Sunday, August 28, 2022

Special wine in a special setting - Arns Syrah at FLW Park Inn

 Special wine in a special setting - Arns Napa Valley Syrah 2013 at Historic FLW Park Inn Hotel

For our weeklong getaway vacation, we stayed in a winery vineyard farmhouse, then a historic iconic hotel. We took several bottles of favorite wines with us on our roadtour driving vacation. We traveled to and stayed at the Historic Park Inn Hotel in Mason City, Iowa, designed by legendary Frank Lloyd Wright, America's greatest architect. (See more about my research of Frank Lloyd Wright and work as docent/interpreter for the FLW Trust on my Wrightsite at

We did carry-out BBQ ribs and brought them back to the hotel to feast on the veranda overlooking the park and opened this special favorite accompanying bottle that we brought from our home cellar for the occasion.

Historic FLW Park Inn, Mason City Iowa
Historic Park Inn Veranda overlooking
Mason City Park

Arns Napa Valley Syrah 2013 from earlier blogpost.

Arns Melanson Vineyard Napa Valley Syrah 2013

We're long time fans of Arns Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that we actually discovered and acquired at Bassin's McArthur Wines in Washington DC. Over the years we acquired many vintages of this label and arranged a visit to the Napa Valley estate where we discovered, tasted and acquired this wine. 

As I reported in follow up to our visit to the Arns Estate back in 2013, Arns wines are produced by John Arns and Sandi Belcher - John managing the viticulture and Sandi tending to the winemaking. The property has been in the Arn's family since the 1950's when it was acquired by Arn's parents as an escape from the city down in Berkeley. The elder Arns planted vines in the 1960's to sell to local wineries. John and his brother, Steve took over the property and John continued developing the vineyards.

The Arns property was originally homesteaded in the late 1880’s by a German immigrant, then taken over by a stone mason whose work on homes and caves throughout the Valley and helped build the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena with stones, shown left, quarried from the property.

The previous owners of the property planted Zinfandel grapes.Today, ten acres of vineyards are sited across the 160 acre property of rocky hillsides, meadows and forests in ten different blocks consisting of seven different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux and Napa Valley. The vines vary in age from 15 to 45 years. The ten blocks planted showcase the clonal differences and with each having varied exposure, the result reveals unique characteristics that contribute to the overall blend that is Arns Cabernet Sauvignon. The result of this combination of clonal selection, low yield, and minimal irrigation is fruit that is concentrated and intensely flavorful and a blend that has complexity, breadth and depth.

Ironically, we discovered Arns Cabernet Sauvignon on our frequent trips to Washington DC and our regular stops at Andy Bassin's McArthur Wines there. Over the years, we accumulated a collection of Arns over the years dating back to the 1996 vintage. It turns out Sandi is from Virginia and developed the resale arrangement during her trips back home.

Since our Napa trips of recent years focused on distinct appellations per trip, we missed Arns over the years during our frequent visits to Napa Valley and mountain districts including Howell Mountain. It was great to finally connect with Arns and see first hand what makes up the artistry of their work.
Arns Napa Valley Melansen Vineyard Syrah 2013

Sandi Belcher produced this limited production single vineyard designated Syrah from fruit sourced from the Melanson Vineyard on Pritchard Hill. John Arns managed the viticulture, overseeing tending the vines for several producers around Napa Valley. This  includes Syrah varietal vines that he planted at 1400 feet up on Pritchard Hill back in the early 1990's. 

The clones for Arns Syrah are from Joseph Phelps Vineyards. This provides fruit for this, the 5th vintage release of Arns Napa Valley Syrah. What a discovery and pleasant surprise to discover this label on our visit to Arns! Readers of this blog know we love big full throttle Syrah/Shiraz which comprises a third of our cellar behind Bordeaux and Napa Cabernet. We didn't expect to find one at a Napa mountain fruit Cab producer. Moreover, ironically, we also spent an afternoon up on Pritchard Hill during that Napa trip.

The rocky terrain of the mountain elevation with the long warm growing season results in powerful but polished, forward  flavors of black berry and hints of blue fruits, layers of anise and cassis with hints of mocha and clove, violets, leather and olive on a long lingering firm but silky tannin finish. This is more like a big Southern Aussie Shiraz. There were only 65 cases produced of the 2008 vintage release that we tasted at the winery during our visit. We tasted it at the winery, purchased some and shipped it home, tasted again... and subsequently bought more, which included this vintage release in a follow on purchase. 

Rick, Linda and John Arns
This vintage year, 2013, they produced 200 cases of this label. It represents the style and profile that we favor in a Syrah. We pulled this bottle to enjoy with artisan cheeses and fruit for enjoyable casual sipping watching a movie.

ARNS starting producing this SYRAH back in 2004. They admit, "It was a great surprise to be able to craft such a beautiful wine from Pritchard Hill, Napa Valley. We have enjoyed many spicy vintages from this time forward."

This 2013 ARNS SYRAH was aged four years in two year old French Oak barrels.

Dark inky blackish purple, full bodied, concentrated flavors of gooseberries, plum and what Arns refer to as 'wild black cherries' are accented by notes of spice, black pepper, and what Arns refers to as 'beef and violets'.

RM 91 points.

The 2013 ARNS SYRAH is in the same vein as our previous vintages. Enhanced by four years of two year old French Oak barrels, we have watched this wine evolve into the classic we have witnessed in the past. Captivating on the palate are flavors of gooseberries, red plum, wild black cherries touched by black pepper, beef and violets. A handsome wine with moderate aging potential.