Once in a while my schedule and the Fine Wine Source coincides like the recent day when I was able to do a tasting of wines from Arrow & Branch Estate Vineyard of Napa Valley. The winery pays homage to the Contursi family’s success in the rare coin business. They are famed numismatists that have handled most of the fabled coins of the United States of America, and the ones that they haven’t are basically residing in permanent museum collections across the country. The name refers to the eagle found on the obverse of most of the original coin design who is grasping arrows and an olive branch in its talons and it symbolizes that America is a peace-loving nation that is willing to defend itself in times of need. The winery also pays homage to Benjamin Franklin, the first Renaissance Man of America, who helped draft the papers of the country, instituted the Postal System for British North America and was the first Ambassador to France. Steve and Seanne Contursi fell in love with the wines of Bordeaux and decided that they wanted to make that style of wines in Napa Valley, especially wines showcasing Cabernet Franc as they fell in love with Chateau Cheval Blanc, and who could blame them.
They were out looking for property and everything fell in place when they were able to buy the Etude Wines estate of Tony Soter who was famed for his “Little Creek” Cabernet Franc wine. The Contursis now had the ability to live both in Laguna Beach and on their new vineyard, and they were able to have the key element of their liking of a classic Cabernet Franc, as they felt the other varietals would fall into place. They have a passion and a commitment to create the best Bordeaux style wine regardless of time and money, and that includes diminishing crop output if need be to ensure the best fruit is harvested. The vineyards that they use are considered the top in the valley. The Estate Vineyard is in Coombsville, while in Carneros there is Cuvasion Vineyard, Atlas Peak has the Stagecoach Vineyard, Oakville has the Vine Hill Ranch and in St. Helena they avail themselves from the Criscione Vineyard, the Lewelling Vineyard, the Wheeler Farms Winery and the Beckstoffer Dr. Crane.
The first wine of the tasting was the Arrow & Branch Sauvignon 2017. Some people will automatically cry foul, that here is a winery that wants to emulate Bordeaux and the first wine is a Sauvignon Blanc, and for some odd reason the white wines of the region are forgotten about except for the classic dessert wines of Sauternes and Barsac, but who would turn their nose at a white Graves like Chateau Haut-Brion. The Sauvignon Blanc from Graves is totally different from what is normally found in California, and in the Pacific Islands. This wine is pure Sauvignon Blanc made entirely from the Stagecoach Vineyard from rootstock and clones that were planted five years ago, specifically for Arrow & Branch. The wine is Barrel Fermented and then aged on fine lees for six months in a mix of Stainless Steel and French Oak (both one year old and neutral). The bright acidity is what just jumps out at you, when tasting this wine, it is not a meek and mild wine, as this wine wants to be recognized for its own personality and it was very refreshing. I couldn’t wait to try the other wines.