For many of the best winemakers, their winemaking began as a passion project. For Andrew Beckham of Beckham Estate Vineyard, his process is actually a combination of two passions: wine and ceramics via handmade terracotta amphorae (i.e. vessels) that are used to ferment the estate grown wine.
The ceramics came first. As a potter and full-time high school ceramics teacher, Andrew is a bona fide clay expert. His intricate and artful vases (sold in the winery’s tasting room) are stunning and he relishes the experience of creating a level-playing field between students of all different walks of life in his ceramics classroom.
The wine…that actually came later. When Andrew and his wife Annedria moved to their hillside home in Sherwood, they quickly became friends with their neighbors of La Bonne Terre Vineyard, whom eventually supplied the first clones for their own vineyard. As the Beckham’s family grew, so did the vineyard. One fateful day, Annedria showed Andrew an article about winemaking in amphorae, which is defined as a tall Greek or Roman jar with two handles and a narrow neck that dates back to as early as 10,000 B.C.
Annedria and Andrew both knew that an evolution toward their own amphorae project was inevitable—excitingly so! Just a short walk from the charming Beckham Estate tasting room stands the Beckham Estate studio. Here, Andrew creates the impressive amphorae, which are tall and weigh a few hundred pounds more than most fully-grown adults. While Andrew instructs his high school students on how to create hollows in their ceramic pieces with their thumbs, Andrew uses his full arm to create the deep belly of each amphorae, using a coiling method to build each vessel’s height.
Here’s an important note: the amphorae isn’t just neat. It also creates great wine. Under the A.D. Beckham label, Beckham Estate Vineyard’s 2013 vintage included about 280 liters of amphorae-fermented Pinot Noir and an orange-style Pinot Gris.
We know, we’ve only scratched the surface of this fascinating project. Luckily, you can learn more about Beckham Estate Vineyard’s amphorae process here:
- Vintner Molds Amphora-Making Business from Wine-Searcher
- Homemade Amphorae from Wine & Spirits magazine
- Coming Soon to A Wine Near You: Ancient Amphorae from Forbes