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Meridith May, SOMM Journal
ANDIS WINES’ LORENZO MUSLIA MUSES ON ITS NEWEST RELEASE, CURSE OF KNOWLEDGE, AND WHY WINES FROM THE SIERRA FOOTHILLS CAN BE A CHALLENGING SELL
It was 2014 when I left Italy and ventured into a “New World.”
To say I was culture-shocked at the start is an understatement. I went from walking out of my apartment in Florence and simply asking for an espresso to driving for 2 miles to engage in a three-minute interrogation with a barista: “What size, 16-ounce or 8-ounce? How many shots do you want? Do you need room for cream?”
Dinnertime used to be at 9 p.m., but now that’s bedtime. I used to make five stops at local grocery stores on the way home, and now everything is delivered to my doorstep.
But if I had to pick the thing that shocked me most, it was unquestionably the wines. I grew up drinking Old World wines that were the perfect complement to food; they weren’t better or worse than those from California, just a different style.
In 2015, I joined Andis Wines in the Sierra Foothills. My ultimate goal was to use those memories to close the bridge between what I used to drink and what we’re able to make here. It’s not easy, and it never will be, but we’ve gotten closer and closer year after year as we continue to pursue perfection.
I have visited locales in over 35 states over the past several years, from northern Michigan and Houston to Honolulu and Richmond, Virginia. I’ve ventured into hundreds of restaurants and wine bars with the purpose of selling Andis Wines, and it has been a journey! Almost every time I sat down with a potential buyer or exchanged a phone call or email, it seemed as though there was a preconceived perception of our wine, and it made me feel like I had something to prove. I wondered, “Why are people so skeptical and scared to try our wines from this region?”
It took me years to understand that the answer was in the history of what we used to be. We were “cursed by the knowledge” they had about our region, and the only way to break that spell was to make extraordinary wines. Opinions are hard to change in a short time, but it can be done.
So here it is the result of our dedication to five years of vineyard research to thwart the curse and equip people with new knowledge of the beautifully balanced, high-quality wines emerging from the Sierra Foothills. Painted Fields Curse of Knowledge is not just another red blend from another winery—it contains the authentic fruit of our labor.
Made in partnership with Philippe Melka and Maayan Koschitzky, two industry heavyweights, the wine is our first Bordeaux-style red blend; it comprises 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 18% Malbec, and 7% Merlot and aged 18 months in 20% new French oak barrels to create the perfect harmony between fruit and oak.
Andis Wines 2019 Painted Fields Curse of Knowledge, Sierra Foothills ($25)
A powerhouse wine that effortlessly releases red and blue fruit into a stream of violets and mountain brush. Fine acidity leans into an inner meatiness that keeps it as fresh as it is bold and complex. Floral and fruit aromatics persist through the finish.
93 points —Meridith May, SOMM Journal
Two words define Andy Friedlander’s move from a successful commercial real estate business in Hawaii to a vineyard and winery in Amador County: “Yes, dear.” After more than 50 years in real estate, Friedlander and his wife, Janis Akuna, a certified financial planner and financial advisor on Wall Street, were ready to start planning the next stages of their lives. The couple made a trip out to Amador County and within just a few days fell in love with the open spaces and communal camaraderie—not to mention the opportunity to purchase great vineyard land and build a brand. The idea for a winery, though, was Akuna’s, and Friedlander jokes that he “just obliged.” And so, Andis Wines was born.
Andis Wines completed construction of its 22,000 square-foot production and tasting facility in 2010. Today, the building, which is located on Shenandoah Road in Amador County, serves as a hub for visitors to the Sierra Foothills, hosting regional tastings and events. The wine brand has grown since its conception, increasing production up to 8,000 to 9,000 cases, depending on the vintage, to match both direct-to-consumer and wholesale success—and now the brand has moved into the next phase, what it calls a “bold new era.”
In 2016, Friedlander and Akuna contracted renowned winemaking consultant Philippe Melka and his company, Atelier Melka, to breathe new life into their brand, to produce more a modern style of wine from its estate vineyard, as well as the many vineyards they’ve purchased from. Andis Wines has always sourced from several heritage vineyards in the Amador County area, including the Original Grandpère Vineyard, owned and farmed by Terri Harvey in Upton, with its 150-year-old, gnarled Zinfandel vines. For Melka, working with Andis Wines is an organic evolution away from Cabernet Sauvignon in California—Andis was the right place, at the right time.
“The Foothills have a good microclimate, diversity of soils,” said Melka. “It’s very clean but shows depth of gravelly soils. It gives truth and is totally transparent.” Though Melka consults, it is Maayan Koschitzky who operates the day-to-day winemaking. Inspired by Melka, Koschitzky and the rest of Atelier Melka, Andis Wines also re-designed their labels with the 2017 vintage release to express the winery’s revived dedication to producing outstanding wine from the region.
The new labels feature either the winery facility on those wines made from younger vines, or a twisted Zinfandel vine for those made from old vines. Another new concept came from national sales manager, Lorenzo Muslia, to help explain to customers what Barbera is and what it should taste like. It was his idea to lean into the Italian heritage inherent to the region and create the “Barbera d’Amador,” a fun play on the traditional Italian Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba wines.
Viticulture in Amador began in the 1850s, when the area was flooded with eager Gold Rush hunters. Many of them were European and most Italian. These immigrants planted the first grapevines, and that Italian influence persists to this day. Zinfandel remains the most popular variety, and the Foothills is home to a few surviving vineyards that date back to the 1800s.
But Barbera also took a strong foot-hold. Typically used solely as a blender variety until the late 1980s, this thin-skinned and vigorous grape grew well in the hot, arid Amador climate and is still successful to this day. High-yielding vineyards can consistently produce 10 to 11 tons per acre, when left unchecked. Andis Wines never shied away from using it as a standalone variety. With its naturally high acid and low, smooth tannins, the red grape can produce a refreshing, food friendly wine from Amador—just like it can in Italy.
The 2017 vintage is the first that Koschitzky and Atelier Melka produced from start to finish. To make the Barbera d’Amador what it is today, Koschitzky built a new process line to deal with the softer skins, hoping to capture a fresher profile, control the tannins and tame the potentially overwhelming acid. He used a high percentage of whole berries and didn’t crush in order to achieve that profile. The 2017 vintage is still a very young wine, and Koschitzky pointed out that it has the potential to age well and hopes that, whether consumed now or put down for a few years, the end product showcases the high-quality of Sierra Foothills Barbera.
Going forward, Andis will continue its focus on wines of site, highlighting the best of older vines and the diversity of Amador and Sierra Foothills viticulture. In addition to Barbera, Andis produces four Zinfandels (three in its Old Vine Series), a Painted Fields Series (blends of local varieties), and varietally labeled Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Schioppettino, Grenache Noir, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc.