One of my favorite wine tastings of the year is the annual Champagne Tasting at…
We were invited to attend a wine dinner at the Ledges last Thursday featuring the wines of Amizetta. This is the second wine dinner this year featuring Amizetta. Spencer Clark, the founder and proprietor of Amizetta wines traveled to Huntsville to host this dinner. The previous dinner was hosted at Mason Dixon and Perry and Edward Clark came to town for that dinner. (For a writeup of that dinner, click here.) We have visited Amizetta when we’ve been in wine country and it is one of the stops on the 2016 California Wine Country Extravaganza.
After much arm twisting, Spencer agreed to allow us to taste the current release (2012) along with next years release (2013) for this evening. The 2013’s were bottled in July and won’t be publicly available until mid-next year. I’ve never had the opportunity to taste a vertical like this in the past. It was extremely educational to see the difference in the wines, both as a function of the vintage as well as an extra year in the bottle. The other great fortune of the evening is that we were seated with Mr. Clark for dinner and had the opportunity to learn more about the wines and winery.
The Ledges Executive Chef Jeremy Esterly put together a special menu to highlight the Amizetta wines. The first course was Dashi Poached Scallop, Forelle Pear, Watermelon Radish and Wasabi Dressing served with the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. The Sauvignon Blanc is the only wine made by Amizetta that is not grown on the estate. The fruit is sourced from Lake County north of Napa. Mr. Clark told us that they are going to create a new label to focus on sourced grapes like the Sauvignon Blanc. I love scallops and these were sliced thin and cooked perfectly. The pear and watermelon complemented the scallop. I was nervous about the wasabi dressing as I don’t really like wasabi, but this was not spicy at all and had a very nice flavor that tied the dish together. The Sauvignon Blanc was nice and crisp, but not with the steely edge that many have. Mr. Clark told us that they process the Sauvignon Blanc in a method similar to a Chardonnay which takes a lot more time and effort than the way they are typically made. He said that this rounds out the wine and gives it depth. It is aged in neutral oak barrels and has an alcohol level of about 13.5%.
The next course was a Braised Duck Leg, Plum Compote with Miso Butter Risotto. I love duck, and this was easily the best course and best pairing of the night. This was paired with the 2012 and 2013 Complexity. The Complexity is their Bordeaux style blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The 2012 was 60% Cabernet Sauvignon while the 2013 was 75%. Mr. Clark explained to us the blending process where they try a number of blends before settling on that years optimum choice. As a blend, the Merlot rounds out any tannins in the Cabernet and the Cab Franc adds some depth to the wine. The wine has an alcohol content of 15%, but it doesn’t seem high as the wine is very well balanced. All of the wines have solid fruit flavor. The 2013 was tight as you would expect from a young wine, but rounded out as it was in the glass for a while. Both are excellent examples of California Bordeaux blends. We were talking at the table about which one would be better after some more bottle aging. As you would expect, we had differing opinions, but I decided that the 2013 will just edge out the 2012 – not sure if it is the difference that 2013 was a spectacular vintage or the difference in the blend. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll happily partake of either wine.
The next course was Beeler’s Pork Tenderloin with BBQ Spiced Sweet Potato and Wild Mushroom Jam. This was served with the 2013 Estate Merlot. The Merlot is the smallest production wine (200 cases) from Amizetta as much of the wine ends up in the Complexity blend. Lori is a huge fan of Merlot and the Amizetta version is easily one of the best examples of this wine from Napa. While this is the “current release,” it is already sold out and any remaining is held for the Wine Club members. It is rich in color with strong flavors of blue and red berries. It has great depth and a long finish. This is just a gorgeous wine.
The next course was a Veal Butcher’s Steak with a Crispy Potato Cake and Olivada. This was paired with the 2012 and 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The veal was excellent, but I felt that the olives fought with the Cabernet. This was my least favorite pairing of the night – again, it was an awesome dish. I especially enjoyed the Potato Cake, it seemed that it was like frying mashed potatoes – howe can you go wrong with that. The wine itself is again a great example of a classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on the cab is strong dark fruits with a little bit of the toasty oak. When you taste it, it fills your mouth with the big, juicy fruit, but yet a silky smooth. The tannins are fully integrated and rounded and you don’t get the sharp sensation in the back of your mouth. At the earlier wine dinner, I had an opportunity to talk with Eddie Clark, Spencer’s son and current winemaker. We were discussing the tannins and I said that I didn’t notice them, he corrected me that the tannins are there, but through the wine making process, they are able to “round” the tannins so they aren’t sharp, but still add the depth and complexity without the bitterness and astringency that tannins can add to a wine. What I have learned tasting a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon wines, I don’t like the sharp tannins and much prefer the covered tannins like the Amizetta. Again, we talked about which of the two wines would be “better” in a couple of years. For this one, I decided the 2012 just barely edged out the 2013. The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon won Best of Napa at the North Coast Wine Competition with 98 points and a gold medal. You can’t go wrong with these wines.
Lastly came dessert, a Huckleberry Tart with Creme Fraiche and Mint. I can’t remember the last time I had a huckleberry and had a taste between tart and sweet. Made into a tart, the flavors of the crust and filling along with the slight acidity of the creme fraiche created a great way to close out the dinner. The 2012 and 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was paired with dessert. Having tried to pair dessert with a big wine like this one is difficult and the tart paired extremely well. Mr. Clark told us that the Reserve wine comes from a particular parcel at the highest elevation vines on the property. This wine is again a big complex wine, not quite as fruit forward, but with even silkier tannins. It still had the flavors of dark berries and a bit of cherry with the toasty oak. Again, at 15% alcohol, you can’t tell because everything in this wine is in balance. We discussed which of the two would be better and I really couldn’t pick a winner on these. Yes, the 2013 was definitely young and tight and did open up some, but the flavor was fantastic and will only improve with a little more age.
So, you can’t go wrong with any of these wines. As a family run winery, the Clark’s three sons have joined the winery with Eddie now serving as the winemaker. Eddie’s first vintage was the 2012 wines. In talking with Mr. Clark, over the last few years, Eddie has been modernizing the operation and it keeps getting better. I look forward to see how he continues to build these wines and the new label. The setting at the winery is one of the best views in all of Napa. You are out looking over Lake Hennessey at the end of Howell Mountain. A visit does require a reservation as one of the Clark’s will be hosting your visit. Highly recommend if you are in the area (and be sure to follow their directions or you may never get there….)
This visit we made to Amizetta in 2013 was one of our favorite stops. Eddie gave us the tour and let us try the 2012 Complexity (His first vintage) out of the barrel. We had tried it after the current release which at the time was the 2010. We will schedule a stop anytime we are in Napa! (Which is why it’s one of our wineries on next year’s trip.) This is one of the few wine clubs that we are members of.