You won't find wines from AmByth Estate at public tastings, because owner Philip Hart (above) simply won't pour any more. It's costly and a waste of time, he said. What really discourages him is tasters "who don't give a rat's xxxx."
Nevertheless, Hart poured last week at République, not for thirsty imbibers off the street but for the Return to Terroir annual portfolio tasting. This was a small media and industry event, and the distributor had already purchased the wines, so there was nothing Hart could object to.
AmByth's production is too small for indiscriminate pouring. Only 50 cases were produced of the 2010 PlayGround, a Mourvedre-based Rhone field blend that was one of seven AmByth wines at the tasting (above). The most plentiful wine, 1550 cases, was the 2011 Priscus, a white blend.
Located outside Paso Robles, AmByth is unusually interesting because it is not only organic but certified biodynamic. That's as natural as you can get. The vineyards are dry-farmed; homeopathic teas serve as fertilizers, and no additives or other wine-making tricks are allowed. Only native yeasts are used and the wines are not fined or filtered. "I truly don't manipulate the wines," Hart said.
He's started using clay amphoras from Italy for fermenting and aging and will eventually have 16 of them, ranging in size from 300 to 800 liters. "Hopefully, the effect is neutral," he said.
At the tasting, Hart poured the first amphora wine, the 2012 Amphora Rosé, a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Counoise (above, center). "This is not a super light quaffing wine. It's a red wine," he said. The 2012 Priscus will be the next amphora wine.
The only grape Hart is not interested in growing is Zinfandel. Yet he offered a fruity 2011 Bailey Zinfandel at the tasting. The grapes did not come from his property but from an organic vineyard on the west side of Paso Robles. That vineyard has since been de-certified, so Hart did not buy grapes there after 2011.
Except for the Zinfandel and a Grenache, the wines he presented were blends. Most sell for $45. The Zin and the Amphora Rose are $35. Although Zinfandel "is not my favorite grape," he's proud of this one. "It will be great in six years," he said.