Arrowood Vineyards and Winery Sharpens its Focus

Although Cabernet was always a part of the Arrowood portfolio, it’s now their primary objective
Arrowood

Crafting an affordable, easy-to-find wine that is also distinct is no small feat.

For nearly 30 years, Arrowood has been making wines in Sonoma County. They were founded by Richard Arrowood and he made the wines for many years. Their current winemaker, Heidi von der Mehden, joined the team in 2007 and became the head winemaker four years ago. Over the years, their portfolio has shifted a bit. At one time they were a destination for a broad array of different varietals, but they have recently moved towards a more concentrated approach. What that means is that they’ve trained their lasers quite tightly on Cabernet Sauvignon. Although Cabernet was always a part of their portfolio, it’s now their primary objective. Arrowood is producing a range of Cabernets from a variety of locations in Sonoma County. A couple of weeks ago I sat down with Heidi at the winery and tasted through her current lineup of Cabernet Sauvignons. Each wine was impressive in its own right.

Arrowood Vineyards & Winery 2010 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

This is their largest production Cabernet, and it was produced using fruit sourced throughout Sonoma County. They produced 822 cases and it has a suggested retail price of $35. Bing cherry and mushroom aromas are prevalent on the nose of this Cabernet. The cherry characteristics continue on the palate, joined by raspberry and lots of earthiness. Black tea, minerals, and pepper spice inform the above average finish. This Cabernet is an outstanding value in its price category. While it’s meant to drink in its youth, it’ll hold nicely for the next five years.

Arrowood Vineyards & Winery 2010 Smothers-Remick Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon

This single vineyard effort comes from fruit sourced just up the road from the winery. A mere 288 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $80. Leather and black cherry aromas dominate the nose of this wine; vanilla bean plays a supporting role. The palate is rich and round with lush red and black fruit flavors. The opulent and appealing fruit flavors carry through the finish where they’re joined by prominent espresso and chocolate characteristics. Drink this wine over the next decade.

Arrowood Vineyards & Winery 2010 Justi Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

This single vineyard effort is entirely Cabernet Sauvignon. Only 237 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $70. Raspberry aromas inform a powerful and welcoming nose. The palate is studded with generous fruit flavors that come at you in juicy droves. Black and red cherry and raspberry are all present. Bits of kirsch liqueur emerge on the long and persistent finish along with bits of chicory. If you enjoy your Cabernet a bit fuller bodied and full of eager fruit, while still within proportion, this is the wine for you.

Arrowood Vineyards & Winery 2009 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine was produced from fruit soured at the famed namesake vineyard and it’s 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Just 243 cases of this Cabernet were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $80. Mission fig, savory herbs, and black cherry aromas are in evidence on the nose of this wine. The palate is loaded with dark chocolate, dark berry fruits, and gingerbread spices. Earth and pencil lead are prominent on the finish along with continued chocolate elements. Firm, gripping tannins and racy acidity lend to the wonderful structure of this wine. It’s delicious now but will benefit from time in the bottle. If you’re patient, lay it down for a decade and drink it in theseven or eight years after that.Heidi is working hard to craft unique expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon, and these represent Sonoma County well as a whole.

Arrowood Vineyards & Winery 2009 Réserve Spéciale Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine is a cuvée style offering from fruit sourced at four vineyard sites. Winemaker Heidi von der Mehden identifies the best lots for this wine. It has a suggested retail price of $90. Black raspberry, cherry and blackberry aromas are all part of the nose here. The palate is loaded with flavors and elements of red and dark fruits. Bits of spice are present as well with black pepper and clove of note. The finish is long with earth, continued spice, and bits of oak present. This is a very cohesive wine with all the elements well integrated to form a seamless offering of depth, length and precision. It’s very tasty now, particularly after decanting, but will age well and drink nicely for the next dozen years.

What stood out most to me about these wines is how distinct they are from one another. Too often I’ve tasted through a producer’s portfolio and the offerings  are hard to distinguish from one another. This is not the case here at all. Heidi is working hard to craft unique expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon. They represent Sonoma County well as a whole. The vineyard-specific examples nicely showcase the respective plots of land and what each of those places is about. These wines are all terrific Cabernets, but in some ways I am most impressed by the Sonoma County wine. That widely available wine is a tremendous example of Cabernet made in a somewhat broader style. Crafting an affordable, easy-to-find wine that is also distinct is no small feat. For all those reasons, the Sonoma County Cabernet is a homerun. It’s also a fine place to dive into their portfolio, but dig deeper and explore their other fine Cabernets; they all show off what can be accomplished in Sonoma County.

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