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ampelos: Little Winery that Did

Ampelos Cellars is a small, family owned winery established in 2000 in Lompoc, Santa Barbara County. Proprietors Peter and Rebecca Work are proud of their recent certifications for the winery’s 25-acre estate vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills. It became the first vineyard in Santa Barbara County and one of the first in the country to be certified sustainable, organic and biodynamic. Sustainability in practice (SIP) was obtained from the Central Coast Vineyard Team. Sustainability addresses the whole farm with focus on environmental stewardship, social and economic equity, and economic profitability. Organic certification from the governing body, Stellar (USDA), represents a further extension of sustainability. Organic farming means using no synthetic products, relying only on natural fertilizers and employing natural pest control systems to care for the vines. Organic farmers also use minimal filtration and fining materials and often natural yeasts. Biodynamic certification was received by Demeter®. Biodynamic practices are aimed at establishing a state of natural balance in the vineyard. The farm is viewed as an ecological, self-sustaining system. Biodynamie harnesses the earth’s cycles according to moon phases and gravitational forces to enhance fruit flavor, production and heartiness. The farm follows the earth’s schedule, not the farmer’s! The ampelos Vineyard is planted to Pinot Noir and Syrah, with small amounts of Grenache and Viognier. Planting began in 2001 and the first harvest from ampelos Vineyard was in 2004.

Peter is a Danish national and former information technology consultant who dreamed of owning a vineyard and making his own wines. Rebecca is a former Alaskan resident who had similar intentions. Together, they bought an 82-acre property in the Sta. Rita Hills in 1999. Ampelos is a Greek word meaning “vine.” The Greek connection derives from the Works’ love for Greece and their guest house on Folegandros in Greece’s Cycladic Island group where they were married and still spend time together each year. The Works left their corporate jobs and moved to their property in 2002. Their son, Don Schroeder, was the consulting enologist at Ampelos until 2008 when he left to become the winemaker at Sea Smoke. Today, the Works carry on the winemaking duties.

Total production is 3,500 cases which include Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, a Syrah-Grenache blend, Viognier and Rosé. The wines come from both the ampelos Vineyard and purchased grapes from Santa Barbara County. The Works also supply grapes to Brewer-Clifton, Jaffurs and Samsara for their vineyard-designated ampelos Vineyard bottlings. The two primary Pinot Noirs are “lambda,” from the ampelos Vineyard and “rho,” composed of the top 20% of the barrels from ampelos Vineyard. A third vineyard, Fiddlestix, has been discontinued, but additional sources have been acquired. The Works also sell an interesting white wine crafted by their son labeled Chien Edelzwicker, a blend of Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Gewürztraminer, the noble grapes of Alsace.

2006 ampelos Cellars “lambda” ampelos Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.51, 1,059 cases, $35. Third harvest from this vineyard. Clones 115 (61%), Pommard (31%), 667, 777, 828. New blocks interplanted with Pinot Gris to facilitate cofermentation and co-pigmentation (to obtained darker color). 100% de-stemmed, 3-4 day cold soak, inoculated yeast, 80% free-run with gentle press wine added using manual basket press. Racked to 30% new French oak barrels and inoculated with MLF bacteria. Aged in barrel 17 months. · Moderately light garnet color. Vivid black cherry aromas with a hint of baking spice and the faintest oak. Very tasty medium-weighted flavors of cherries and raspberries with a touch of spice and citrus. Soft, smooth and clean with minimal ripe tannins and a good grip of acidity in the background. Well-bred and well-crafted. This Pinot Noir is what many aspire to, but most fall short of. Great value as well.

Ampelos Cellars wines are available on the website at www.ampeloscellars.com. To really understand and appreciate these fine wines, you should visit the winery at 1633 W Central Ave, Ste. B, in Lompoc on Saturdays and taste with the Works. Tasting is available by appointment on other days as well (805-736-9957).

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