Baby goats, original art and 96 point wines at Amuse Bouche
When my friend Kristi, invited me to a mid-week wine tasting with a chance to see baby goats, I was intrigued. Of course I said, “yes please”! I never turn down a cool experience or a wine tasting for that matter. I didn’t really inquire further - I just knew we had a long drive up Atlas Peek. Turned out to be a very long drive - all the way to the point where Atlas Peak Rd. ends (yes, it does end eventually). From the Silverado Country Club its a good extra 25-30 minutes. I glanced at the Navi and I was surprised to realize that we had driven so far North - almost even with St. Helena. We arrived at Au Sommet, the residence of Kerry and John Schwartz. Au Sommet is the wine project (and cabernet sauvignon label) born of a partnership between John Schwartz (the owner of Amuse Bouche and Coup de Foudre), world-famous winemaker, Heidi Barrett, and renowned viticulturist, John Barbour.
After such a long climb up Atlas Peak, I knew we were in for some incredible views - but as we drove up the long driveway, the first thing that caught are eyes? Chicken hutches on wheels, set amongst the vines! I kid you not. I am sure this must exist elsewhere, but its the first time I have seen that!
As we continued to the residence, we got our first glimpse of views through the lifting fog. We were invited into the tasting room, and a tour of the brand new extraordinary wine cellar, where his collections are on proud display (many many bottles of VERY expensive wines that I can only dream of trying someday), and we climbed to the viewing tower. All of this part of the property is clearly John’s world. John Schwartz is known to be dynamic, jet-setting, always-on-the-move (he had just returned from a trip to Mongolia a few days before our visit), and even by some counts “slightly nuts - in a good way”. He has a rich culinary past in France and Japan, and his godmother (we were told by our hostess, Nicole Lee) was Julia Child. Jacques Pepin was his Godfather (his art is also featured on the Amuse Bouche label).
If that is John’s world, then the farm is Kerry’s world. John’s wife Kerry is seemingly his exact opposite. The yin to the yang. She is usually found in her mucking boots, handling the working farm, tending the livestock, raising puppies and goats and even making goat cheese (which we asked if she sells, and sadly she does not). After we had our wines we begged to see her baby goats. I have to be honest…my friends Laurie and Kristi were begging to see them. I didn’t really get what all the hype was about - I have never really spent a lot of time on farms, so I didn't know how truly amazing baby goats could be. Now my world is changed forever. They are just like puppies but somehow even cuter. They just want love and attention. Its the most adorable thing I have EVER seen! I really want goats now.
Oh but wait, this is supposed to be about the wine? I don’t even know where to start. First of all, there are multiple wines on offer, each under a different brand. That confused me a little. We began with a sparkling wine, the Richard G. Peterson Brut Rosé - very special and flavorful. Its sweet with a berry flavor. It took me by surprise and I loved it. Then we moved on to the reds. Starting with winemaker Kent Jarman’s Coup de Foudre Cabernet (with its clever love letter label from John to his wife) and the Coup de Foudre Lightning Bolt both are excellent and would be wines to age well. We then moved to the Amuse Bouche reds with original art by artists, who are especially invited for each year’s label. PS-It turns out that Heidi Barrett is an accomplished artist and potter besides being an extraordinary winemaker and helicopter pilot (we saw the helicopter pad on the property). Her art is on the 2016 Amuse Bouche wine label, and her pottery is on display and for sale in the tasting room. When they were handing out the artistic talent, she got way more than her fair share! In addition to Amuse Bouche we had Heidi Barrett’s “Vin Perdu”. The 2015 Au Sommet cabernet sauvignon, the first vintage from the project, that has already earned 96 points, was probably my favorite of the day. I love a classic Napa Cab, and this is it (dark berries, plum, black pepper). I would try and leave this in the cellar a few years, but it might not make it long. I was looking for a few gifts, so I bought a case of the Pret a Boire (which means Ready to Drink in French) for our friends who have their summer house in the Hamptons. I have to admit, I love the pink dog on the label. I also got the 4 - pack boxed case of the Domaine Curry for my birthday boy husband who LOVES the Warriors. Inside the special wooden box are four bottles of the 2016 Cab Sauvignon by winemaker Kent Jarman (of Coup de Foudre) and developed with Ayesha Curry.
Visiting Au Sommet/ Amuse Bouche
If you want to experience the Amuse Bouche line up of wines, the easiest way is to make an appointment at the tasting room downtown. One you have tried the wines, and maybe invested in a few bottles , thereby proving to be adequately serious, you might be able to request a tasting at Au Sommet (and just maybe, a cuddle with the baby goats!).