Our Vintage Port is a blend of six traditional Douro Valley Por-tuguese varieties - Bastardo, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cao, and Souzao all grown in our Sierra Foot-hill vineyard. Each variety is individually harvested at optimal maturity, hand-sorted, destemmed and crushed to open-top fermentors. A relatively light but perfect harvest delivered in-credibly intense flavor-packed grapes that were ideal for a vin-tage port.
It’s fairly obvious to those that have visited our winery that we didn’t enter the wine business to feed our egos. It wasn’t a lifestyle choice, a summer home, or the need to have our name on a wine label. We were not Hollywood transplants or financial tycoons. Our story is one borne of necessity.
In 1970 my parents purchased 43 acres in the Jackson Valley of Amador County. My father was born and raised on a dairy, grew up farming and caring for the land, but had no direct winegrowing experience. It was recommended that winegrapes would do well on our ranch so they went about planting 30 acres of Zinfandel. This was an era of Martini lunches and bourbon and water. Fine wine was just entering the American conscience.
My father’s entrepreneurial tendencies led him to partner in a fine wine shop in the mid 1970’s. It was through this experience that he discovered his love of wine and particularly the incredible Port wines of Portugal’s Douro Valley. Always the restless sort, he soon had contacted UC Davis to see what Portuguese varieties were available to plant in California. At a time when American growers, vintners, and consumers were just beginning to hear about Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay he planted Touriga, Tinta Cao, Alvarelhao, Souzao, and Bastardo in our Amador County vineyard.
Those first Portuguese grapes ripened in the fall of 1981. They, along with all of our grapes, were sold to a now defunct winery named JW Morris. Shortly after harvest my father received a tip that the winery was going to file for bankruptcy leaving us holding the bag. He quickly set out in his pickup truck to reclaim whatever was decent. Arriving at a nearly deserted warehouse he soon discovered 300 gallons of a young port wine from our Amador County vineyard. He colorfully instructed the reluctant cellar worker to load that wine in his pickup.
Traveling along I-80, bootleg in tow, he soon concluded that he was quite capable of going broke himself, and that he wasn’t going to allow someone else to do it for him. He called a friend who owned a winery and asked if he could store this port for him. He realized that selling a wine bottle by bottle was preferable to going broke, and thus St. Amant Winery was born. At the time, he reckoned that St.Amant, my mother’s maiden name, sounded a lot better on a bottle of wine than Spencer.
That first wine, our 1981 Vintage Port, was a hit and still stands as a testament to all that is possible with these unique varieties in our vineyard.