Profiles in wine: Vicky Farrow launches Sparkling Discoveries, online community for sparkling wine lovers
Vicky Farrow’s earliest memory of sparkling wine is Cold Duck: a fizzy, cloying concoction of red and white wine blended with Concord grape juice.
She wasn’t impressed.
“My parents used to celebrate with it years ago, and it was just awful,” said Farrow, co-owner of Amista Vineyards in Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Valley. “It was hard to find good sparkling wine back then!”
Times certainly have changed.
Last fall, Farrow launched Sparkling Discoveries (sparklingdiscoveries.com), a website that showcases in-depth conversations with leaders in the sparkling wine world, as well as news, education and resources for all things sparkling wine.
Her hope is that the platform will foster a sense of connection among sparkling winemakers and enthusiasts while celebrating “the magic behind the sparkle.”
This isn’t Farrow’s first foray into bubbles, however.
At Amista Vineyards, which Farrow co-founded with her husband, Mike Farrow, in 2005, sparkling wine is a lead actress in the show.
While the Farrows hadn’t intended to specialize in bubbles, they found serendipitous success with an experimental batch of sparkling syrah rosé, which proved to be an instant hit with customers.
Today, Amista produces seven bottles of bubbles, including a mataró (mourvèdre), syrah, grenache and blanc du blancs. Farrow said they love to experiment with new sparkling wines, especially Rhone varietals, and the winery will release a new sparkling GSM (red Rhone) blend this May.
“The wine is a beautiful dark pink color with lots of complexity,” Farrow said. “The lightness of the grenache, richness of the syrah and cherry notes of the mourvèdre are a wonderful combination. It goes with all kinds of food.”
Dig a little deeper, however, and Farrow will tell you sparkling wine is more than a delicious accompaniment for food.
“When I pop a cork and the bubbles rise, I see the joy it brings people,” Farrow said. “It’s celebratory, but it’s more than that. It’s something you want to share. We all need more joy in our lives.”
That joy is what drove Farrow to launch Sparkling Discoveries, a website she had initially envisioned as blog about her personal journey into wine. She quickly found she was more interested to hear others’ stories.
“A friend recommended I interview people about how they got started in the sparkling wine industry and the lessons they learned along the way,” Farrow said. “I loved the idea of sharing their stories, so the blog morphed into Sparkling Discoveries.”
For now, Farrow is doing all the interviews and writing for the site herself, but she said she would like to have other people contribute.
“I don’t feel like I need to do it all, but I’m having so much fun,” she said. “Everyone in the industry seems to be connected, so it’s been a blast meeting so many neat people.”
But Farrow is clear: Sparkling Discoveries is not an e-commerce platform. That would turn it into work, she said. Instead, she’s hoping to keep the website “brand agnostic” and focus on the faces behind the fizz.
Farrow also talked about her favorite pairings and what industry shift allowed Amista to make sparkling wine.
Question: What’s one of your favorite sparkling wine pairings?
Answer: The sparkling syrah from Amista Vineyards is perfect for Thanksgiving. The wine spends some time on the skins, which gives it a little body, so it can stand up to the dinner but still be light enough to go with the cranberries. It’s light and refreshing and brings joy to the table. What more could you want?
Q: What is one of the biggest shifts you’ve seen in the sparkling wine industry?
A: Over the last decade, companies like Rack & Riddle (a custom sparkling wine facility) have made it possible for small wineries like Amista to make a sparkling wine. We never could have afforded the capital investment if it weren’t for them. Now the little wineries and big wineries are able to make nice sparkling wines.
Q: Know any silly sparkling wine tricks?
A: One of my favorite things is to drop a single raspberry into a glass of sparkling wine. The bubbles will form around the berry until it suddenly flips over. It’s so cool! You can have a race with others to see whose berry flips first.
You can reach Staff Writer Sarah Doyle at 707-521-5478 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wine & Lifestyle Reporter
Wine is the indelible heartbeat of Sonoma County. As the wine industry continues to evolve, my job is to share the triumphs, challenges and trends that affect our local wine region, while highlighting the people — past and present — who have contributed to its success. In addition, I cover spirits, beer and on occasion, other lifestyle topics.
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