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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

04/24/2017 - Wine Cruising with Sullivan Wines; The Amici Cellars Story

Slow Living is back to one of our favorite topics, or a few of them - taking time off, enjoying good friends and a nice glass of wine.  We hear about the upcoming cruise hosted by Kelleen Sullivan of Sullivan Vineyards, and Frank Aquilino of the American Wine Society. Sonoma Napa Wine Cruises have planned a wonderful Tuscan start for the Riviera and Spanish Idyll Cruise.

Stay tuned for more on Slow Living Radio's Sally James hosted wine trip around the south of her home country, Australia. For more details, click here.

Next we welcome the team behind Amici Cellars, created over many glasses of wine and laughter, this winery crafts wines the team love to enjoy themselves. A fabulous story of friendship, hard work, and appreciation tor the terroir of wine in its purest form.

Frank Aquilino & Kelleen Sullivan Present
Exclusive 4-day Tuscany wine tour and a 8 day cruise from Rome to Barcelona on Seabourn’sRiviera & Spanish Idyll
July 4-July 16, 2017

Castello di Verrazzano Winery

The cruise begins with a 4-day Tuscany wine tour featuring Castello Banfi Winery in Montalcino and Castello di Verrazzano Winery located in the beautiful Chianti region featuring the rolling hillside of Tuscany. Our ship the luxurious Seabourn Encore will sail from Rome to Barcelona featuring a welcome aboard party, winemakers dinner and culinary & wine education exclusive to the small group.

The Wine Cruise Features

Exclusive 4-Day Tuscany wine tour featuring Castello Banfi Winery in Montalcino and Castello di Verrazzano Winery in the Chianti Classico region, located in the beautiful rolling hillside of Tuscany.

Aboard our luxurious ship the Seabourn Encore you will enjoy exclusive events, a private welcome aboard party, food and wine education series and a winemakers dinner all hosted by Frank Aquilino, President of the American Wine Society.

The wineries will be hosting our intimate group with Frank Aquilino, the President of the American Wine Society. Featuring private tours of the abbey, ageing cellars, olive oil tastings and 5 course luncheon with wine in the wineries beautiful organic restaurants.  

About the American Wine Society

The American Wine Society was organized in 1967 as a non-profit, educational, consumer-oriented organization for those interested in learning more about all aspects of wine. On October 7, 1967, around 200 grape growers, home winemakers, and wine lovers gathered at Dr. Konstantin Frank’s vineyard on Keuka Lake near Hammondsport, NY for the AWS’ initial meeting.  In December of the same year, the thirteen charter members, led by Founder Dr. Konstantin Frank, met to determine the organization structure of AWS and elect officers.  Now in its 49th year, the American Wine Society is the largest consumer based wine education organization in North America.  Membership is open to anyone interested in wine and over 21 years of age.

About Kelleen Sullivan

As a fine artist, Kelly Sullivan interlaces classic and contemporary techniques into her dynamic imagery, and aesthetic exploration of Napa Valley. She studied art at the International Academy of Art in Nice, France, and at the Brera Art Academy in Milan, Italy. Fellowships include continued education with artists Wayne Thiebaud in Sacramento, CA and Bob Kulicke in New York City. Her work has shown throughout California, as well as Brazil, Italy, Norway, and China. Kelly credits the origins of her artistic vision to her collaborations in both wine and art at the Sullivan Estate with her father Jim Sullivan.

Jim Sullivan’s passion for wine began in the 1950s. A simple grape arbor given as a wedding gift for the backyard of Jim and his new wife, JoAnna, would eventually ignite a way of life.

Thanks to the inspiration of the wedding gift, Jim channeled his creative vision towards wine. He began to make wine at home, becoming part of a building wave of interest in quality wines in the United States. As Jim's winemaking skills grew, so did his passion for the vine. Predicting a California wine boom, the Sullivans began the search for land in the sleepy farming community, Napa Valley. With the early 1970s, the Sullivans discovered the site that would become their family home and vineyards growing Cabernet Sauvignon.

Bringing their artistic vision to Rutherford, the Sullivans would collaborate with a lead architect, world-class chefs, artists, and musicians from all over the world. Sullivan Vineyards & Winery would become not only the fulfillment of Jim's passion for wine, as well as their family home, but also a center of hospitality for creative visionaries from all over the world.

Today, Sullivan Vineyards & Winery remains one of the few family owned estates in Napa Valley.


John Harris; and Bob and Celia Shepard 

Amici is, at heart, a story of friendship.

In the 1990s, a group of friends with a passion for good wine and fun times together crushed a few tons of grapes in the Napa Valley for their personal cellars. “It all got started because we wanted to make a wine that we could sit around and share with our friends and be proud of,” says co-owner John Harris. The resulting wine was so well-received that they started producing wine the very next year to share with the public. They chose to name the wine, appropriately, Amici ("friends" in Italian): a wine created by friends, for friends.

Early days: wine is meant to be shared

Amici Cellars’ owners—John Harris and Bob and Celia Shepardare all great friends with an equally great enthusiasm for making and enjoying great wine. When they first met, the three friends found they had much in common. With children the same age, they often traveled together on family vacations. They also frequently sought out wine events and tastings to explore. “Wine is one of the few drinks that is shared,” notes Bob, “and we think there is something special about that.” Celia agrees: “For all of us, wine is part of socializing, being with people, having dinner—when we’d get together, we’d always share a bottle or two, and it solidified the friendship.”

When Amici Cellars was born, the owners very deliberately chose to focus on quality, not quantity. Because we insist on keeping production small, we can carefully control the process of creating each wine, crafting what we like to consider a small work of art in each bottle,explains Celia.

Adding a new friend to the “circle of Amici

In 2015, Amici Cellars was pleased to welcome industry veteran Anthony “Tony” Biagi as Winemaker. Biagi’s extensive experience with notable Napa Valley wineries—Duckhorn, Paraduxx, Plumpjack, Cade and Hourglass among themexpertly complements the Amici portfolio, which features several small-production, single vineyard wines from prominent Napa and Sonoma appellations such as Spring Mountain District, Rutherford, Oakville and Russian River Valley.

Bob Shepard notes, “When we met with Tony, we were struck not only by his impressive résumé, but also by how well our philosophies meshed: about winemaking, about life, about enjoying this journey together. It’s a great fit and we are excited to see where Tony will take our wines.”

Reflections of terroir

At Amici, the team believes in making wines that are truly reflective of a vineyard’s terroir and that achieve a precise kind of density. “My goal is for the wines to speak to the place they are from, and to have a beginning, middle and end,” says Tony. “I pay a lot of attention to the density on the mid-palate. I’m looking for an appealing weight on the tongue, balanced and brightened with fresh acidity.”

For the winemaking team, harvest is an especially crucial time, when the just-picked grapes undergo maceration. “We spend an inordinate amount of time on the maceration, because 95% of the wine is made if we get the maceration correct,” Tony explains. “If we get it right straight out of the press, then we’re just caretaking the wine until we bottle it. You want to have as little intervention as possible.”

Finding the sweet spots

Amici Cellars wanted to continue to offer small production wines of great quality and great value, but also to start adding some real gems to the mix: micro-lot, single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons. “We want these wines to exhibit a specific sense of place from that one little spot, that one block,” explains Bob.

To reach that goal, the friends drew on long-standing relationships and Napa Valley expertise to source fruit from micro-sites within esteemed vineyards. John knew the vineyard manager for a tiny spot up on Spring Mountain that consistently produced wine with concentration and power; he persuaded the manager to part with a few tons. That precious fruit yielded just 260 cases of 2013 Amici Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon.

Amici also focused on a renowned site farmed by fourth-generation growers: Morisoli Vineyard, a historic property on the famed Rutherford Bench. From a micro-lot within the vineyard, the winery produced 240 cases of 2013 Amici Morisoli Cabernet Sauvignon.

From Napa Valley’s legendary Oakville AVA is the 2012 Amici Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, with just 75 cases of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that spends 22 months in 75% new French oak.

Amici Cellars finds a home

In spring 2011, for the first time, Amici Cellars found a winery to call home. John heard from a colleague that the old T Vine Winery in Calistoga was for sale. “It was unexpected, and everything happened quickly,” he recalls. The new winery is open to the public by appointment, and features a private tasting room and lovely grounds shaded by oak trees. “We’ve never liked the idea of an exclusive ‘closed gate’ winery. We really want people to feel welcome here, to join our ‘circle of amici,’” says Celia.

Join the circle of friends

What started as a few friends crushing some grapes for fun is now an award-winning wine known around the country, but one thing will never change: Amici is about wines that are created by friends, for friends. This simple, genuine philosophy is at the heart of the company. We just stay true to who we are and bring our different experiences together, both in the winery and as people,” affirms Bob. “I mean, I’d like to be 6’4 and handsome, but I’m not!” he adds with a wink.

With a beautiful new Calistoga home, the Amici team is waiting with open arms to welcome new friends.