being paired with one of Jim's great Australian wines from the acclaimed Barossa.

With names like Pristine Chardonnay , Nordic Frost , Black Sheep , Silent Partner and Choc-a-bloc , we knew this would be a unique dinner that guests were sure to remember for quite some time.

Wee Be Pumkin Bisque

Pumpkin Bisque , toasted pumkin seeds and ginger creme freich

Pristine Chardonnay , Barossa Valley 2008

This lovely unoaked Chardonnay with pear and melon flavors could not have paired better with the lightness of the Pumpkin Bisque that melted on our palate.

Salmon Rilletes

Fresh salmon rillets on a bed of organic spinach, chanterelle mushrooms and a roasted red pepper vinaigrette

Nordic Frost , cold pressed dry Riesling 2008

The concept of Lindsey Stanley's genius as a winemaker shines with this lovely Riesling. The grapes are hand-picked and then chilled to 2 degrees centigrade prior to basket pressing to preserve the well known fresh citrus characters of the varietal. The paring with Salmon was right on and one of the best of the night.

Pappardelle Calabrese

Pappardelle pasta , house made chicken sausage , porcini muchrooms and arugula

Black Sheep , Shriaz Blend 2004

The Black Sheep Shriaz is an unusual blend of 42% Shiraz, 38% Malbec and 20% Merlot. The blend percentages vary from year to year. Our first red wine of the evening with its blackberry, raspberry and cherry flavors brought out the richness of the Pappardelle and the earth tones of the mushrooms for a very nice pairing.

16 oz. Ribeye Steak

Brown sugar grilled 16oz Ribeye steak , fingerling potatoes , green beans and micro carrots

Silent Partner , Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

This was a meat lovers dream dish with of course a big Barossa Cabernet . This is Cabernet Sauvignon is the premium wine from Stanley Lambert. Aged in American Oak for 18 months its intense fruit flavors burst though to a fine elegant soft finish.

Sweet berry tart shell

Sweet tart shell paired with a sweet pastry cream topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries

Choc-a-bloc , Port South Australia

When it came time for desert what else could be paired than Stanley Lambert' s number one selling wine in the USA , the Choc-a-Bloc. This is luscious dessert wine like non other. Made using a fortified Australian Tawny wine base and seeping it with chocolate ,this port is addicting to say the least. Choc-a-Bloc , raspberries and blueberries. Was there any other way we could have concluded this great dinner ? We think not .

The Staff of Mezzo did an amazing job putting on this dinner. The food pairings by Chef Alfredo were spot on and showed off his culinary expertise. For more information on Mezzo and Stanley Lambert wines please go to www. and

Bledsoe Family Winery Opens Its Walla Walla Winery At The Box Factory Location.

Not long-ago Drew Bledsoe was throwing touchdowns in the NFL. Shortly after his retirement in 2007,  they planted their first vineyard. ...

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