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“In my naivety I thought all wine was natural until I became a commercial winemaker and hung around with other winemakers. I had been making wine on a personal level for 10 years prior and had only occasionally added small amounts of sulfites, nothing else. The wine had always turned out just fine. I was thrilled to be able to make wine from our own pristinely grown vines; it seemed completely contrary to change what we brought in from the fields into something different." —Phillip Hart
The only certified biodynamic winery in Paso Robles, AmByth Estate was started by a Welshman named Phillip Hart in the early 2000s with nothing more than a vision to farm and make wine from a vineyard that would live “forever”, a word which translates in Welsh to the name of the estate. After purchasing two properties in 2000 and 2001, totaling 42 acres, Phillip began interplanting 16 acres of vines (head trained) with 4 acres of olive and fruit trees to create biodiversity within the vineyards. The combination of steep hillsides, clay/limestone soils, and a hot, dry climate led Phillip to choose Rhône varieties, which he felt were most suitable for the terrain. The land had never been touched by chemicals, and from the start the vines were farmed organically and without any irrigation; they received biodynamic certification in 2006.
The yields at AmByth are extremely low. As a fully dry-farmed estate, their goal is 2 tons per acre every year. This may seem more than reasonable to most people, but in the drought years of 2012-15 they harvested significantly lower amounts than that, 2015 being the lowest at less than 2 tons of fruit for the entire crop! For those who are now concerned for Phillip and his family, it is worth mentioning that he also runs a successful rug importing business.
In the cellar, Phillip and his son Gelert (joined in 2015) take a completely natural approach. While the debate over the exact definition of “natural wine” has been beaten worse than a dead hipster, there is no doubt that AmByth embodies the core principles of the category: natural fermentations, no fining or filtering, no SO2 added at any point, and of course, biodynamic farming. For vessels, they use a combination of tanks, old barrels and, more recently, amphorae.
Recently, Gelert has been experimenting with cider-making, which has brought about some very interesting and tasty results. They also make delicious olive oil.