There is a feeling that you get when you step out of your car and are headed to visit a winery. If you’ve visited one before, you know the feeling- fresh air, anticipation, excitement, and maybe a little bit of nervous energy not knowing what to expect. But let’s face it, you are also excited to drink some wine because you love wine and it makes you happy. It’s a real cocktail of emotions.
Pulling up at the Arnot-Roberts winery in Healdsburg, California, was different and even more exciting. “This is where the winery is?” we asked ourselves. Trent begins to tell a story about how a lot of the great wineries are in small buildings without fancy tasting rooms. We all felt better. We find our way to the door labeled “Arnot-Roberts” We’re here!
We walk through an industrial garage, AKA a working winery, and find our way to a small table and several large stainless steel fermentation tanks. We first meet Nathan Lee Roberts, one half of, you guessed it, Arnot-Roberts. This is not an overly dressed winery with mostly decoration; this is a working winery that we already know fosters some beautiful wines. Nathan and I connect over coffee. He’s showing me his espresso machine, and it quickly gets very geeky. I’m already sold on this guy; this will be a good day.
Our children are with us, and they find a dog and a sunny picnic table and go to town, playing games and chasing each other around in the grass. A few feet away, we see what must be Duncan Arnot Meyers, and he’s digging a trench with a shovel and keeping an eye on his pup out of the corner of his eye. I think to myself, “He’s like going to town on this trench. This guy is a beast. I like this guy too! He makes killer wines, and he digs his trenches. Legend.”
Duncan comes over to say hello and is very kind. He and Nathan chat for a bit, and they explain that Nathan will show us around and open up some bottles that we can taste. I have to point out here that we sell a lot of Arnot-Roberts wine, and we’ve tasted these wines, so you wouldn’t think we would be as excited as we were, but we are stoked. Also, this is June of 2021- we’ve all been stuck at home for over a year, and being out of the state and seeing people again was thrilling, to say the least. The connection to the source, the actual hands that made the decisions about this wine, and the person that physically put this wine in the bottle is standing right in front of you. It seems silly, but I get excited about the direct connection to the source, the person responsible for an experience you are having, and the wine you are tasting in the glass in front of you.
The fascinating thing about Duncan and Nathan is, and this goes for most of our favorite wines; it's really what they DON'T do that makes their wines unique. They get out of the way and let the vineyards and the grapes speak for themselves. This hands-off approach doesn't take away from what they do at all because they are very skilled at how they steward the wines- when they pick, from what sites, and how they choose to ferment the wines.
I immediately asked about the rosé, which we had only received a couple of cases of just a month earlier, which was a fraction of the amount we received the previous year. For Nathan, this brings up the sad reality that the major fires in 2020 almost destroyed production and that there is no more wine available from the vintage. But as Nathan pulls out a map of California, he explains that many of their sites are further south, and most are on the Sonoma Coast side of Northern California. We are back on a positive note tasting the Watson Ranch Chardonnay and Trout Gulch Chardonnay side by side and hearing about the differences between the sites. Watson Ranch is a touch riper than the Trout Gulch but elegant and leagues above other Chardonnay from California. The Trout Gulch was the show stopper for me, though; Saline, Citrus, Energy, this is my kind of wine.
We move our way to the reds and taste through the North-Coast Trousseau, which comes from the Luchsinger Vineyard site, where the Touriga Nacional is sourced for the rosé. Most of the vineyard sites are owned by other families, and Duncan and Nathan purchase the fruit from the families. Nathan is very excited to let us know that they had just purchased the Que Vineyard site in Occidental, California, about 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean. This is always a favorite of ours, but knowing Arnot-Roberts can fully make decisions on this site makes this a wine to look out for over the years as the attention to detail and quality improves.
Last but not least, we taste through the Cool-Climate Cabernets. These aren't your typical Cali Cabs with high alcohol and ripe fruit; these are elegant expressions that show off the vineyard sites and the grape beautifully. First up is the Montecillo Vineyard, which is one of the oldest plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon in Sonoma County. This is Dry-Farmed mountain fruit. Not the branded "Dry-Farmed Wines", this is the real deal- vines that have been dry-farmed since 1964 by farmer Chuy Ordaz. Concentration, tiny berries and class all balanced together. The Fellom Ranch was up next with it's darker profile and more structure. The fruit comes from the Santa Cruz mountains and is about a dozen miles from the coast. The cool climate influence helps the grapes ripen slowly to achieve the concentration and structure, while maintaining balance.
Overall we are so grateful to Duncan and Nathan for taking out of their day to spend time with us and to share their wines with us at their table. We can't wait for you to taste through their available wines listed below.