Amici Cellars was started after winemaker, Jeff Hansen and friends crushed a few tons of grapes in 1991 for their own personal use. “This was good wine”, they unanimously agreed and soon thereafter released their first commercial vintage. The name Amici means “friends” in Italian and is a tribute to the friends who started this winery as well as to their Italian heritage. Coming up with a slogan to honor this, their wine is “created by friends for friends”. Today the owners of Amici Cellars are John Harris and Bob and Celia Shepard.
Today ‘virtual’ wineries are an integral part of Napa’s wine scene – a winery that doesn’t necessarily own vineyards or own a winery. This is the role Amici played for many years – while they maintain a tiny vineyard on the slopes of the little known Jericho Canyon at the base of Mt. St. Helena in the northern part of the valley, just north of Calistoga (near their winery), they continue to source fruit from premium vineyards mostly in Napa but also selectively in Sonoma for all of their wines.
However in 2012 they found a permanent home – acquiring an existing winery off of Old Lawley Toll Road. This winery facility was originally founded by Greg Brown (the original founder of T Vine Wines). Tastings are conducted outside, weather permitting on a picnic table under the shade of nearby trees. A tasting here is very personalized and relaxed and features several small production wines that are not distributed.
We had the pleasure of initially tasting with their assistant winemaker; we started with the 2006 Sauvignon Blanc sourced from the Mello Vineyard in Yountville (only two wineries source from this particular vineyard). Half of the grapes for this wine are the Musque Clone which is known for its very floral qualities on the nose. This wine is made in a crisp style, almost flinty both in the bouquet and on the palate with great citrus and guava flavors.
The 2014 Amici Cellars Spring Mountain Sauvignon Blanc shows a nice interplay of both citrus blossom and stone fruit aromatics (apricot) along with hazelnut and almond (this nutty component becomes stronger as the wine breathes). A roundness on the palate with some creamy weight is balanced by decent acidity – lingering notes of spice and a lemon meringue tartness.
The 2013 Russian River Pinot Noir shows a spicy sweetness of aromas including a reminder of a faded memory of the smell of bubble gum sealed in old baseball cards from years ago. Sweet raspberry, and plum aromas show. The palate shows a diversity of flavor with lingering earthy well weaved (no harsh edges) delicate tannins.
During our initial tasting, their 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon was current release making this among the older of the current releases we have tried. Their philosophy is to give this Cabernet some additional bottle aging as well as providing a slightly aged wine for the consumer, as most consumers of everyday drinking wine will consume the wine within hours of purchase with little patience or space for aging wine. This wine has 10% Merlot blended in mainly to enhance the mouth feel and aromatics. There is a touch of vanilla and spice on the nose with a very soft rounded mouth feel. This is a perfect everyday affordable Cabernet Sauvignon.
Want an even more affordable Cabernet Sauvignon? Try their second label called Olema; the first release was 2005. Of note are their prices; they are extremely reasonable for Napa standards and as of the time of this review you can buy the Olema Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon for under $25 a bottle. Olema means means “coyote” in Miwok and typically features Sonoma County wines. Not many Napa wineries we have visited produce a Sonoma Cabernet at this pocket pleasing price point!
In the past, Amici has sourced Pinot noir grapes from Mendocino County. With limited productions, their Pinot Noir’s tend to sell out quickly.
The owners of Amici also spend significant time in Bordeaux France, and often rent out their villa there and in Napa. In Napa the “villa” is a Tuscan styled luxury home located in the north part of the valley near Calistoga. It is called Domaine Beau Soleil.
Total production annually is around 10,000 cases. For more information and to schedule an appointment please visit: www.amicicellars.com
NOTE: this review has been identified as needing an update. Stay posted.