Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Arns Melanson Napa Syrah 08

Arns Melanson Vineyard Napa Valley Syrah 2008

For a midweek grilled steak dinner at home, following a milestone family transaction achievement, we opened a 'special' bottle for dinner. We just acquired a 1/3 dozen bottles of this wine from auction so in essence we already replaced this bottle with a newer vintage.

John Arns, Rick, Linda, Bill C
We first discovered Arns wines at Andy Bassin's McArthur Wines in WDC during my several years being based there. The presence of Arns there is due on the heritage of the winemaker Sandi Belcher Arns being from Virginia and distributing wines to her home marketplace back there. We visited John Arns at the Estate on Howell Mountain during our Napa Wine Experience back in 2013. We discovered and acquired this varietal offering during that visit.

This wine is indicative of one of our favorite wine styles with its rich, concentrated, full bodied, forward fruits.  As my tasting notes from that period stated. "Tasted at the winery, shipped some home, drank a bottle upon arrival, need to go buy more."

This is a very limited production bottling from this boutique producer so when we saw it on-line, we snatched up the entire lot. Of course, Arns primarily specialize in Cabernet Sauvignons, which we also love from this producer, which makes this Syrah label all the more rare and cherished. For the 2012 vintage, 127 cases were produced.

While Arns Estate Vineyards are located up on lower Howell Mountain, hence the Napa Valley appellation designation*, I recall from or discussions with the producer that the fruit for this label is actually sourced from the Melanson Vineyard down south end of the Vaca Mountain range down on the slope area known as Pritchard Hill.

The Melanson Vineyard sits on Pritchard Hill on the rugged eastern ridges above the town of Rutherford overlooking the Napa Valley below with views of Lake Hennessey. The distinctive terroir of the site consists of rich Sobrante Loam soils loaded with volcanic rock at elevations averaging 1,400 feet and distinct southern and western exposures produces better than average fruit due to its exposure, clones, soils  and most of all, care.  The elevation places the vineyards above the fog line and allowing maximum sun exposure throughout the day providing even ripening.

Arns Syrah comes from a small corner of this vineyard and sits in a major rock pile.  There was soil added so a vine could be planted in something other than boulders. Syrah berries are large, about the size of a quarter and their skins are tough and can endure sometimes even the most unfavorable conditions.  John Arns notes that "with above average sunshine, (this site is above the fog line) it truly demonstrates that terroir really matters."

* Interestingly, it is at the 1200 foot elevation, the level of the fog line, that is also the line of demarcation between the Napa Valley appellation below, and the Howell Mountain appellation above, up on Howell Mountain.

My notes from 2013 - "Dark inky garnet color, full bodied, powerful but polished forward flavors of black berry and hints of blue fruits, layers of cassis and mocha, hints of clove, violets, leather and olive with a long lingering firm but silky tannin finish. Much like a big Southern Aussie Shiraz.'

Tasted at the winery, shipped some home, drank a bottle upon arrival, need to go buy more."

At going on ten years of age, this wine is still very much in its peak drinking window and only beginning to show a slight sign of diminution with hint of raisin and whisper of menthol. While it will not likely improve or benefit from further aging, it certainly has another half dozen years of life left at the apex of its profile. We love this wine and are eager to obtain our recently acquired allocation, and taste and compare it to this bottle, second to last one of our lot acquired at the Estate.

RM 92 points.

Arns Estate Visit on Rick's WineSite ...