Phillip Hart – Proprietor | Photo Provided – Gelert Hart
Phillip Hart grew up on a mountain sheep farm in Wales. The farm is still owned by a family member. He traveled the world exploring the landscape, food and wine of Europe, Australia, and South Africa before settling in Southern California. His eldest son, Gelert Hart, was born in South Africa but most of his childhood was spent in Southern California. He moved to Hawaii in agriculture before joining his father fulltime in 2015 at AmByth Estate on the Central Coast. Phillip purchased 42 acres of land formerly grazed by cattle at the dawn of the new millennium. It presented as a clean palate – Phillip had a dream.
Gelert and Phillip Hart | Photo Provided – Gelert Hart
Phillip developed a passion for wine and ancient winemaking techniques during his travels. After much research he became the first person in San Luis Obispo County to pursue Biodynamic Farming in the vineyard when planting 17 acres with eleven grape varieties in Templeton. He selected two Italian varieties and a variety of Rhone grapevines to plant in his vineyard.
As a 21st century farmer, Phillip’s decision to nurture the vineyard soil, plant grape varieties that thrive in his terroir, and to dry-farm using the theories and biodiversity of Biodynamic farming have enabled him to develop successful strategies to deal with severe drought conditions and rising temperatures of climate change in San Luis Obispo County.
His study of ancient winemaking techniques and the decision to purchase two dozen clay vessels, generally known as Amphora, have resulted in creating unusual natural wines with unique flavor profiles. Each vintage is unique; there is no human intervention and no chemicals are added during the fermentation, aging and storage of the wine.
The name of the property is AmByth Estate which in the Welsh language means “forever.” The word also speaks to the family philosophy and their vision of their future on this land. Gelert joined his father as the second generation winemaker at AmByth with his wife. They are now managing the vineyard, the winemaking, the sales while sharing the property and philosophy with their guests and customers. “Forever” means that the third generation hopefully will continue the winemaking tradition and the care of the land so it can be farmed sustainably for generations. Their vision and philosophy with multi generations focusing on the land melds easily with the long history of immigration and farming in San Luis Obispo County. Our county has a unique history dating back to the early 1800s. Settlers from countries around the world arrived during the 19th century, bought land to farm, and settled down for generations. Originally most farmers nurtured a wide variety of crops and animals but gradually most families focused on a few commodities. There is a long history of cultural diversity. Working together, building multi generational relationships, sharing equipment, harvests, tasting rooms, and wine celebrations are the themes running through history. Overall, there has been a focus on the land as the priority and the commitment to staying in the area to protect and care for it. Phillip and Gelert bring the Welsh and South African experiences to enrich our diversity. Here is their story.
Gelert Hart – Harvest | Photo Provided – Gelert Hart
Gelert Hart – New Amphorae Purchases Arrive | Photo Provided – Gelert Hart
Amphorae – All Shapes And Sizes | Photo Provided – Gelert Hart
Phillip With Son Bede | Photo Provided – Gelert Hart
Crushing The Grapes | Photo Provided – Gelert Hart
Topping Up | Photo Provided – Gelert Hart
Phillip And Youngest Son Bede On The Tractor | Photo Provided – Gelert Hart
Phillip And Youngest Son Bede On The Tractor | Photo Provided – Gelert Hart
Photo Credit – Julia Perez
Photo Credit – Julia Perez
Impact on Wine History in San Luis Obispo County
- First vineyard and winery established by a Welshman in San Luis Obispo County. Over the last 200 years San Luis Obispo County winemakers have reflected many ethnic and cultural backgrounds which have enriched cultural diversity and farming techniques. The Hart family brings a commitment of AmByth, translating to “forever” in Welsh, to farming the land for generations to come, nurturing and protecting it.
- AmByth Estate is the first certified Biodynamic farm and winery in San Luis Obispo County.
- Phillip and Gelert have been invited to become a member of Nicolas and Virginie Joly’s “Renaissance des Appellations”. This is the prestigious and high profile group of Biodynamic producers located around the world. AmByth is the only member of the group from the United States.
- Phillip and Gelert Hart adapted new strategies in planting and managing their vineyards during the years of extreme drought starting in 2011. They source additional grapes from Biodynamic growers they know and trust during severe drought years, experiment with new grape varieties and make new varietals.
- Winemaker Phillip Hart was the first to travel to Europe to study ancient winemaking techniques and to import terracotta amphorae from Italy as winemaking vessels. He is the first in the county to introduce a new style of winemaking based on these ancient techniques.
- AmByth Estate is the first to import terracotta wine making vessels from Italy to San Luis Obispo County.
- Gelert Hart was the first winemaker in Paso Robles AVA to purchase clay vessels made in the United States with clay harvested from the Sacramento River Delta, designed and handcrafted by potter and winemaker Andrew Beckham.
- AmByth Estate is one of seventeen wineries participating in the Amphorae Project and the Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo County using clay vessels to make their wines. This is the largest group of winemakers using terracotta vessels and ancient winemaking techniques in any county in the United States.
- The Hart family represents three generations of farming and living on their farmland, continuing strong traditions of multi-generational farming in San Luis Obispo County.
The LEGEND of Phillip Hart and Gelert Hart
From Wales to San Luis Obispo County
AmByth is Welsh that means “forever.” And forever is a long, long time. This story begins in Wales and follows the adventures of two generations of Harts who travel the world and ultimately are drawn to a 42 acre plot of land in California with no agricultural footprint. It is a place where cattle grazed for more than 100 years. The land is located south of the city of Paso Robles, which until recently was affectionately described as a “cowboy town”. But as cowboys know, anything is possible in the Wild West.
Wales is a mountainous country in the United Kingdom which is surrounded on three sides by 1,680 of coastline including the Irish Sea and the English Channel to the north and the south. It shares a border with England and is regarded as one of the modern Celtic countries. The soil is of poor quality and not suited to agriculture. Farming is based on livestock. Phillip Hart was born into a Welsh family of sheep farmers in North Wales outside Porthmadog (formerly known as Portmadoc). His father became a farmer after World War II, deeply connected to his land; he had also served as a Royal Marine Commando so he had experience in the outside world. The sheep mountain farm was called “Llanerch”. Phillip’s father raised as much food as possible to feed his wife and seven children. It was important to him to be self sufficient; he bartered for anything they needed outside of what the farm could produce. The family worked the land, grew their own food and enjoyed cooking. A cousin of Phillip’s now owns the land and operates the farm continuing the generational commitment and legacy.
When Mark, an older brother, left high school and traveled to London to open his own restaurant, Phillip followed him after he graduated from the local high school. He loved London, first learning the restaurant business from Mark and then studying restaurant and hotel management in the hospitality industry. Both brothers enjoyed fine cuisine and wine but it was Phillip who started his first legendary wine cellar in his college dorm room.
The two brothers, Mark and Phillip Hart, decided to travel the world, dining, drinking, exploring and working together in countries on five continents including Australia, Africa and North America. Phillip never lost his interest or passion for wine. They settled in South Africa. Phillip met a young woman and married her. He joined a friend in the flooring industry to learn the business in South Africa. Although they are no longer married, Phillip and his first wife have a son, Gelert, born and brought up between Southern California and the Central Coast. After stints in San Diego, Montana and Hawaii, he moved back to California to join his father at the AmByth Estate in 2013.
Gelert is now the winemaker and vineyard manager. Gelert and his wife, Robyn, work in the vineyard, raise sheep, run the winery and greet guests for tastings on their farm. The production is usually less than 1,500 cases. Their wines sell by word of mouth and their customers are excited by the unusual varietals and winemaking techniques. Their children are now growing up in the vineyards representing the third generation on the farm at AmByth Estate.
One Business and One Passion
Mark and Phillip’s most successful business venture was selling Oriental Rugs. When they reached the United States, they opened a store in Costa Mesa near Newport Beach to sell flooring products and imported handmade rugs. Mark retired to Costa Rica in 2002. Phillip, now married to his second wife Mary, and enjoying life with their son, discovered the area of Paso Robles while exploring California. The Paso Robles area revived passions and dreams of returning to their roots of living the rural lifestyle and sustainable farming.
By 1996 Phillip had returned to pursuing his passion for wine; he started making wine in his garage with grapes sourced within the Paso Robles AVA. During his travels Phillip established friendships with growers and winemakers in San Luis Obispo County. By 2001 Phillip was ready to purchase his own acreage in the county and plant a vineyard on pasture land trampled by cattle for generations. The land was clean, unpolluted, organic and a perfect slate for planting a vineyard. Phillip could now pursue his dream of owning his own vineyards and winery to make wines of substance and quality. 22 acres were purchased in 2000 and another 20 (adjoining) acres purchased in 2001.
Shortly after purchasing the 42 acre property with steep hillsides, Phillip had the good fortune to taste wines produced at the Bella Luna Estate Winery in Templeton. He was surprised by the complexity of their Sangiovese and interviewed the owner and winemaker to learn more about it. The Bella Luna vineyards are dry-farmed, producing high quality grapes with an intense concentration of flavors. This method of grape growing was not new to San Luis Obispo County. Dry-farmed head-trained grapevines were planted as early as the 1860s in the Templeton area. The pruning of head-trained vines dates back to the Spanish Padres who arrived in the second half of the 18th century to administer Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and Mission San MIguel. These Franciscans were viticulturalists, as well as winemakers. This history was eagerly adapted to Phillip’s vineyard plans.
The Philosophy – Three Magical Chords
Phillip researched dry-farming methods and was introduced to Biodynamic farming. His research took both he and his wife, Mary, to Europe to explore many alternatives. He also met the renowned French viticulturist Philippe Armenier who had moved to California in 2001 to establish his consulting firm, Biodynamic Terroirs. He consulted with Armenier and explained it as this. “Biodynamic farming is about quality, it’s not about quantity.” The goal of Biodynamic farming is to produce food and wine of the highest quality by using preparations made from natural substances including herbs, minerals, and cow manure to bring health and vitality to soil, plant roots, plant growth and grapes. Biodynamic farming is distinctive for its emphasis on developing a deep understanding of soil and developing the “right” way to feed the plants within man’s understanding of the earth and the cosmos. There is a deeper philosophy embedded in this method to allow man to consciously recreate the link between the World of Nature and the Spiritual World or Cosmos. Biodynamic Terroirs specializes in the conversion of West Coast vineyards to Biodynamic Agriculture. Philippe Armenier has worked and consulted with more than 45 vineyards (5,000 acres) in California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
The decisions Phillip made after studying both techniques changed his winemaking style. He made three important decisions. The AmByth vineyard would be both dry-farmed and farmed bio-dynamically with a focus on growing unique grapes. The AmByth winemaking style would create natural wines using ancient techniques thousands of years old. AmByth wines are made without additives, adjustments or enhancements. The vision for AmByth wines not only includes exploring the past by using ancient winemaking techniques and terracotta wine vessels but also concerns the future and health of the land. The first generation, Phillip and Mary, and the second generation, Gelert and Robyn, plan to farm this land sustainably for many decades to come, respecting biodiversity, the soil, climate, the water table and the organic health of the landscape. Their hope is that the third generation will continue this tradition.
Historically speaking, Phillip became the first winemaker to establish a Demeter-Certified Biodynamic vineyard and winery in the Paso Robles area. He studied many grape varieties and focused on those grapes best suited to his climate and soil. The vineyards were planted in 2003 and 2005. His first vintage was made in 2006.
From Pastureland to Vineyard
The first two years were spent turning the weeds and residual barley plants into the earth and allowing the good rains, at the time, to penetrate the soil. All of our vines were sourced from local nurseries in central California. Phillip preferred to have the vines growing on their own roots but that was very difficult to find. So two-thirds of the vineyard is a combination of 1103p and 110r rootstocks. Both are drought resistant varieties.
Eleven grape varieties are now grown in the vineyard, primarily Rhone varieties. Phillip and Mary originally selected eight Rhone grape varieties, four red and four white, because they loved drinking Rhone varietals. The Paso Robles climate seemed well suited for these vines to thrive. They planted Sangiovese and Tempranillo to add Italian and Spanish influence. The Tempranillo was planted because Rioja, the home of Tempranillo, holds a special place in our hearts from previous travels. Sangiovese rounds the story out. Who doesn’t love Chianti and Tuscany? We particularly like the way Tempranillo and Sangiovese are so radically different, one dark and brooding, one bright and shining. Yet they both love the land of AmByth.
Dry farming in the ever changing climate in Templeton and throughout San Luis Obispo County will continue to determine which grape varieties we grow. The vineyard has gone through a lot of changes throughout the years particularly with global climate change impacting the lack of rainfall and the rise of local temperatures. These factors determined what wines and blends we made in 2010. At the time AmByth grape harvests were yielding two tons per acre which was the best yield in the last decade.
The long drought started in 2011. During the first three years only two inches of rain fell. During the most severe drought year in 2015, the yield dropped to 2 barrels of wine for the whole property, about a ton of grapes in total. However Phillip and Gelert began to rethink how to adapt to the challenges of climate change. They decided to source additional fruit from other Biodynamic growers that they knew well and trusted during the small harvests in the AmByth vineyard during the worst drought years. This decision brought new opportunities to their winemaking. Phillip and Gelert were able to create wines and blends that they had never considered because they were now able to experiment with new grape varieties. As a result, they stumbled onto several new varietals that are so unique and dynamic that they are now part of AmByth Estate wine portfolio.
These newer varietals include two white wines – the ten-month skin macerated Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. AmByth Estate also now has a yearly release of locally farmed Paso Robles Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache Noir and some Portuguese varieties.
Ancient Vessels – Terracotta Amphorae from Italy to Templeton
Phillip and Mary traveled to Europe and explored various vessels and their impact on creating pure, fresh natural wines. One defining moment occurred when they visited winemaker Francesco Cirelli in Abruzzo, Italy who introduced them to the terracotta amphora, also known in Italian as the giare, for winemaking. Cirelli’s wines include Italian varietals, Trebbiano, Montepulciano and Cerasuolo, all made in terracotta amphorae. Cirelli explains, “Amphora is great because it doesn’t add, and it doesn’t omit anything. It’s a very minimal neutral container that is able to express the real authentic taste of my grapes in that particular soil in that particular vintage. For me, that’s the main difference between amphora and any other wine container.” This is a recent quote describing his opinion from an article posted by Wine-Searcher, written by Tom Hylan on February 1, 2022.
The winery, AmByth Estate, began to grow alongside the vines. The experimentation and excitement filled the winery as well as an unusual group of vessels. Phillip fell in love with the idea of making a pure Biodynamic wine in a vessel made from earth (clay). He was introduced to a whole new style and approach to winemaking which he in turn, introduced to San Luis Obispo County.
Phillip became the first in Paso Robles to purchase terracotta amphorae from Italy and use the vessels for winemaking and aging of each vintage. Prior to discovering the amphora, Phillip had been using neutral oak barrels to age his Biodynamic wines starting in 2006 with his first vintage. His new wines expressed the terroir of his vineyard. Phillip thinks that because of his farming practices and the neutral clay vessels, AmByth Estate wines now have extraordinary balance and perhaps as important, uniqueness. The early vintages also showed balance and unique flavors but after changing winemaking techniques and using new vessels every vintage is now distinctly different. The wine is made with no human interventions.
For the first order of hand-crafted vessels, Phillip brought in six amphorae for his 2011 vintage; two of each of the following sizes were purchased – 800L 500L and 300L. For his second order, Phillip bought 12 Amphorae from the craftsman in Tuscany but he needed someone to share the costs of a shipping container. Phillip asked his neighbor, Italian winemaker Brian Terrizzi, if he was interested; Brian was intrigued, ordered a few for his Giornata Winery and shared the costs of the shipping container. To explain, the cost of each container ranged from $3,000 to $5,000.
Phillip reminisces about the early vintages fermented and aged in the new amphorae, “They allowed the wine to express itself purely. We loved what they (didn’t) do to the wine. The 2012 Marsanne and the 2017 Viognier aged in the clay, stand out in my memory as truly stellar.”
The quality of AmByth wines aged in the terracotta more than met expectations. Gelert reflects, “Wine aged in clay seems to be slightly less fruity in smell but more floral and herbal. The taste is more alive and calms the acids in a way that the wine resembles something very much from an aged Old World wine profile. The varietal characteristics certainly stand out rather than being layered with other manipulative nuances from oak puncheons and expresses the terroir much better because of this. We make natural wine, so absolutely no additions, and clay is a great way to stabilize and introduce oxygen slowly throughout its aging. When the bottle is finally opened the wine breathes, opens up and enjoys being opened rather than resisting and degrading. The wine will be just as fresh 3-4 days after being opened even without sulfites, imagine that. It will be really interesting to see how these wines cellar for another 20 years.”
Phillip expanded the variety of vessels by adding two Australian vitrified clay eggs in 2015. The material is similar but the eggs are fired at a higher temperature and are less porous.
Clay Amphorae Made in Oregon?
Continuing the acquisition of more clay amphorae additions, Gelert discovered Andrew Beckham, an Oregon winemaker with a pottery studio. Andrew is the first potter to make commercial amphorae on a large scale in the United States. While teaching pottery classes to high school students, he decided to move to the Oregon countryside to buy land and build his own pottery studio. Andrew and his wife became interested in wine and decided to plant a vineyard. They founded Beckham Estate Vineyard and planted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. While researching the history of winemaking techniques, Andrew discovered Italian winemaker Elisabetta Foradori who was using handmade Tuscan terracotta vessels. His immediate reaction? “I saw the amphora and thought, I could make that”.
Andrew Beckham has developed a large amphora shape based on his own research and experimentation. History shows us that each winemaking culture develops an iconic vessel to enhance their own winemaking. Andrew studied the designs of three iconic cultures- the Romans, the Georgians, and the Spanish. The long, narrow cylindrical shape of Roman amphora was designed for grape seeds to drop to the bottom of its pointed base to reduce the bitter tannins in the wine. The Romans favored sweet golden wines.
Andrew also studied the 8,000 year old Georgian wine culture and their handmade large clay vessels known as the Qvevri with rounded sides and a flat base. Traditionally the finished vessel is buried in the ground for winemaking, fermentation, aging and storage. The large size of the vessel served a number of village members rather than just one family. In contrast the Spanish culture uses a much smaller clay vessel, known as a Tinaja, also rounded with a flat base, but used above ground for fermentation, aging and storage.
All three cultures influenced Andrew’s own design of a very large vessel to be used above ground. Andrew experimented with his own amphorae, crushing Pinot Gris. a white grape, which produced an intensely colored “orange” wine in the Old World Italian style.
Gelert purchased four amphorae made by Andrew Beckham in 2016 after discussing the negatives of the Italian design; he sent a couple of cracked Italian Amphorae to Andrew to repair. Andrew had some unique characteristics in his design. He reduced the risk of cracking by implementing a collar design for the lid rather than embedding the stainless cover in the clay. Andrew’s vessels need less repairing over time. The clay Andrew uses is sourced from the Sacramento River Delta area in California. The clay material differs at each location in the world where the amphorae are produced but there is a common feature shared by all clay vessels. The porosity of the clay vessel allows oxygen to flow through the walls while the wine is aging which accelerates the development of tertiary flavor. The porosity of the clay is also dependent on the temperature at which the vessel is fired in a kiln. The higher the temperature, the less the porosity. Porous vessels are more fragile. Andrew fires his vessels at a higher temperature.
Sacramento River Delta area found at Wikipedia
Three Generations at AmByth
Phillip and his wife Mary were managing two projects – the rug and flooring company in Orange County and the vineyard and winery in Templeton. Phillip commuted to AmByth with family members on weekends with plans of retiring and focusing on winemaking.
Gelert helped plant the vineyard in 2002 and visited often as AmByth grew but never thought at the time he would develop the passion for winemaking. Instead, Gelert moved to Hawaii with his partner Robyn and worked for the largest food broker in Hawaii, dealing with containers of fruit and vegetables from around the Pacific. Shortly after Gelert visited California in 2013, Phillip invited Gelert to come back to California to live on the property, work the vineyard and the winery. Gelert had not anticipated that he would ultimately join his father on a full-time basis at AmByth Estate and become the second generation winemaker in the Hart family. Phillip was ready to move on to new adventures.
Gelert and Robyn were thrilled to “come home” to the family farm in 2013. Gelert was very excited about orchestrating the vineyard and winery; winemaking has become his passion. They have two children who hopefully will carry on the commitment to Biodynamic farming, sustainability and the amphorae winemaking on this land. At such an early age the boys are already involved with the family business helping with what they can and being a major role for motivation.
Together, Gelert and Robyn run all things AmByth. Gelert’s main focus is managing the vineyard and winery along with sales, tours and pourings around the world. Robyn manages the Wine Club, tasting room, sales and leading guests through tours and intimate tastings at AmByth Estate.
Winemaking Styles Have Evolved Through Experimentation
Experimentation is a constant theme in AmByth winemaking. Over time, Phillip and Gelert repeat certain recipes that they have developed from experimenting with a variety of winemaking styles, grape varieties, fermentation and maceration, vessels and aging time periods. They strive to be unique and different. If they find a wine made in another country or by a producer that they admire, they consider that experience an inspiration to create a wine of their own, reminiscent of their experience rather than an attempt to copy someone else’s wine recipe. They are not trying to focus on a particular audience or flavor profile; Gelert lets the wines express their true varietal characteristics without much manipulation in the winery. Customers come to buy AmByth Estate wines primarily through word of mouth or in search of “Natural” and/or Biodynamic wine. They are the adventurous sort of wine lovers who want to be a part of the adventure and value an artistic approach to winemaking more than chemistry or a scientific approach.
Phillip and his son Gelert describe their winery as the place for “ happy oxidizing” and you can hear the fermentation process in their many vessels humming along like a chorus. Many winemakers are afraid this process will spoil their wines but Phillip and Gelert embrace oxidation. They have discovered that the Italian terracotta are the most porous allowing more oxygen to enter the wine during aging which softens the tannins and enhances flavor and aroma. Andrew Beckham’s clay material has tighter pores so Gelert uses these vessels to produce orange wines; these are white grapes fermented and aged on their skins which contain the pigments that provide vivid color in certain white wines.
The Italian terracotta amphorae are ideal for red grapes and wines because they are porous. The limestone and calcareous soils in the vineyard impact the grapes, creating characteristics of minerality, salinity and acidity in the wine. The exchange of oxygen and gasses through the walls of the vessel allows the tannins and acidity to soften over time. This creates a more elegant profile in the wine. There are distinct old world aromas in the nose. Typically, red wines are aged from one to three years. Aging provides a wide spectrum of flavor profiles that are very fresh and approachable in AmByth wines.
Phillip and Gelert also purchased two Australian vessels which are made from vitrified clay and fired at high temperatures in the kiln. The material of the vessel is more similar to porcelain and the least porous of the various clay vessels. Orange wines and roses that Gelert wants to present with a more crisp flavor profile without the oxidation are aged in these vessels.
Maceration is a word originally associated with ancient winemaking. Maceration is the time period when wine is on its skins during primary fermentation, which usually lasts 5 to 10 days. The term “extended maceration” refers to a technique that allows the grapes to continue to sit on the skins after primary fermentation ends to create a specific individual style of winemaking. The process is often used to extract the phenolics from red grapes; however each winemaker must use trial and error to determine the time and temperature needed for each grape variety. Maceration is the process in which solid materials (grape skins, seeds or stems) are placed into a fermenting liquid (grape juice or wine) for some period of time for the purpose of extracting tannins, coloring materials, flavor precursors and flavor compounds from the solid materials. This process is more commonly used for red wine but when used with white grapes, intense colors and flavors will enhance the winemaking process and create something completely different than a typical white wine.
Maceration is governed by temperature, the contact between solids and liquids, the agitation or movement of the mixture, and the composition of the liquid as it moves through the fermentation process transitioning from juice to wine. Leaving the skins in the fermenting liquidor for longer periods can create intense flavor profiles and complex textures along with freshness.
Over the years, Gelert and Phillip have used maceration with Sauvignon Blanc and a plethora of other varietals, experimenting with a variety of vessels. In the terracotta amphorae the usual pale white wine becomes vivid with colors released from pigment in the grape skins and creates a unique exquisite flavor as well.
The Impact of Biodynamic Farming on Wine
AmByth wines are 100% natural wines and with everything that word suggests, it is important to note that there is no manipulation of their wines. They are pure wines. Biodynamic farming means that no synthetic fertilizers, chemicals or salts are used in the vineyard. Instead, this method of farming uses homeopathic remedies and animals to create rich soil and biodiversity which in turn creates strong vines and concentrated fruit. The vines are carefully pruned and dry farmed in the vineyard. The grapes develop the flavors and character of the terroir from having to reach deep into the land to find water and at the same time extracts minerality and acidity from layers of limestone and calcareous clay.
When the grapes are harvested, the grapes are trampled gently by human feet. Although traditional methods are used, winemaking decisions are made as to whether to press off the newly trodden grapes right away or to use maceration process on the skins.
Winemaking at AmByth is a sensory process. Winemaking decisions are made based on sensory perception – taste and smell more than analytics. Instead of finding faults or correcting things, the wine leads the way naturally fermenting. Gelert follows that journey. This is an artistic approach.
It is because of AmByth’s farming and winemaking styles that they have been invited to become a member of Nicolas and Virginie Joly’s “Renaissance des Appellations”. This is a prestigious and high profile group of Biodynamic producers located around the world. AmByth is the only member of the group from the United States. This group was formed in France in 2001 and now includes 230 farmers from thirteen countries. They are known as “the Return to Terroir” group with the focus on a guarantee of the full expression of the appellations and producing wines of high quality with great originality. This is accomplished through Biodynamic farming in the vineyard, caring for the land and developing a more sensitive approach to the truth of taste.
To quote Phillip Hart: “AmByth is the Welsh word meaning ‘forever”. We view it as our legacy.”
The AmByth vineyards: Biodynamic. Organic. Dry farmed. Head trained. Planted on steep hillsides. Biodiverse.
The AmByth Wines are Unfiltered. Unfined. Native Yeast. Certified Biodynamic and/or Organic. Zero-added sulfites and additions of any kind.
The Hart Family’s Philosophy: “A Love of the Land” and “A Joy of Life.”
Phillip reflects on the notion that life is a circle. Phillip grew up on a sheep mountain farm in Wales, Mary on a horse ranch in Oklahoma, and now Gelert and Robyn, in addition to growing grapes and making wine, farm sheep on a hillside in Central California. He has often thought about the impact of growing up on a natural farm in remote North Wales; it influenced Phillip to make critical decisions in life and eventually how to farm the land and make wine in California. Phillip and his wife Mary share the same values, embracing biodiversity and caring for the land. Gelert and Robyn are true outdoor people. It certainly did not take them long to completely embrace Phillip’s concepts and plan to continue them forever. Phillip and Mary have retired and are living in Costa Rica.
Phillip is born in Wales
Phillip attends College in London.
Phillip and his brother Mark travel the world together and work.
Phillip moves to South Africa, marries and works in the flooring and rug business.
Gelert Hart is born.
Phillip moves to Southern California and opens a flooring business. He remarries and has two sons.
Gelert moves to Hawaii and works in the agriculture business.
1996: Phillip Hart pursues his passion for wine with a winemaking project in his garage in Southern California with grapes sourced from the Paso Robles AVA.
2000: Philip Hart purchases 22 acres of land primarily used for cattle grazing in Templeton.
2001: Phillip purchases an additional 20 acres of adjacent land in Templeton.
2002: The 17 acre vineyard is planted by Phillip and Gelert Hart.
2013: Gelert and Robyn moved to AmByth Estate to take on the responsibilities of winemaking and viticulture in the Wine