Ambyth! Ambyth means “forever” in Welsh. Every now and then, it’s nice to find something that you hope will last forever.
Take for example, a smooth and complex glass of biodynamically grown and harvested Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre blend, so delightfully fermented in its terra cotta amphora urns that it just eases its way onto your palate, all suave and sophisticated. Fleeting, yes...but the desire for forever is there.
That’s my experience of my first taste of one of Ambyth Estates’ vintages. There was something different going on in this wine and I wanted to know what it was. Was it the organic, the biodynamic, the terroir, what??
First sip in and I had already decided I was on a mission to find out more. Although, I’m no wine expert, I like to think that I have a decent palate and typically, for the good of my body and the planet, I focus my energy on planet friendly wines. I had flirted with organic and biodynamic wines before, but this, this was more than a mild flirtation. I was transfixed; as much by the story of the vineyard as the wines themselves.
The introduction of Ambyth Estate to the Mojo repertoire, is credited to MojoMaker Rex. Charged with the mission to find interesting ventures while traveling the south coast of California, he happened upon Ambyth one afternoon while roving through the Paso Robles wine country. True to his MojoMaker nature he talked them into letting him on the property for a visit even though they were closed for the day. A case of wine and several phone calls later, the rest of the Mojo team was alerted that this place was ripe for a mission. It was two months before I was able to make my way to the coast but well worth the wait. We made our way up the steep and windy hillsides in hopes of learning more about biodynamics, organics, and the secret to Ambyth’s unique flavors.
Ambyth is owned and cultivated by Phillip Hart and Mary Morwood Hart. Though I would venture to say, after meeting and speaking with them both, the land owns them as much as they “own” it. There is a beautiful appreciation and deep connection to the land that comes through when listening to either of them speak about the estate. Mary greeted us at the gate. I immediately felt she was a kindred spirit and could have just hung out all day chatting about the love of the land, the beauty of the vines and the deep desire to let the grape be the grape. She showed us around and we tasted some wines, learning about the different methods of aging; oak barrels, stainless steel tanks, and terra cota amphoras. After tasting the different wines, I realized the smooth and open sensation I was feeling on my palate with certain wines was due to the terra cota amphora process. The grape gets to be a grape in its full glory without being contained in the impenetrable boundaries of some of the other methods of aging. I loved it. I love the taste, the process, even the almost romantic description.
All too soon we had to make our farewells and leave the estate to continue the rest of our adventure, with the promise of returning soon. Which we did, a week later on our return trip...we couldn’t stay away. This time we met Phillip Hart and talked more about the biodynamic process of growing and harvesting. We happened to be on our way to the U.K. in a few weeks so we mentioned this to Phillip, who happened to be Welsh, and asked if he knew of any biodynamic vineyards in the U.K. He supplied us with some resources and again, all too soon, we headed on our way.
When we got to the U.K., we did indeed find a biodynamic vineyard in Wales, which you can read about in a different blog but I was still enamored with my Terra cota amphora influence and continued to rave about the flavor. I kept threatening to bring some wines with me on my next visit, so that Alun could also experience them. Then one day, lo and behold, Ambyth Estate’s newsletter announced that they would be in London at something called the RAW Artisan Wine Fair. Hallelujah! Artisan Wine Fair plus one of my favorite vineyards; how could we not be there?!?
Arrangements were made, tickets purchased, and bright and early the morning of the fair we were on our way to London. A few minor navigation errors later, we found ourselves turning onto Brick Lane looking for the Old Truman Brewery. The RAW Wine Fair is its own adventure, one that you can read about in a different blog, but suffices to say, we made it into the Fair and found our way to Amyth’s table. Mission complete! Hugs all around, and the entire team had now had a chance to sample Ambyth’s incredible wines. Phillip and Alun got a chance to bond over their Welsh heritage. I got to share a quick word with Mary about the amazing gathering of so many like intended individuals... and off we went with promises of visiting to help with this year’s harvest.