Thursday, February 11, 2021

Arrowood Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Arrowood Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

The deep freeze in Chicago continues and we remain shut in for winter and of course Covid. Having a deep and broad wine cellar reduces the dread of cabin fever and makes for enjoyable evenings dipping in to our collection. 

Tonight, Linda created a delicious medley of grilled steak, sweet potatoes and mushrooms. This was a wonderful pairing that suited this Sonoma County Cabernet perfectly. As I've written several times recently, an ideal food and wine pairing such as this accentuates the enjoyment of the whole experience, enhancing the wine and the food. 

We've visited or stopped by the Arrowood winery a couple times during visits to Sonoma, the winery sitting just north of town back off the highway. We hold a collection of this label dating back to 1991 of which we acquired a case upon release and still hold just a couple remaining bottles, along with a half dozen other vintages including this '04. 

My opinion and experience is that the Sonoma County Cabs tend to be lighter and softer (than Napa's) and therefore a bit more approachable and less challenging, more suitable to casual sipping and lighter or less complex food pairing. 

This is the craftwork of winemaker producer Richard Arrowood. Born in San Francisco and raised in Santa Rosa, he started his winemaking career in 1965 at Korbel Champagne Cellars just north of St Helena. He earned degrees in organic chemistry at California State Sacramento and graduate work in enology at California State, Fresno. He moved from Korbel to United Vintners, then Sonoma Vineyards. 

From 1974 through 1990, he was winemaker at Chateau St. Jean, where he developed some of the first vineyard-designate Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon produced in Sonoma County. His role there grew to be winemaker and Executive Vice President of Chateau St Jean.

He and his wife, Alis, founded Arrowood Winery with the 1985 vintage where they produced small-lot varietals and vineyard designates. In April 1990, after sixteen years at Chateau St. Jean, Richard set out to devote himself full-time to Arrowood where he was producer/winemaster. He originally planned to produce reserve quality Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon only, but his passion for making wine lead him to explore and develop unusual varietals that he believed had potential to produce exceptional fruit. The Arrowood portfolio expanded to include Merlot, Viognier, Pinot Blanc, Late Harvest wines, Malbec, Syrah and a few special reserve wines.

Richard and Alis were successful building the Arrowood brand and portfolio which they sold to Robert Mondavi in 2000. Richard and Alis stayed on, but left after Constellation Brands purchased Mondavi in 2004 and subsequently sold Arrowood in 2005 to the (now bankrupt) Legacy Estate Group. 

Jackson Family Wines acquired Arrowood Vineyards & Winery through the bankruptcy court in September 2006. I wrote recently about the Jackson Family history upon reading the book, A Man and His Mountain, a chronicle about Jess Jackson. 

Richard continued as winemaster there until June 2010, when he founded and left to devote his energies full-time to Amapola Creek Vineyards and Winery. They sold Amapola in 2019 and set out to retire after 54 years in the wine business.  

Arrowood Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

This release is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (89.9%), Merlot (7.2%), Malbec and (1.6%), Petit Verdot (1.3%), all from Sonoma County.

Winemaker notes: "This 2004 Arrowood Caberent Sauvignon is a lovely, complex wine that exemplifies our distinctive style. Beginning with exceptional fruit from several Sonoma County vineyards, we selected and blended small lots of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Each key component was aged for nearly two years in French and American oak. To retain maximum complexity, we chose not to fine or filter this wine, hence a small amount of harmless sedimentation may occur. Although delicious now, this rich and complex claret will develop well beyond the next decade.' 

"Our 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon is a complete wine. It is a testament to both vintage and the vineyards. The growing season opened with a heat wave in the first half of March triggering an early bloom. The remainder of the year was awash in warm days, cool nights and morning fog. All in all, we feel it was one of the finest Cabernet vintages of the last decade.'

"For vineyards, this Cabernet combines our favorite bench, hillside and mountain sites (many organically farmed) in Sonoma, Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys. By blending lots from a variety of sources Richard was able to capture the character of the vintage and the essence of Sonoma County Cabernet."

Back in 2016 I wrote about this release, "I have two left in the cellar and I wish I had more. At a dozen years old, it must be at the apex of its drinking window - it was delicious and a perfect compliment to the steak and to the anti pasta caprese salad.'

"We often turn to Sonoma County Cab's for more casual sipping as they are thought to be a bit lighter and softer than their Napa counterparts. There was nothing wimpy or second class to this Big Cab."

While the Arrowood winery and vineyards are located in Sonoma Valley just north of the town of Sonoma, they source the fruit for this label from three different Sonoma County AVA's - Knights Valley, Alexander Valley and Sonoma Valley. We consider Arrowood to be a benchmark, representing the best of Sonoma Cabernet.

We have visited the Arrowood properties on several of our trips to Sonoma Valley. 

This wine represents great value, high QPR as Arrowood seem to have held the price on this label as similar Napa and Sonoma labels have risen by 30-40% over the decade.

At sixteen years, this was drinking very nicely, probably still at its apex, not likely to improve any further with aging, but not showing any signs of diminution whatsoever. The filled level was proper and the cork was in perfect condition.

Wine Enthusiast gave this release 93 points. 

Blend: 89.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.2% Merlot, 1.6% Malbec, 1.3% Petit Verdot
Back in 2016 I wrote, Dark blackish garnet color, medium-full bodied, the berry fruit aromas filled the room on opening, bold expressive black cherry accented by a layer of leather, mocha and hint of cedar and spice on the long smooth soft tanning finish.

Tonight this was dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, complex yet nicely integrated and balanced rich elegant dark berry fruits with floral notes turning to cassis, hints of black tea and oak with smooth soft tannins and balanced acid on a lingering finish. 
RM 91 points.