Monday, June 10, 2024

Arns Napa Valley Pritchard Hill Melanson Vineyard Syrah with Gia Mia Pizza

Arns Napa Valley Pritchard Hill Melanson Vineyard Syrah with Gia Mia Pizza

Monday night dinner, we ordered wood fired pizzas from Gia Mia in Naperville. Located in the old historic public library downtown, the trendy restaurant offers casual fine dining in a lively vibrant atmosphere. While I don’t necessarily like the somewhat noisy ambiance, I love their meatballs and polenta entree, except for the fact that often they add too much spice heat to the mix.

Such was the case tonight, I was looking forward to a pizza and big wine pairing for dinner, the Mia Gia pizza was excessively hot with spice that it overpowered even the big unctuous red wine, undermining the whole food-wine experience. 

Shame on me for not noticing till after the fact that “The Bruno” pizza includes, besides the sausage, pepperoni and meatballs … spicy soppressata!

That aside, this was the same profile as earlier vintages of this extremely limited release label that we enjoyed so much. 

We first discovered and acquired this label at the winery and were able to reacquire some at auction last winter, which we saved for an occasion such as tonight.   

We wrote about Arns Winery and this limited release Napa Valley Syrah and that estate visit in an earlier blogpost in these pages, excerpted below.  

Arns Melanson Napa Syrah 08

Arns Melanson Vineyard Napa Valley Syrah 2012

John Arns, Rick, Linda and fellow Pour Boy 
Bill C at Arns Estate on lower Howell Mtn.
We first discovered Arns wines at Andy Bassin's McArthur Wines in Washinton DC during my several years being based there. The presence of Arns there was due to the heritage of the winemaker Sandi Belcher Arns being from Virginia and distributing wines to her home marketplace when visiting back there. 

We visited John Arns at the Arns Estate on Howell Mountain during our Napa Wine Experience back in 2013. We first 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, only 85 cases were produced. It was aged three years in one year old French oak.

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 at the southern 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 twelve years of age, this wine is still very much in its peak drinking window and not showing any 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 were eager to obtain this lot ant auction, and taste and compare it to earlier releases. We consumed all the product we acquired over the years from from the Estate.

RM 93 points.