Groth Vineyards and Winery

There’s a certain mystique about visiting Groth (www.grothwines.com).  When we tell knowledgeable friends that we’ve been there, we often get that look, as though we had joined them as members of a secret society of wine insiders.  It’s hard to call Groth a cult wine but many of those who love their wines treat it that way.

So let’s deal with the wines first, before discussing the tasting experience there.  They make Cabernet Sauvignon.  Oh yes, they grow other Bordeaux blending grapes and they do have some white wines.  But believe us (and the Groth people themselves) Groth is all about Cab.  We don’t review wines at Power Tasting, but suffice it to say that their Cabernet Sauvignons are rather good and have won awards over the 40+ years they have been growing grapes and making wines.

The entrance to the Groth winery.

You don’t just drop in for a tasting at Groth.  Their policy is strictly “by appointment only”.  So, as you drive along the shady Oakville Cross Road and see Groth’s remarkable building, you will want to visit.  To do so, however, you would have needed to make a reservation well in advance.

The building seems from afar like a pink stucco Spanish hacienda.  It is set well off the road behind acres of vines, so that when you actually do approach you might find it surprising to see how large it is.  That’s because it’s an industrial property where people crush grapes, age wine and then bottle and sell it.  But it is also the home of the Groth family, so a visit to the winery is also a house call.

Inside the Groth winery.

That spirit is carried forward by the guide assigned to your visit who shows you round and serves you some wine.  The hacienda feeling is enhanced by the furnishings, made of gleaming wood and seemingly antique.  The daughter of the winery’s founder, now in charge of their operations, had once intended to be a professional artist and you can see several of her paintings on the walls.

Not surprisingly, the guides talk reverently about the Groths, particularly the founder, Dennis.  We’ve also heard that tone applied to winery owners who inherited their wealth or bet early on Microsoft.  When you walk around the winery, you might see old photos of Mr. Groth with fellows such as Mr. Mondavi, Mr. Winiarski and Mr. Heitz, you realize that he was one of Napa Valley’s pioneers.  True, the Groth family came to the valley “only” in 1982.  They intended to make fine Bordeaux style wines and they did it.  It’s no mean feat to look back on your career and say that you accomplished your goal.

All that history means nothing to the visitor if the essentials aren’t there.  But fine architecture, a warm greeting and good wine should always go together in Wine Country.  Sadly, that’s not always the case in Napa Valley and elsewhere.  Visitors should treasure the combination when they encounter it, as we have done at Groth.

 

Conn Creek Winery

In Napa Valley, there are some wineries that are very famous for the quality of the wine they make and sometimes for the wine they used to make.  Conn Creek may not be the most famous name in the valley, but we would say that it is definitely a winery worth visiting, for newbies and experienced tasters as well.

Conn Creek Winery.  Photo courtesy of Yountville.com.

There are a number of reasons for saying this.  Conn Creek was established in 1973, prior to the famous Judgment of Paris tasting that established northern California as a winemaking area worthy of international repute.  These pioneering wineries, which include the more famous ones such as Stag’s Leap, Mondavi and Chateau Montelena, are worth knowing if only because of the accumulated expertise that only the decades can bring.

It is also one of the earliest environmentally sustainable wineries.  They proudly assert that Conn Creek is certified as a “Napa Green” winery.  Their website boasts that the original facility was built with 12-inch walls stuffed with 20,000 corks.  (We’re not certain what those corks have to do with sustainability, but it’s an interesting factoid.)

Of course, the primary reason to visit is to taste their wines.  Here Conn Creek’s philosophy of winemaking in Napa Valley comes into play.  For openers, the house specialty is Cabernet Sauvignon, as is true of many wineries in the region.  Conn Creek does grow some of their grapes on their own 2½ acres, which is not a lot.  The rest of their production comes from sourced grapes from everywhere in the valley.  And we do mean everywhere.  In their tasting room you can compare and contrast Cabernet Sauvignons from Diamond Mountain, Stags Leap, Chiles Valley, St. Helena, Calistoga, Spring Mountain, Rutherford, Oakville, Atlas Peak, Howell Mountain and Mt. Veeder.  What a tour!

What Conn Creek is proudest of is their premier wine, Anthology.  This is a made from grapes from all over Napa Valley.  Almost every year, it’s a blend, differing each year in the composition.  For the most part, they make a Bordeaux blend, plus or minus one or two of the “official” grapes.  In 2017 and 2018, they made Anthology from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, but even that was a blend of AVAs.  Conn Creek tells us that they have returned to blends, but with fewer varietals.

Part of the display of the single vineyard versions of Cabernet Sauvignon

In the tasting room, there is a display explaining the way that Conn Creek approaches winemaking, with soil samples and explanations of the characteristics of the grapes from each vineyard they source from.  Moreover, Conn Creek offers a very interesting course in an area adjoining the tasting room.  They call it “The Barrel Blending Experience” (with a little registered trademark sign).  After explaining and sampling the different single vineyard wines, the participants are given the chance to create their own blends.  For one thing, it creates appreciation of what real winemakers do to get the perfect blend into a bottle.  For another, everyone gets to take home his or her own version of Anthology.

For many years, we drove past Conn Creek as we were going somewhere else along the Silverado Trail or up in the mountains.  Now we often make a point to stop and see what they have been making, and how their wines have evolved over time.

Darioush Winery

There’s the jewelry store around the corner, and then there’s Tiffany.  There’s your favorite diner, and then there’s French Laundry.  So there are Napa palaces, and then there’s Darioush.

The entrance to Darioush Winery.

From the time that it opened in 2004, the Darioush “hospitality center” has stood out for its architecture, its wine, its shopping and, to our point of view, its excess.  Power Tasting is dedicated to the wine tasting experience.  We put the emphasis on tasting wine as a vacation activity and a pleasant avocation.  We have found that Darioush places the emphasis on the experience, more so than the wine itself.

Let us hasten to say Darioush does make some very fine wines.  Their style runs to big, round, powerful wines.  A number of them are based on Bordeaux grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.  In our opinion, the strength of Darioush’s list resides in their Rhone grapes: Viognier and Shiraz.  At Darioush, the grape is called Shiraz, not Syrah; what animates the Darioush winery is the glory that was once Persia, where the grape originated.

 

The name of the founder, Darioush Khaledi, harkens back to the great Persian emperor Darius, which not coincidentally is the name of their top-of-the-line Cabernet Sauvignon.  The proprietor is an Iranian immigrant to the United States who made his fortune in the grocery business and then entered the world of wine.  He built his Persian temple alongside Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail so that it would be noticed.

 

Tasting at Darioush.

It certainly can’t be missed.  Out front, there is a flaming cauldron that heralds a colonnade of pillars topped with Persian-like double sculptures of horses.  These lead to a large building made of warm, honey-toned stones.  The interior is equally commanding, with more columns holding up a high ceiling and a skylight, over a large, square tasting bar.  Scattered around are small rooms and nooks for private seated tastings; these too are furnished in Persian style.

Along the walls and in the corners are items for sale: purses, scarves, knick-knacks and wine-related implements.  All of them are exquisite and, as we were told by a Darioush representative, “our clients expect the items we sell to be expensive”.

And that says everything about the winery.  Everything about it, including the wine, is designed to overwhelm the visitors’ senses.  You are certainly invited to try and enjoy the wines, in the context of beauty, refinement and luxury.

It is notable that the building is called a hospitality center, not a tasting room.  The owners say that the experience at their winery is based on the culture of “Tarof”, a Persian word that can indeed be translated as “hospitality” but also with connotations of an emphasis on deference and social rank.  You are surely welcome, in the same sense as a visit to your wealthy uncle.  You are introduced to many wonderful and precious things, but in the end you feel smaller, rather than enriched.

Sparkling Pointe Vineyards and Winery

There are no wineries on Long Island’s North Fork that are anything like the palaces that have grown up in some parts of California’s Wine Country.  The closest is Sparkling Pointe, in Southold.  In fairness, the architecture is not palatial.  From the outside, the building that houses the tasting room is reminiscent of a mansion in an upscale suburb.  The interior is grand without being overwhelming, with widely spaced tables, crystal chandeliers and lively contemporary artwork.

The exterior of Sparkling Pointe.  Photo courtesy of The Knot.

However, if you visit on a day with fair weather (which we have been lucky enough to find when we’ve been there) you’ll walk through the tasting room, note the wide bar and allow yourself to be seated on the spacious patio overlooking the vineyards.  Ahh, this is wonderful…and it can only be improved by being served some sparkling wine.  Which, as the name indicates, is what they make at Sparkling Pointe.

 

The view from the terrace in front of the vineyards.

Although Sparkling Pointe advertises openly that they use the méthode champenoise, it’s not Champagne, which can only be made in the eponymous region of France.  There have been other North Fork wineries that have made wine with bubbles in it, but to our tastes there’s nothing else there that approaches the quality of Sparkling Pointe.  We at Power Tasting do not review wines, but rather the wine tasting experience.  That said, we find that this winery’s sparkling wines can stand up to those of their California cousins.

All tastings are seated, with service offered from a fairly wide cross-section of Sparkling Pointe’s wines.  Flights are available as are individual glasses.  There are assemblages of the three Champagne grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  They also make blanc de blancs, blanc de noirs and a rosé.

Of course, each sparkling wine has its own characteristics and each taster will find some that they prefer to the others.  We were taken by the rosé, but there’s no reason for us to believe that everyone will agree with us.  But, wow, it is fun to have six small flutes in front of yourself and get to make a choice.

Too many Long Island vineyards attract visitors with rock bands, pizza trucks and an overall carnival atmosphere.  Sparkling Pointe is all about the wines, so there’s none of that.  However, like many Long Island wineries, Sparkling Pointe has a side business as a venue for weddings.  For the most part, this shouldn’t affect wine tasters, unless they happen to be there near the end of the day when revelers are beginning to assemble.

To a degree, this problem is ameliorated by a “by reservation only” policy.  However, we have never had a reservation and have never seen a crowd at Sparkling Pointe.  That may be because of our policy of tasting at Long Island wineries on weekdays, just as we try to do in California.  If you know that you will be there on a Saturday afternoon in high summer, a reservation is a good idea.

As is the case with several of the newer North Fork wineries, Sparkling Pointe is showing how dedication and money can help the Long Island corner of Wine Country reach its potential.  It’s well worth traveling from New York City, or elsewhere, to be a part of the journey.

 

Écluse Wines

Écluse Wines (www.eclisewines.com), in Paso Robles, offers wine tasting the way it used to be in the long gone Napa Valley times.  The tastings are held in the barrel room.  The bottles are laid out on a plank between two barrels.  And if you’re lucky, your glass will be filled by the owner and winemaker, Steve Lock.

Steve Lock, proprietor and winemaker, Écluse Wines.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

Mr. Lock and his wife Pam started their vineyard in 1997 and began making wine from their own property in 2001.  They have focused on Bordeaux and Rhône grapes ever since.  And, of course, since they’re in Paso Robles, they grow Zinfandel.

The setting of Écluse, atop a hill off a back road in Paso Robles, is quite rustic.  However, there’s nothing bucolic about the winemaking.  They are quite proud of the awards they have won, especially those from the San Francisco Chronicle’s annual wine competition.

The Central Coast climate leads to very high sugar concentrations.  The Locks believe in letting their grapes ripen to their peak flavors, so the alcohol content of their wines tends to run quite high.  Since they offer a significant number of their wines at each tasting, a bit of restraint is in order for the visitors.

Those wines fall into two categories.  There are single varietal wines, such as Merlot, Malbec and Zinfandel.  But then there are blends.  For a few examples, Ensemble is Écluse’s five-grape Bordeaux blend.  This you will find elsewhere. The others are like nothing else you’re likely to find in the Central Coast, or in all of California for that matter.  Improv is Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah, Merlot, Malbec and Carignan. Insider has Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec (not so unusual) but half the wine is made from Tannat grapes!  A visit at Écluse is like a trip to Australia, without having to cross the Pacific.

The barrel room at Écluse.  Photo courtesy of Paso Robles Wineries.

Another distinguishing feature of a tasting at Écluse is that all of them include a barrel tasting.  If they’re not too crowded and you show genuine interest, Mr. Lock may treat you to an extraordinary experience.  He’ll draw wine from three barrels, each with oak of a different origin: France, Hungary and the United States.  The wine you taste will be from the same grape and vintage so the only differentiator is the wood.  This is an unforgettable experiment that offers proof of Écluse’s commitment to their wines.

Écluse is only open from Thursday through Sunday and reservations are advisable.  But we have found that if you’re not going to be in Paso Robles on the weekend, a call might win you a private tasting, if they can accommodate you.

There’s a sly play on words in the name.  Écluse is the French word for lock, of the sort that are found on canals to raise and lower the boats.  Pictures of a lock are on the labels and considering the family name of the owner…

 

 

McCall Wines

Driving along Route 25 on Long Island’s North Fork isn’t much like motoring up Napa Valley’s Route 29.  Yes, there are wineries on both sides, but the California version is much grander.  There are a few wineries in Long Island with architecture that’s impressive, such as Raphael and Pellegrini, but most are understated.  Architecturally speaking, McCall is understated to the point of a whisper.  As you drive up to the winery, it seems like it could be farmhouse or a stable.

The tasting room at McCall Wines.

Well, it was a stable.  The owner, Russell McCall, is a horseman.  The tasting room has retained its equine charm, with a décor of saddles, farm implements  pictures of Mr. McCall playing polo.  Two of the stalls have been retained and you can taste your wine in them, if that’s your wish.   There is a small bar but tasting is done as table service, outside in the summer.

The site has historic interest.  It was once a meeting place of local Native Americans, known hundreds of years ago as Fort Corchaug.  The vineyard at the winery (they have another nearby) is still known as the Corchaug.  In good weather, we prefer to leave the stable behind us and sit at a picnic table on an expansive lawn overlooking that vineyard.

Tasting by the vines.

McCall also raises cattle on the property.  One of the popular attractions at the winery is Burger nights on seasonable Thursdays and Fridays, with the main attraction made from their own Charolais beef.  It may be a little unsettling to know that what you’re eating once lived just over there, but we recommend you wash down your concern with some wine.

We were first attracted to McCall by their Pinot Noirs, of which there are four.  It’s not a grape that is generally found on the North Fork, where Bordeaux grapes are more commonly grown.  These wines are not Burgundies, nor are they much like Pinot Noirs from Russian River.  They have their own local character.  You’ll have to judge for yourself how Long Island terroir plus maritime breezes work for these wines.

There are also Chardonnays and Rosés to sample.  But the star of the show, to our tastes, is a Bordeaux Blend they call Ben’s Blend, named for their founding winemaker.  McCall ages these wines – the youngest available for sale in 2022 is the 2014 vintage – and we find it more Californian in character and quality than any other red wine we have tasted from a Long Island winery.

One thing we appreciated when we last visited was that the winemaker, Miguel Martin, walked around to each table and had a few words with the patrons.  Mr. Martin is a Napa Valley veteran, transplanted to the East Coast.  We were quite impressed with the experience of wine tasting at McCall and urge visitors to the North Fork to include it on their itineraries.

A. Rafanelli Winery

You may have tasted a Rafanelli wine and if you did, it was probably in California and it was probably a Zinfandel, the wine they’ve been best known for for decades.  If you tell someone about what you tasted, they’ll either give you a dull look indicating that they’ve never heard of it or you’ll get a knowing nod that says that you’re now an initiate in a special club of Rafanelli admirers.

It’s not a winery that’s off the beaten path, since it sits on a hill along the well-travelled West Dry Creek Road.  And while you can go there for a tasting, you will need an appointment, which is not that easily come by.  (You even need an appointment to buy wine.)  When you go, you won’t find yourself in a handsome tasting room with servers waiting on you.  You’ll be in the barrel room with a worker who will be back growing grapes or making wine as soon as you leave.  Rafanelli is a throwback to an earlier era of wine tasting, one that is rapidly fading away as wine tasting has become a popular attraction for tourists.

Sometime in the early 1900’s, Alberto Rafanelli came over from Italy with his wife Letizia and planted vines.  It’s not clear whether those were Zinfandel grapes; in those days immigrant farmers planted whatever they could and mixed vines together in the fields.  By mid-century, their son Americo had moved the winery to its current location and had focused on Zinfandel.  From then to now, a Rafanelli Zin is a powerful, deep, fruit forward wine.  Was Dry Creek Valley famous for Zinfandel before the Rafanelli’s started cultivating it or did they cultivate it because the grape does well in Dry Creek.  Who knows?  And really, who cares except for the family itself.

As a visitor, what you should care about is what they serve you.  Some things you know in advance: It will be red wine.  You’ll certainly get to taste the Zinfandel.  You’ll get a feel for winemaking more than salesmanship.  You will probably be given a little of their other wines, variously going from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon to a 60-40 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend.  Their top-rated wine, the Terrace Select, does not show up often in tastings (at least to our experience).

You will be in a working winery when you visit, no palaces here.  There is a loveliness about the location, though, sitting on a hill, surrounded by flowers.  We have a particular fondness for springtime, when the hill is alive with daffodils.

There’s another factor that makes a visit to Rafanelli attractive.  The management, winemaking and vineyard cultivation are in the hands Alberto’s great-grandchildren.  In this highly commercial age, it is rare to discover a family-owned winery, much less one that is carried on to the fourth generation.  Though we don’t know this as a fact, we believe that this tradition gives Rafanelli the freedom to make wines as they like them and not as some marketing department tells them to do.  We’re sure that the family hopes you like what they do, but they’re going to continue to do it their way.

Mattebella Vineyards

When we first arrived at Mattebella Vineyards (www.mattebella.com) we were a bit flummoxed.  For one thing, we couldn’t see a winery from the parking lot.  What we did see was a statue of a large red dog guarding the vineyards.  Had we stumbled on at the home of Clifford the Big Red Dog by accident?  But no, a few feet further along there was a statue of a large blue dog, and this one had an air tank in its back.

A statue of a large red dog stands in front of the vines.

A bit further on, there was a quite inviting garden, with tables, umbrellas, gazebos, sofas and people seemingly at an elegant party, sipping wine and snacking on charcuterie from large planks.  Had we crashed a private party?

In a short while, someone led us to an empty table besides rose bushes and, in time, a woman came by offering us the tasting list.  (We didn’t know at the time that the woman was the co-proprietor, Christine Tobin.  Her husband Mark is the winemaker and the winery is named for their children, Matthew and Isabella.) This was not the usual offering of the latest releases of the winery’s production.  There were red and white verticals available!  A rosé described as Provencal.  And the aforementioned platters of meats, cheeses, olives and baguettes.

But where was the tasting room?

A tasting at Mattebella is like being at an elegant garden party.

By this point we realized that visiting Mattebella is all about the wine tasting experience, exactly what Power Tasting stands for.  When you go into Wine Country, it should not be for the purposes of drinking.  You should be there for sipping, savoring, exploring wines.  It’s for tasting them in an atmosphere that you would hope to be in when you open a bottle with friends and loved ones, surrounded by beauty.  You should be encouraged to make the wine the center point but not the totality of a sensual encounter: yes, the taste but also the aroma, the visual pleasure of your surroundings, a whisper of a breeze in the trees.  This is what Mattebella delivers.

Of course it would all be for naught if the wines weren’t worthwhile.  Fortunately, Mattebella’s are quite good indeed.  And the way in which they are presented, along with the little lecture introducing the wines to you, doubles the pleasure.

We were very impressed with a vertical of their Chardonnays ranging from 2013 through 2018.  First of all, who serves verticals these days?  And who serves what any other winery would call library wines?  We were told that they use both oak and steel containers to age their wines, to provide balance and aging potential.  It was eye-opening (well, more tastebuds than eyes) to see how in each preceding year the Chablis-like austereness of the wines gave way to a more rounded finish, with the oak more distinct.

There is a small building that they refer to as a tasting cottage, so you can visit Mattebella when the weather doesn’t cooperate.  (Except, so they warn, when it snows.)  But reservations are made for the gardens, and a rainstorm would definitely spoil the experience.

This was our first time visiting Mattebella.  We are quite certain it won’t be our last.  We walked in without a reservation and were lucky to be seated because it was towards the end of the day.  Next time, we’ll reserve.

 

Robert Young Estate Winery

They say that in Sonoma County, the farmer is king.  And in Alexander Valley, Robert Young (www.ryew.com) was the king of farmers.  Born in 1919 and passing away 90 years later, Young was one of those wine pioneers who had the temerity to pull out fruit trees and plant Cabernet Sauvignon.  Keeping in mind that the farm had been in his family since the mid-19th century, that took a lot of guts.

He was a “winegrower” as he styled himself, not a winemaker.  He raised premium crops and sold his grapes to such houses as Château St. Jean, Blackstone, Clos du Bois, Simi and others.  Château St. Jean was the first Sonoma winery to identify a particular vineyard on its label and make a single-vineyard wine.  That Chardonnay is still one of their biggest sellers.

Photo courtesy of the winery.

All this history is fine, but how does that translate into a reason to visit the winery?  For one thing, there is a winery and a tasting room, but only since 2010.  It seems that the younger Youngs, who operate the family farm for yet another generation, pressed Grandpa to press some of the best of his grapes himself.

Getting there is half the fun.  You drive off the northern end of Alexander Valley Road onto Red Winery Road.  (There is no red winery to be seen, but there must have been once.)  If you’re there on a lazy summer afternoon, you’ll be all alone on a windy road surrounded by nothing but farmland – mostly vines – with some well-placed trees and open sky.  You’ll know when you get to Robert Young, because there’s nothing else around.

Scion House.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

In old Robert’s day, the tasting room was in a building that appeared to be the ancestral farmhouse.  It wasn’t, but the effect was pleasing.  Today, there’s an aptly named Scion House that serves as the tasting room.  It isn’t a farmhouse and never will be, but it has that vibe.

We don’t review wines at Power Tasting; we write about the experience of wine tasting on travels through Wine Country.  And as we have written before, when you consider that each winery has its fans, they’re all good.  At Robert Young, they pour Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.

The best way to enjoy them is to take your glass to the patio and gaze out over the more than 300 acres that constitute Robert Young’s vineyards.  It is truly impressive, vines – their vines – as far as the eye can see.  You feel as though you’re looking back through time, to the era when Sonoma County and Napa Valley were just fertile farmland, but without tourists.

In a way, a visit to Robert Young hearkens back to the early days of Northern California wine tasting.  A farmer had some grapes and made wine out of them.  He wanted you to come and have a taste and maybe buy some.  That bit of living history is worth the drive.

Arrowood Winery

Back in our earlier years of wine tasting in California, there was Napa Valley and only Napa Valley.  Oh, we had heard that there was wine being made on the other side of the mountain in Sonoma County, so occasionally we’d take the Oakville Grade and find our way to Route 12 in Glen Ellen.  Turn right and we could visit Arrowood…if we could find it.  The problem was (and is) that the turnoff road for Arrowood (www.arrowood.com) is shared with another winery and that one’s sign is more prominent.  So we would drive right by.

If you see a sign for Imagery, be aware that that’s Arrowood too, and there are still some very good reasons to take that turn.

The tasting room at Arrowood, with its great view.  Photo courtesy of Winetraveler.

The first is the beauty of the setting.  Arrowood’s tasting room sits atop a rise and there is a wide panoramic window that provides a view of the vineyards and a swath of Sonoma scenery.  If you care for wine with a view (and we do) Arrowood has a lot to offer.  The building itself seems like an upscale farmhouse, but it’s a bit difficult to take in because it is best seen while driving up the hill.  Better to keep you eyes on the road.

The winery is named for its founder, Richard Arrowood.  Now retired, his career reads like a history of Sonoma winemaking.  He began at Korbel in 1965; then at Rodney Strong; was the first winemaker at Chateau St. Jean and then opened his own winery in 1985.  The winery has changed hands several times over the years and is now in the Jackson Family collection, with Richard staying involved through 2010.

He has been a strong proponent of Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County and the wines you will sample there lean heavily in that direction.  The winery used to make a Syrah that we particularly liked, but that no longer seems to be the case.  They source grapes from all around the county: their own estate in Sonoma Valley, whites from Russian River, Alexander Valley and Knights Valley.  This alone is a reason to have a tasting at Arrowood.  With one winemaking team, the differences among the wines must be reflective of the terroirs where the grapes are grown.  In general, we have found the servers to be knowledgeable and helpful, especially in describing the different vineyards.

If you happen to be tasting in December, you’ll find the tasting room to be pleasantly decorated for the season, with a fire going in the fireplace.  It reflects the elegant hominess that is a hallmark of Arrowood, both the winery and the wines.

Arrowood’s story in many ways echoes that of top-end California winemaking.  It has a reputation and a style built around its founder, a Sonoma County pioneer.  It has been sold and re-sold and now belongs to a multi-label corporation.  While Jackson is best known for its low-end wines, the company does own quite a few well-respected vineyards.  It seems that Arrowood is left to its own stylistic devices; still, there is a similarity among its wines and among Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignons generally.  Is this a good thing or the opposite?  Each taster needs to make up his or her own mind.