Monday, May 3, 2010

A vineyard walk and lunch with Ampelos Cellar's Peter Work . It does not get any better than that

ampelos is a Greek word meaning “vine”.

We watched Ampelos Cellars grow over many years and they have obtained a reputation nationwide for quality , sustainable , organic wines .

Located in the Sta Rita Hills , Ampelos Cellars has the climate to produce outstanding Estate grown wines from Pinot Noir to Vionnay.

On a recent visit to the Santa Barbara County Vintners Festival we spent some time at the Ampelos Ranch and took a walk through their 82 acre vineyard with Peter Work.

The morning started like most mornings in the Sta Rita hills with thick " Sea Smoke " and cool temperatures hanging over the vineyard until late morning when the sun burns through the thickness and temperatures rise. This daily routine from nature helps to produce some of the best Pinot Noirs in the country.

It was a surrealistic beginning to our morning with a single Red Tail hawk circling above , dogs herding sheep on a near by hill as we were being escorted by Peter's own Chocolate Labrador Retrievers as we started to explore the vineyard.

Peter explained Ampelos was selected to be one of the first vineyards in California to participate in the Certified Sustainable Winegrowing pilot program, and is very proud to have met the guidelines of the program and gained this prestigious certification. He went on to explain that Ampelos practices and promotes biodynamic farming in the vineyard.

Biodynamics embraces all aspects of organic but takes the notion further by holistically treating the entire vineyard as a living organism. It is as much a philosophy of life as it is a farming method, which is why it has influenced the thinking of so many who initially explored the concept only because they wanted to grow better grapes. Not only has it changed the way Peter and Rebecca grow grapes, but it has gotten them to think more about the importance of balance with nature, the land and farming practices.

Peter also added that they are concerned about the environment and try to employ as many environmentally friendly practices in the winery and in the vineyard. They plant fava beans and sweet peas as part of their cover crop in the vineyard which improves the soil as well as provides an environment for insects. They avoid letting the skins, stems, seeds and lees go down the drain in the winery and instead carry it back to the vineyard for composting.

They also do most of the work in the winery by hand or by using gravity thereby reducing then need for power. They press our grapes in a basket press by hand and only pump the wines once during their 16 months in the cellar. All of this minimizes the electricity they use. Even the vineyard and home are solar powered.

Ampelos vineyard is at the eastern end of the Sta Rita Hills appellation which is cool-climate area that is perfect for growing Pinot Noir and Syrah.

The vineyard is one of the few vineyards that gets the cool breeze from the Santa Rita Hills as well as the Santa Rosa Hills.

After learning about the hands on work that Peter and Rebecca put into every aspect of their vineyard it was now time to find some cool shade , have some lunch and try some of these award wining wines . With the vineyard dogs guiding the way we found the perfect place right in the middle of the vineyard.

The Ampelos Viognier , Santa Ynez Valley 2009 was a perfect wine to start off with after our walk. It's refreshing citrus notes of lemon came through with a nice balance of acidity and a lingering finish.

Another stand out for us has always been the Ampelos Rose of Syrah. Their 2009 Rose of Syrah Santa Ynez Vally did not disappoint with a lovely pale rose color in the glass made in the old world provencal style.

Of course we could not leave without enjoying the Lambda Pinot Noir , Sta Rita Hills Ampelos Vineyard 2005 and the Rho Pinot Noir , Sta Rita Hills Ampelos Vineyard 2006 .

Both of which have won awards and are highly acclaimed.In addition to their lovely Pinot Noirs , The Gamma Syrah Sta Rita Hills Ampleos Vineyard 2006 and their own very special Syrache, Santa Barbara County , 2006 which is their own very unique blend of Syrah and Grenache that has made a name for it self on its own right.

Peter and Rebecca Work and an incredible story that has taken them on a journey from high levels of the corporate world to their Ranch in the Sta Rita hills . When traveling in Santa Barbara County, Ampelos Cellars winery in Lompoc is a must stop. For more information or to schedule a visit please visit

Join Peter and Elaine and Scott as they take a walk through the Vineyard and talk about sustainable farming.

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Elaine and Scott

Elaine and Scott
Elaine and Scott