Wine Review: Amplify “Duke and Ella” White Blend and 2017 Carignane Santa Ynez

amplifyAmplify is the project of Cameron and Marlen Porter, once denizens of the music industry who returned to their Santa Barbara origins to make music of a different sort. Although their wines qualify as “natural” or “low-intervention” using only a little sulfur at bottling as a preservative, they exhibit an intentional style. Cameron explains each wine “starts with an idea of what we’re trying to communicate” yet always with a focus on “how do you amplify the voice of the site” and embracing happy accidents when they occur.

These wines have the zest and lithe body of other “natural wines” but with something different—a richness and polish that sets them apart.

Their “Duke and Ella” white blend for 2017 is a co-fermentation of under-ripe Riesling and very ripe Viognier named for another famous pair—Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. Like its namesake, this wine is good natured but intense and remarkably unique. Honeyed, with youthful floral notes, lemon, and subtle smoke on the nose, the palate is medium bodied with a gentle, transparent minerality supported by a elongated, creamy midpalate. The finish is textured with bursts of intensity as if Coltrane had stumbled into Duke and Ella’s session. Unfined, unfiltered, fermented using native yeast and aged in neutral oak for 5 months.

Its good nature is belied by something wild or unsettling, like a good blues tune.

Much of the Duke and Ella songbook is a bit too smiley-face for this wine, but E and D Blues helped along by the abstraction of Ella’s scat settled in nicely.

Score: 92  Price: $22 Alc: 13.1%

Their flagship wine, the 2017 Carignane, a relatively rare varietal in California, is equally unique. Sourced from Camp 4 Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, 30% of the grapes undergo carbonic maceration giving the strawberry and cherry notes a candied aura kept in check by robust orange zest and an earthy background. The palate feels light but the round mouthfeel yields a subtle richness enhanced by plum that provides a sense of depth. There is a steely layer underlying the fruit—this is candy with attitude. Glassy and calm at midpalate, the finish accelerates becoming remarkably active with bursting intensities of dried orange peel. The tannins are soft, a spectral presence adding subtle heft. Barrel fermented and aged 5 months in neutral oak.

The Cindy Lauper tune “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” captures the attitude of this wine, innocent but consumed with latent desire expressed by the plea “I want to be the one to walk in the sun”.

Score: 90  Price: $23   Alc. 13.6

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