Winery Blog

Smothers-Remick Ridge Vineyard - 10 Interesting Facts

Smothers-Remick Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
 

1. Monopole

Smothers-Remick Ridge is a monopole vineyard for Arrowood. Monopole means that all the grapes from a particular vineyard are used by only one single winery.  In this case, all the grapes off Smothers-Remick Ridge come to the winery to be used exclusively for Arrowood wines.
 

2. Cabernet Sauvignon

 
The vineyard has been a component of the Réserve Spéciale Cabernet Sauvignon since 1992, the first vintage of our flagship wine. Although fruit sourcing has been very similar since that time, Smothers-Remick Ridge is the only vineyard that has made it into the Réserve bottling with every consecutive vintage. These blocks are chosen for their intensity in concentration, tannin quality, and overall aromatic contribution to the Réserve blend.
 

3. 11 Vineyard Blocks

The 17.6-acre vineyard is divided into 11 distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon blocks. These blocks are often divided up further into smaller lots in the winery, to understand different areas within a particular block.  With each block having distinct topography, exposure, spacing, and plant material, we end up with wines that have multiple expressions of this incredible site.
 

4. Smothers Brothers

Named by owner Tommy Smothers of the world-famous Smothers Brothers, the vineyard is also named after Smothers’ grandfather, Ed Remick, who lived on the property for 15 years with Tommy. Originally, we purchased grapes through a contract with Mr. Smothers, but our longstanding relationship has evolved into a partnership through which we now farm the vineyard year-round. 
 

5. Marcy Block

The Marcy Block, named after Tommy’s wife, is the primary block that makes the Smothers-Remick Ridge vineyard designate wine. The eastern-most facing block on the property with the rockiest soils, it is year after year the most distinct block, defined by its bright and decadent red cherry aromatics and plush tannins.  
 

6. Sonoma Mountain AVA

Smothers-Remick Ridge vineyard is located in the Sonoma Mountain AVA, a sub-appellation of Sonoma Valley, that encompasses the rolling hills to the west of the valley, and bordered by the eastern and northern slopes of Sonoma Mountain. At 600 feet, this site enjoys well-drained rocky soils and morning sun exposure that offer perfect conditions for high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon. 

 

7. Organically Farmed

Smothers-Remick Ridge is organically farmed, which works extremely well to achieve vine balance and maintain low yields.  The attention to detail and challenging work required to achieve organic status is a commitment to quality as well as the environment.
 

8. 32 Months in Barrel

The Smothers-Remick Ridge Cabernet is aged for 32 months in barrel. After approximately 16 months of aging, each individual barrel is selected and blended together in tank, then goes back down to barrel for an additional 16 months of aging. This allows the wine to integrate and age as a final blend, yielding the elegant and balanced structure this wine is known for.
 

9. Built to Last

Along with its history in our Réserve bottling, Smothers-Remick Ridge is also our longest ongoing vineyard designate Cabernet Sauvignon bottling.  Since the first vintage in 2007, we have saved cases in our wine library to follow and understand the ageability of this vineyard. 
 

10. Unfined and Unfiltered

Smothers-Remick Ridge Cabernet is bottled unfined and unfiltered.  Our Réserve Spéciale and vineyard designate Cabernet Sauvignons are bottled in this way to retain purity, complex aromatics, texture and more than anything else, the wine’s intrinsic personality.  

Enjoy the savory flavors of red wine braised short rib ragu served over a bowl of tagliatelle pasta. 

If there is one category of food that I can never get enough of, it’s pasta. Not just any pasta though. After having been to Italy I find it utterly important to buy the highest quality pasta if you want your dish to really hold its own. The thing with this recipe is the tagliatelle pasta doesn’t have to play the lead as the red wine braised short rib ragu is definitely going to be the star of the show. Now, I’m the first to tell you that cooking meats is typically not my strongest skill in the kitchen, but ever since getting an Instant Pot, it’s like I’m a culinary genius. I love meals that look like a million bucks, but are actually quite simple to make and that’s what this recipe is all about.
 
No Instant Pot? No problem! You can also modify to use a standard pressure cooker.
 
Red Wine Braised Short Rib Ragu Served over Tagliatelle Pasta
 
Red Wine Braised Short Rib Ragu Served over Tagliatelle Pasta
 
Red Wine Braised Short Rib Ragu Served over Tagliatelle Pasta
 
Everything that needs to happen in this recipe takes place inside the Instant Pot. Everything. From braising the short ribs to sautéing the onions and garlic and cooking it all down with a rich tomato sauce, it’s all done inside one pot and takes less than an hour to make. You can certainly make this recipe in a dutch oven or slow cooker, just plan on 7-8 hours. If you’re like me and are known to host impromptu social gatherings, the Instant Pot is a great way to make an insanely delicious meal that looks like it took hours of work in less than 60 minutes. That leaves me more time to enjoy the wine and food with friends and family!
 
Instant Pot Red Wine Braised Short Rib Ragu Served over Tagliatelle Pasta
 
Instant Pot Red Wine Braised Short Rib Ragu Served over Tagliatelle Pasta
 

SHORT RIB PASTA INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 lbs bone-in short ribs or 1/5 lbs boneless short ribs
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp Sonoma Spice Blend
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 25oz jar tomato sauce (high quality ingredients)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle crushed pepper (optional if you don’t want extra spice)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1lb Tagliatelle pasta (cooked per instructions till al dente)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup basil, freshly chopped for garnish

 

INSTANT POT DIRECTIONS:

 
  1. Using an instant pot, turn it to the sauté setting. While heating up, trim off excess fat and pat dry. Generously season with Sonoma Spice Blend.
  2. Once up to temperature, add the vegetable oil to the instant pot. Add the short ribs and sear on all sides until browned. Remove from pot and set aside.
  3. Add the chopped onion and garlic and continue to sauté until tender while scraping up the browned bits (this has tons of flavor!). Pour in the red wine and cook for approximately 2 minutes to deglaze the onion and garlic.
  4. Add the short ribs back to the instant pot followed by the tomato sauce. salt and optional chipotle crushed pepper. Add in 1/4 cup water OR add the water to the sauce jar, shake, and then pour into the instant pot (nothing goes to waste!). Set instant pot to the stew/meat setting for 35 minutes and once finished, let it naturally release the stem.
  5. While ragu is stewing, prepare the Tagliatelle pasta per the directions provided on the package. Cook to just al dente (firm to the bite, but not soft) as the pasta will continue to cook once removed from the heat. Drain and set aside.
  6. Once steam is all released, remove the lid and place short ribs on a cutting board. Trim off excess fat and remove any bones. Also, skim off any fat from the top of the instant pot then sauté again to thicken up the sauce. Once you’ve shredded the short rib, add back to the instant pot. Taste and sprinkle with salt & pepper if needed.
  7. To serve, plate first with the pasta followed by spoonfuls of braised short rib ragu and garnished with fresh parmesan and basil. 
 
Red Wine Braised Short Rib Ragu Served over Tagliatelle Pasta
 
Red Wine Braised Short Rib Ragu Served over Tagliatelle Pasta
 
There is so much to love about this red wine braised short rib ragu spooned over a heaping bowl of tagliatelle pasta. The rich tomato sauce pairs beautifully alongside the shredded short ribs and the authentic Italian pasta holds up the savoriness of the recipe while also being the perfect compliment to Arrowood Vineyards Proprietary Red Blend. The short ribs are seasoned with their custom Sonoma Spice Blend which contains dried black trumpet mushrooms, pink peppercorns, Espelette pepper, cocoa powder & additional herbs and spices. There is no hiding the fact that it gave the braised short ribs such wonderful flavor and paired perfectly with the savory aromas of the Proprietary Red Blend. It was forkful after forkful of serious goodness!
 
Red Wine Braised Short Rib Ragu Served over Tagliatelle Pasta
 
Don’t shy away the next time you see short ribs at the butcher! With a little bit of chopping, an Instant Pot, some Italian pasta and a bottle of wine, you’ve got yourself a culinary masterpiece that will really wow your family and friends. Cheers!
 

Dry farming isn't a new concept, but it has taken on renewed significance in the last decade. Plants can’t talk. But any gardener knows that if you listen and pay attention, your plants will tell you what they need.  Brown sunburned spots on the leaves say it’s getting too much sun. A lemony yellow tinge can mean too much water. A droopy stem is a plant’s way of saying “I’m thirsty.”

 
arrowood-vineyards-dry-farm
 
As a woman who makes her living crafting wine, Arrowood winemaker Kristina Shideler sees herself as a steward of the land. And she’s committed to letting her vineyards tell her what they want so she can craft great wine that’s also gentle on the environment.  
 
“It’s about catering to the specific vineyard blocks to get the best quality we can,” says Shideler. 
 
So Shideler is working with grapes from dry farmed vineyards and using new technology to create concentrated, intense Cabernet Sauvignon wines that are also better for the environment.
 

What is Dry Farming?

Dry Farm Arrowood Wine Vineyard
 
Dry farming simply means growing grapes without adding additional water. Throughout history, vignerons have dry farmed vines in Sonoma, Napa, and the Old World. People grew grapes where the soil and rainfall made it possible. It was a matter of necessity on many small family farms, where growers didn’t have the money or equipment to install elaborate irrigation systems. 
 
Frank Leeds says that’s what his uncle Roy Chavez did when they first started growing wine grapes in the Napa Valley in the 1920s. They didn’t call it dry farming back then, it was just how you grew grapes.  
 
“Guys weren’t running around with a bucket,” says Leeds, vice president of vineyard operations at Frog’s Leap Winery and co-owner of Chavez and Leeds Vineyards, which he runs with his daughter. “Now we’re down to less than 10 percent of us who dry farm.”
 
Raising a grapevine without added water forces it to be more self-sufficient. The plant must send roots deep into the soil to find water and nutrients it needs. “The vines are bigger stronger and more resistant to disease than irrigated grape vines,” Leeds said. “You’re so much healthier to get the roots down deep past the [diseases] that inhabit the top 18 inches of soil.”
 
But when vines are irrigated from a drip line, the roots stay shallow and concentrate near the easy source of water.  There’s no need for the plant to work, so it’s more vulnerable if that easy source of water dries up during a drought. 
 
Leeds, a past president of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, says irrigation expanded in Sonoma and Napa as vineyards were planted in more challenging soils that weren’t ideal for growing grapes.  
 
But dry farming has come into focus as natural and biodynamic winemaking has become more popular, and young winemakers around the world revive older vineyards with strong deep-rooted vines. 
 
“If you use dry farm as a verb, not a noun, you can make your vines perform really well,” says Leeds. 
 

A Technical Solution

Thibaut Scholasch and Sebastien Payen Fruition Founders

Thibaut Scholasch and Sebastien Payen. Founders of Fruition Sciences.

 
But with hundreds of acres of vines, it’s tricky to know the status of every single one and how much water and nutrients it needs. That’s where innovations from a company called Fruition Sciences are allowing farmers to know exactly what’s happening inside the vine and when. The 10-year-old company founded by French scientists Thibault Scholasch and Sébastien Payen uses sap flow sensors and other technology that makes it possible for vineyards to keep the vine in balance and potentially increase yield while reducing water usage. 
 
“The theory behind precision farming is to match the site’s specific needs with any given input; we don’t want to oversupply the vines with too much of anything, including water,” says Shideler. “For high-quality Cabernet, the goal is to farm for smaller berries.” Small berries have a higher skin to juice ratio, so the wines have more complexity, concentration, and ability to age. 
 
Arrowood growers work with Fruition, as do Château Latour, Colgin, Viader and Wente Vineyards. In the spring, the team walks through a vineyard and places small sensors on each vine. The sensors allow vineyard managers to monitor how the sap is moving inside, the amount of nitrogen in the plant and when it’s time to reduce water so the vine concentrates on forming grapes rather than more leaves.
 
Fruition Dry Farming Cuff Sensor
 
“When we put the sensor on the vine, it's like a blood pressure cuff for the vine,” says Stephanie Zamorski Burk, head of field operations for Fruition. “It allows the vine to tell us if it’s experiencing environmental stress… and better determine what the vine needs.’’
 
On a hot day, the vineyard manager might assume that the vines are thirsty and need extra water. But the sap sensors let them know that the vines have enough moisture to sustain themselves.
 
A 2014 water usage study funded by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California found that using Fruition’s technology allowed a vineyard to reduce watering by 65 percent in blocks with sensors, compared to other blocks watered in a typical way. That worked out to 17 Olympic sized swimming pools or 8.5 million gallons of water. “We’ve had people who have been able to switch to dry farming practices,” says Brandon Burk, a data specialist with Fruition.
 

Old Vine Wine

Kristina in the Vineyard - Dry Farming

Shideler says using sensors in a Knights Valley vineyard block allowed them to dry farm there. “We went through the entire season with no water,” she said since it had more clay. “We found we got more concentration, more flavor and a lot better quality in the dry-farmed blocks.”
 
The fruit quality from that particular dry-farmed block in Knights Valley was so high that she’s now using the juice in one of Arrowood’s more exclusive Cabernet Sauvignon blends. 
 
Just by a quirk of fate, Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Arrowood’s block of the Monte Rosso vineyard is dry farmed.  The mature vines in the famed Monte Rosso Vineyard are planted at elevations ranging from 700 to 1,240 feet, so the vines have had to send roots deep into the poor rocky soil to find water and nutrients, creating the kind of stress that yields world-class wines. “When that particular block was planted, irrigation wasn’t standard practice and so the irrigation line was never put in,” says Shideler. 
 
And when Arrowood does irrigate, the water comes from Arrowood’s reservoirs that capture excess rainwater, rather than municipal sources. 
 
The trials they’re doing with dry farming, as well as organic and sustainable practices allow Shideler and her vineyard teams to identify more vineyard blocks that could thrive with less water in the near future. 
 
“I’m constantly thinking about both of those as the vines start to age and develop,” says Shideler. “It makes the vineyard able to produce for a longer period of time and be more resilient. Instead of replanting in 20 years that [vineyard] could be so well established that it could last for 100 years.”
 

Indulge your culinary senses with this delicious Prime Pairings recipe of Lamb Carpaccio Crostini topped with Blackberry Balsamic Reduction.

While the recipe name sounds like it belongs on high-end restaurants appetizer menu (and it does!), this was quite simple to make right in your home kitchen. The star of the show is the lamb carpaccio that is perfectly seasoned from the Arrowood Sonoma Spice Blend and pairs wonderfully with a bold wine like their Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve learned that by simplifying dishes really allows the ingredients to shine!

Lamb Carpaccio Crostini with Blackberry Balsamic Reduction

Lamb Carpaccio Crostini with Blackberry Balsamic Reduction

Lamb Carpaccio Crostini with Blackberry Balsamic Reduction

Lamb Carpaccio Crostini with Blackberry Balsamic Reduction

Ingredients:

.5lb Lamb Loin
2oz Arrowood Sonoma Spice Blend
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil + extra
6oz Fresh Blackberries
1 cup Water
1/3 cup Balsamic Vinegar
2 tsp Chives, chopped
Crostini or Crackers
 

Directions:

Heat a cast iron pan over medium high temperature. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and let heat.
 
Lamb Carpaccio Crostini with Blackberry Balsamic Reduction
 
Meanwhile, apply a small amount of olive oil to the lamb loin and spread using a basting brush. Sprinkle spice blend over all sides of lamb loin and pat to ensure seasoning sticks to the meat.
 
Using tongs, carefully transfer lamb loins to the hot cast iron pan. Sear for 1 minute on all sides. Do not overcook, you are simply wanting to sear the outsides to create a crust. Transfer to plate and let cool inside the refrigerator. This will help you slice it very thin.
 
While the lamb loin is cooling in the fridge, prepare the blackberry balsamic reduction. In a saucepan, add 1 cup of water and 6oz of fresh blackberries. Macerate the blackberries with a wooden spoon and let cook over a boil for 8-10 minutes. Pour mixture through a fine colander into a bowl and then transfer back to the pan. Add the balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil for another 5 minutes and then simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Be sure to keep stirring until you achieve the desired thickness.
 
In the meantime, once lamb has cooled, slice VERY thinly and roll to small pieces that will be placed on top of crostini or crackers. Drizzle with blackberry balsamic reduction and garnish with fresh chives.
 
Pair with Arrowood Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
 
Lamb Carpaccio Crostini with Blackberry Balsamic Reduction
 
Lamb Carpaccio Crostini with Blackberry Balsamic Reduction

 

What I love most about this dish is the combination of the seared lamb loin with the blackberry balsamic reduction. The acidity of the reduction pairs wonderfully with the spice notes from the Arrowood Sonoma Spice Blend. This is the type of crostini recipe that you and your guests will keep coming back for more! As a home chef with no culinary training, this recipe truly isn’t hard to create. You end up letting the flavors of the spice blend and the blackberry reduction do all the work and your hardest job is to serve it up for your guests to enjoy. Cheers to simple, yet incredibly flavorful prime pairing recipes!
 
Lamb Carpaccio Crostini with Blackberry Balsamic Reduction
 
Lamb Carpaccio Crostini with Blackberry Balsamic Reduction
 
 

I’ve always been intrigued by Bordeaux varieties and their ability to make profound and opulently textured wines, but my Malbec love affair really took hold during my time in Mendoza, Argentina.

Argentina and Beyond

Kristina Shideler Andes Mountains

In Mendoza, Malbec is celebrated as part of their cultural identity.  It has become synonymous with Argentine wine production, but its origin is actually attributed to France.  Malbec is one of the six allowed varieties in wines made from the Bordeaux region of France, with a long history of using the variety as a blender.  In France today, however, it is more commonly used in wines from the Cahors region of Southeast France.  While Argentina is responsible for 75% of Malbec plantings in the world, the variety can be found in several other winegrowing regions, including California.

The Malbec Wine Grape

Malbec Grape Variety

The grape is a dark inky purple color with thin skin and oval-shaped berries.  Its leaves are generally larger and floppier looking than the other Bordeaux varieties, and because of this, it’s generally easy to spot when walking through a vineyard.  The next time you visit the Arrowood Estate during late summer or fall, I encourage you to take a stroll through the estate vineyard and see for yourself!

Malbec Flavor Profile

Arrowood Estate Malbec

The wine also takes on a darker more purple hue, especially when young.  The aromatics are so distinct, it’s really fun to try and identify it in a blind tasting.  It typically has this inherent baking spice character of nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon.  It also takes on a lot of fruit character such as plum and blackberry, as well as violet and lavender when picked a bit earlier.  Because of this, I generally do not like to use a lot of new oak barrels; the aromatics are so beautiful, I want to express them in the purest form.  It tends to be less tannic than Cabernet, but offers a nice mid-palate weight and elegant structure that makes it very versatile and drinkable with a variety of foods.

Arrowood Sonoma County Malbec

Sonoma County Malbec

Although I love what Malbec offers to a blend, one of my favorite wines to make is our Sonoma County Malbec.  Arrowood is one of the only wineries in Sonoma County that offers a Malbec as a single variety wine, and we have a long history of doing so.  For the 2014, we sourced from two prime vineyard locations: Lasseter and Knights Cross vineyards.  Both of these sites have the perfect climate and soil match. Malbec enjoys long days of sunlight, but not too high of temperatures.  Soils must be well drained and homogenous, offering good concentration of flavors and even ripening.

How long can you age Arrowood Malbec? 

While it doesn’t have the lifespan of the Resérve Spéciale, I’ve have had the opportunity to try several bottles of Arrowood Malbec from the early 2000’s and they are still holding up with beautiful acidity and complexity.  My personal preference is between 5-10 years, and would not recommend aging beyond 15 years.  However, it is very interesting variety to track throughout aging, which is why we’ve kept a few bottles back each year in the Winemaker’s Library.  It changes from having a very distinct varietal expression to possessing very classic Bordeaux aromatics, that can often be mistaken for a Cabernet or Merlot.

Malbec + You = <3

For those of you who haven’t gotten to know Malbec, take some time to introduce yourselves.  I think you’ll like each other.  Enjoy a bottle on a nice fall evening with some grilled meats, or save for this winter to pair with the holiday fare. 

Cheers,
Kristina

For a lot of people Sonoma equals wine country, but geographically speaking, 'Sonoma' can mean a world-famous wine growing region, a city, and an entire county. If you're looking for the definitive guide to where one Sonoma ends, and another begins read on!

 

Sonoma County

arrowood-vineyards

What is it?

A vast region filled with many acclaimed wine-growing districts, scenic Bodega Bay, and more than 400 wineries. 
 
While wine areas such as the Russian River Valley and Green Valley have made Sonoma County synonymous with Pinot Noir, it's not the region's only notable red. Zinfandel-lovers flock to Dry Creek Valley, while Kristina Shideler, head winemaker at Arrowood Vineyards, knows it's a place to watch for fine Cabernet Sauvignon.
 
"Knight's Valley, Alexander Valley, and Sonoma Valley are the three valleys people need to pay attention to for Cabernet Sauvignon," Shideler says. "As they tune in, they're going to find some great wine."
 
Each valley gives Cab its own distinctive flavor notes and textures. Alexander Valley tends to blue fruit flavors, bright acidity, tension and firm, savory tannins.  Knights Valley wines show black cherry, plum and blackberry notes with broader more brawny tannins. While Sonoma Valley Cabs overflow with bright red berry and cherry highlights wrapped in supple tannins.
 
"I love the diversity, the exploration, the freedom to discover different vineyard sites and work with fruit from all sorts of different topographies and combinations of soil and climate. There's lots to discover," says Shideler.
 
When it comes to discovering Sonoma County's agricultural potential, Luther Burbank was a pioneer. Even though he lacked any formal training, Burbank showed his genius when he developed what's now called the Idaho potato. Drawn by the ideal growing conditions in Santa Rosa, he developed more than 800 varieties fruits and plants including the Santa Rosa Plum and the Shasta Daisy. Today, the visitors around the world make a pilgrimage to the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa during the season from April to October.  
 

Where to go:

Museums of Sonoma County, 425 Seventh St. Santa Rosa, Calif. 707-579-1500. These twin museums (now in a new combined home) showcase art and history inspired by Sonoma County, as well as contemporary themes, such as the heroic response to the 2017 wildfires.  The museums are open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, with special hours on holidays.

 

Sonoma Valley

arrowood-tasting-room

What is it?

Sonoma Valley is a scenic region known for Jack London State Historic Park, as well as being the home of Arrowood Vineyards and some of California's oldest wineries. 
 
Writer and adventurer Jack London was taken with Sonoma Valley; he made it famous in his books including The Valley of the Moon. His former home, stone pig house and 1400-acre property that he dubbed "Beauty Ranch" are now part of a state park filled with 29 miles of pristine hiking trails.
 
"This is where he wrote most of his important works," says Kristina Ellis, tour and education manager of the Jack London Park Partners. The study is still filled with his effects, sketches, paintings, and photos, while his wife Charmian's home contains many mementos. 
"She lined the walls with artifacts and memories of their life together, so it's called the House of Happy Walls Museum," Ellis says. The museum reopens in June when renovations are complete. 
 
When Dick Arrowood founded his winery back in 1986, he chose the Sonoma Valley because he liked the way the coastally influenced climate and soils shaped Cabernet Sauvignon.
 
Beautiful mouthwatering acidity and bright red fruit flavors set Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignons apart from those in Napa, which tend to darker fruits, like plum, blackberries, and blackcurrant.
 
"Sonoma is red fruit because of the soil," says Willi Sherer, a Master Sommelier based in Yountville. "With an overall cooler area, you get soft-but-generous wines with a cooler profile. You get some good herbal tones, sage and sandalwood and mild evergreen in tandem with the red fruit."
 
As the winemaker at Arrowood Vineyards, Shideler considers Sonoma Valley the heart of the sprawling region. And it's one of the most exciting places in the world to be making wine.
 
"Ninety percent of what I do is Cabernet, which makes us unique," says Shideler. "A lot of people think Sonoma is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, so I think it's exciting to be a specialist in Cabernet here."
 
Arrowood sources fruit from grower partners at pristine sites in Moon Mountain and Sonoma Mountain. "They're high elevation, so the soils are very well drained," which gives the wines great concentration, Shideler explained.  "Exposure to the light is optimal; it's perfect for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. And it's in the middle of the valley so you get coastal influence."
 
All those factors make for elegant and highly collectible Cabernet Sauvignon.
 
"The strength of Arrowood wine is silkiness and suppleness with balance and ageability," said Sherer.
 

Where to go: 

Arrowood Vineyards, 14347 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen Calif. 800-938-5170
Nestled at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountain Range, Arrowood's expansive front porch makes a perfect place to enjoy the range of Sonoma Cabernets, paired with locally made cheeses if you prefer. The tasting room is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with special hours for holidays.
 
  

The City of Sonoma

sonoma-square-mission

What is it: A charming town with a historic square lined with boutique shopping, restaurants, chic hotels and tasting rooms.
 
When it comes to California wine, the city of Sonoma's claim to fame is being the site of the state's longest-running commercial winery. Buena Vista was founded in 1857 by Agoston Haraszthy, a Hungarian émigré.  He pioneered making wine with vitis vinifera grape varieties - just like the ones used in Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne.
 
Visitors flocked to the bustling town square to shop, eat and drink, just as they do today. Besides grapes, Sonoma's fertile lands are ideal for pretty much everything from apples to dairy cows, and that's still true today. The Tuesday night farmer's market that runs from May to September is the place to buy everything from fresh organic produce and flowers to artisanal bread and local cheeses. 
 
Right on the square, Vella Cheese is one of Sonoma's most popular year-round attractions. Since 1931, the factory has produced natural cheeses from soft curds to their award-winning  Dry Monterey Jack cheese with the cocoa-rubbed rind. Take a tasting tour to see what all the buzz is about. 
 
Nearby on the square, you'll find the Mission San Francisco Sonoma. While technically the first place wine grapes were planted in the region, nobody drank those wines for fun. "The Mission grapes were not [great] wine grapes," says Eric Stanley, associate director and curator of history for the Museums of Sonoma County. But the adobe with artifacts from daily life in the 1820s and a collection of watercolors by Chris Jorgensen offers history buffs the chance to see how the town of Sonoma got its start. 
 

Where to go:

G's General Store, 19 West Napa St. Sonoma, Calif. 707-933-6082
Just across from the historic Sonoma Square, you'll find Virginia "G" Hayes' carefully curated shop with imported Scandinavian textiles, housewares and shoes. Don't miss the Orla Kiely canisters and Sagaform decanters and wine glasses with an angled lip that helps aerate the wine.  Open daily.
 
 
 
The very words “Thanksgiving dinner” can cause the pulse of even the most experienced entertainers to quicken a bit. It’s the official start of most important entertaining events of the year, which involve many decisions from guest list, to wine pairings, to table décor. And then learning that one of your guests has a particular dietary restriction can send some hosts into a near panic.
 
But not to worry – with a little planning, cooking for people with different eating styles doesn’t have to be complicated. To make your holiday dinner planning easier, we reached out to three experts in Paleo, gluten-free and vegan cuisine for guidance and inspiration on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s menus paired with Arrowood wine.
 

Paleo Thanksgiving Dinner

 
What it is: The Paleo diet (short for Paleolithic) cuts out processed foods, along with grains and dairy, and added sugars, which can cause inflammation.
Expert: Tanya Holland, an Oakland chef, restaurateur and author of Brown Sugar Kitchen: New Style Down Home Recipes from Sweet West Oakland (Chronicle Books, 2014),
Menu: Smoked turkey with cranberry apple relish, collard greens, green beans with sesame seed dressing, sweet potato wedges and smoked yams with coconut butter.
 
 
If you haven’t heard of chef Tanya Holland and her lighter-than-air waffles that inspire people to line up outside her restaurant, you will soon. The chef is one of the cheftestants competing in the next season of Top Chef  which debuts December 7.
 
“My cuisine is very elegant, and refined comfort food with great quality ingredients,” says Holland. “It’s very simple and accessible.” The centerpiece of her Thanksgiving menu is organic turkey, brined with salt and then smoked. But it doesn’t have to be a 12-pound bird; Holland loves cooking a turkey leg or breast if she’s cooking an intimate dinner. A no-sugar added cranberry apple relish makes a naturally sweet-tart accompaniment to the turkey.
 
Her go-to Thanksgiving wine pairing is a softer red, such as merlot or a red blend. “I would pick a merlot over cabernet sauvignon because it’s softer and more food friendly,” says Holland. “A merlot-dominant red blend would be nice too.”
For a Paleo feast, Holland would pair her turkey with a cornucopia of vegetable-based side dishes.
 
“Collard greens are really great,” she says.  “And I don’t put any fat in my collard greens except for olive oil.” And as she explains in her book Brown Sugar Kitchen, sautéing red onion, fresh garlic and chili flakes first help give the greens a flavorful foundation. Another go-to side is her roasted green beans with sesame-seed dressing.
 
Baked sweet potato wedges, tossed in olive oil with Kosher salt and Creole spices and then baked makes a family friendly side. Or for a richer dish, she likes smoked yams with coconut butter and a drizzle of maple syrup. The warm spices, and the hint of natural sweetness, make the yams a great match for lush wine like Viognier, which has its own spice notes.
 
Vegan Christmas Dinner
 
What it is: People on a vegan diet eat only plant-based foods, avoiding anything that comes from animals, including butter and honey.
Expert: Toni Okamoto, author of The Super Easy Vegan Slow Cooker Cookbook (Callisto, $12.71) and hostess of Plant Based on a Budget
Menu: Turkey field roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing with mushroom and faux sausage, stuffed squash with wild rice and cranberries and chocolate pie.
 
 
Some people see eating a plant-based diet as restrictive, but Toni Okamoto says that becoming vegan opened her up to a whole new world of cuisine.  Growing up, she and her parents ate a typical American diet where the most exotic foods were Mexican, Chinese and Italian cuisine.
 
“Becoming vegan, I discovered a lot more variety,” says Okamoto, who’s based in Sacramento, California. “Learning to cook plant-based opened me up to Ethiopian, Vietnamese and Indian, which are very vegan-friendly cuisines.”
 
But even if you’re not that adventurous it’s OK, since there are so many commercial foods that cater to vegans these days. For a Christmas main course, Okamoto suggests Tofurkey – like it sounds, it’s tofu reminiscent of roasted turkey. Another popular choice is a Field Roast, a grain-based meat substitute in the shape of a roast. The earthy flavors in the wild mushroom or lentil sage roasts make them a fine pairing for the notes of red fruit, anise and roasted coffee in the Arrowood Sonoma Valley Cab.
 
Using nut milks, vegetable broth and plant-based butters, she says it’s easy to create a range of satisfying sides from mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes and squash stuffed with wild rice and cranberries. And high-quality vegan sausages —often made with pea protein—add flavor and texture to her mushroom stuffing.  The lighter flavors in most vegetable dishes, especially green ones, are well-paired with a refreshing wine like sauvignon blanc.
 
Gluten-Free New Year’s Eve Party
 
What it is: People on a gluten-free diet avoid all wheat products including flour, pasta, and traditional breads.
Expert: Chef Isabel Cruz, owner of The Coffee Cup in La Jolla, California and author of the upcoming book The Latin Table from SkyHorse Publishing
Menu: Taco bar with roasted pork and roasted chicken, mini corn tortillas, avocado tomatillo salsa, red tomato salsa, black beans, rice and crispy plantains with chipotle dip, flourless chocolate ginger cake.
 
 
Growing up in Los Angeles, chef Isabel Cruz explored all kind of exciting flavors, from her family’s Puerto Rican and Peruvian dishes, to the Chinese food her friends ate.  Cruz turned those early food experiences into the novel cuisine that riffs on Latin and Asian flavors at her restaurants.
Hard at work on her new cookbook The Latin Table due in Spring 2018, Cruz says she gets lots of requests for gluten-free dishes at her restaurants. But it’s easy for her to keep these diners happy.
 
“People are surprised when they discover that Latin cuisine makes it easy to be gluten-free,” says Cruz. “We don’t use a lot of flour; we eat more rice and beans and vegetables on the side.”
 
But what makes Cruz’s cuisine special is the way she takes those simple foods like rice, beans, vegetables and proteins, and makes them exciting with different chilies, sauces and salsas.
 
That’s the idea behind her taco bar for New Year’s Eve entertaining. It couldn’t be easier to host a party this way, since guests make their own DIY tacos.
 
Start by choosing taco fillings according to your own tastes. Roasted pork shoulder is rich and satisfying and a perfect match with Malbec, which has a lot of fruit flavors accented by spice and cocoa notes. Her other go-to meat is roasted chicken pulled off the bones, which is ideal with a rich white, like the Arrowood Carneros Chardonnay. She also sautés a big pan of veggies like eggplant, black kale, tomatoes and onions seasoned with olive oil and fresh garlic, as a vegetarian filling option, along with a pot of simmered black beans, that taste delicious with her coconut rice.
 
To liven up her cuisine, Cruz whips up salsas and sauces with different flavor profiles. Her go-to salsa is a basic one with tomato, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime.  For a New Year’s taco bar, she pairs it with her bright, creamy and tangy tomatillo-avocado salsa. Round out the buffet with chopped onions, cilantro, crumbly cotija cheese and bottles of hot sauce and gluten-free corn tortillas, and maybe her flourless chocolate cake, and it’s time to celebrate.
 
So, whether your guests are paleo, vegan, gluten-free, or none of the above - don't be afraid think creatively when it comes to food and wine pairings. Hungry for more? Check out Arrowood's full portfolio of food-friendly wines.
 

Sonoma Valley Mountain Vineyard Site

 

Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - A Rare Treat

At Arrowood, we love introducing people to Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. And, believe it or not, we get to - a lot. 
 
Why? Because Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma Valley is actually rarer than Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. With just over 1,000 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon planted in Sonoma Valley to 18,200 acres in Napa - Napa Cab outnumbers Sonoma Cab 18:1. That’s a case and a half for every one bottle produced. But Arrowood Winemaker, Kristina Shideler is careful to qualify the exercise: "I don’t think comparing Sonoma Valley to Napa Valley is comparing apples to apples.  Sonoma Valley is a sub-AVA within Sonoma County.  Napa Valley is essentially the county/AVA in which 16 sub-AVAs exist." 
 
So, while there's considerably more Napa Cab to be heralded the world over, Sonoma Cab keeps a lower profile. But sometimes profiles can be deceiving.
Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley AVA Map

 

Comparing Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley

Climate

 
Both Napa and Sonoma Valleys enjoy a dry, Mediterranean climate, with long, sunny days and cool nights.
 
Depending on where you stand, are either warmer or cooler according to elevation. If you’re above the fog line, you generally get hotter days (no fog) and cooler nights (high altitude). Ultimately, although it is possibly a dangerous generalization, overall you could say Sonoma Valley is marginally cooler. Both Napa and Sonoma Valleys are close to the cool Pacific, but Sonoma is closer.
 
Sonoma Valley opens to the Bay at the bottom and to the Santa Rosa plain at the top, so cool air and fog come in both top and bottom, ocean and bay. Napa Valley opens up to the Bay at its south end, as Sonoma Valley does, but it has no outlet in the north; and where the palisade walls come together, trapped air heats up. Only the Vaca mountain range along its eastern flank protects Napa from California’s notoriously hot Central Valley
 

Elevation

 
In Sonoma Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon is planted mostly on the slopes of Sonoma Mountain on the west, above the fog line, where grapes ripen more fully in the extended sunlight. The days are warm, but altitude makes for chilly nights. Sonoma Mountain soils are volcanic-based and exceptionally well-draining.
 
Vintners have also established Cabernet on the eastern side of the valley in another sub-AVA, Moon Mountain, perched on the Western slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains, very close to the Napa County line. Almost constant bay breezes blow across this entire area, located above the summer fog. The red, rocky soils of Moon Mountain consist largely of fractured basalt and iron-rich volcanic ash.
 

Visibility

 
So now the question: why do Napa Valley Cabernets get all the love? Why do people hold them in such high regard? Several things:
 
First, obviously, there is the matter of scale. Napa Valley is twice the size of Sonoma Valley and planted to over three times as many vines. More people, making a lot more wine, make a lot more noise.
 
Sonoma Valley has always been a community of growers and small producers, whereas Napa Valley has its growers, but savvy marketers as well. People who established famous brands built broad markets and submitted their wines to international tastings for recognition. The Cabernet Sauvignon that won fame at the Judgment of Paris in 1976 was a Napa Valley wine.
 
And then there’s Robert Mondavi. And the Napa Valley Wine Auction. Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has become a brand in itself.
 

Overall

 
But, If you cut through the noise and actually look at the climate, location, and soils of Napa compared, say, to the locations where Sonoma valley grows its best Cabernet, Sonoma Valley’s mountain regions show every bit as well. Their long, warm days high above the fog lines and cool nights bathed in cool marine air and bay fog create a wide diurnal shift – a dramatic difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures – which typically gives Cabernet Sauvignon its rich, ripe fruit while maintaining a balance of plush tannins and firm, fresh acidity. Sonoma Valley’s Cabernet character tends to be more red fruit than Napa’s black – more cherry than blackcurrant – but the depth and concentration and fundamental pleasure of this wine show from the first sip.
 

Arrowood’s Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Arrowood's Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
 
We sat down with Kristina to get to get her take on Sonoma Valley Cabernet in general and one of her absolute favorite wines, our Arrowood Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
 
Kristina wanted to start with a conversation on sourcing, “In Sonoma Valley, we’re sourcing from Sonoma Mountain and Moon Mountain, Absolutely, everything we’re sourcing from Sonoma Valley it coming from high-elevation sites.”
 
Then she moved to the palette, “Most people think of high-elevation fruit as having these big, burly, angular mountain fruit tannins, but in Sonoma Valley, the mountains give you surprising delicate, round notes. This wine is plush, for sure. Great color. Great concentration.”
 
When asked what flavor she’d describe as quintessential Sonoma Valley, her answer was almost immediate, “Cherry! Sonoma Valley Cabernet always presents these wonderful cherry notes.”
 
For Kristina, it’s not so much Napa v Sonoma; more Napa & Sonoma. “I love Cabernet Sauvignon. When you make wine on four continents, you learn to appreciate so many different expressions of the same grape.”
 
While we have likely not heard the last of the Napa v Sonoma debate - we can all agree that both regions produce excellent Cabernet Sauvignons, that, if you haven’t tried, you should.

Discover Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

 
When you dare to travel off the beaten path, like the bravest of us sometimes do, you can be rewarded for your bravery. In fact, should you spend enough time off on your own, you may find that your once-divergent path is now the path.
 
Kristina Shideler Walking Knights Valley Vineyards
 
At Arrowood, we like to say we’re appellation agonistic--winemaking without borders if you will. We call Sonoma County home, and within it, distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon is our North Star. So we followed that North Star up winding dirt roads, through fog, over mountain tops. We followed it north and a little east. We followed it to Knights Valley. 
 
Less famous than Napa? Yes. Less visible than Sonoma Valley? Sure. But if you’re looking to think outside the glass, here’s a guide to the Cabernet Sauvignon region that should be next on your list.  
 

Where is Knights Valley?

Knights Valley AVA Map
 
Often mistaken for part of Napa County, Knights Valley is the easternmost AVA in Sonoma County just up the hill from Calistoga. Like other spectacular Sonoma AVAs - Sonoma Valley and Carneros -  Knights Valley straddles the gap between two wine-growing giants drawing influences from both sides. Cabernet Sauvignon from Knights Valley marries that quintessential Napa Valley structure with Sonoma County’s elegant acidity.
 
Kristina Shideler
 
When Kristina Shideler took over as Arrowood winemaker in 2015, she brought a wealth of knowledge about Sonoma’s mountain-grown Bordeaux varietals from her time as an intern at Vérité and an enologist at Stonestreet winery. In her own words: “When the opportunity at Arrowood came up in December of 2014, I jumped at it. I knew all about the Monte Rosso and Smothers-Remick Ridge vineyards and knew about Arrowood’s classic Cabernet heritage.”
 

Knights Valley or Knight’s Valley?

Good question. The answer is yes to both. Thomas B. Knight purchased ~9,000 acres in Sonoma County from Santos Berryessa in 1853, making it Knight’s valley. In 1875, however, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors formed Knights Valley Township in honor of the Knight family, and Knight’s valley officially became Knights Valley.
 

Knights Valley Winegrowing History

Thomas B. Knight, recognizing the value of Mount Saint Helena’s fertile soil planted the first vineyards on the land back in the late 1850s. By the 1880s, other settlers had gravitated to the area and also began planting wine grapes. By 1912, wine grapes were Knights Valley’s most planted crop.
 
In 1960, UC Davis published Promising New Areas for Premium Quality Wine Grapes to Replace Acreage Lost to Urbanization (back when really dry 14-word titles were totally in vogue). This paper notes that the soil and climate in Knights Valley made it ripe to challenge the other burgeoning wine regions in California: “Knights Valley has a few thriving small vineyards. Although the soils of Knights Valley have not been mapped, the growing vineyards demonstrate the suitability of the deep soils which will support vines without irrigation.” 
 
After decades of informal recognition by winemakers and vineyard managers for its unique growing conditions, the Knights Valley AVA was officially formed in 1983.
 
Fast forward to today and Knights Valley is home to some of California’s most storied producers: Chateau Montelena, Peter Michael, Anakota and Vérité.
 

Knights Valley’s Winegrowing Soil

Knights Valley Winegrowing Soil
 
“I’d characterize the soil in Knights as incredibly fine,” says Kristina. “It is really rich, well-drained soil, which allows the berries to be smaller and more concentrated. The winemakers in the area fondly refer to Knights Valley soil as ‘moon dust.' You have to be very careful driving near these vineyards because the soil texture is just that fine.”
 

Arrowood Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

 
Kristina describes Arrowood's Knights Valley Cabernet as the exclamation point at the end of our Cabernet portfolio: “I like to pour it last because it’s the most structured of our three AVA Cabernets. It has these big, broad, beautiful tannins that take hold the second it hits your palate. This is your steak wine, for sure.” 
 
When making Knights Valley Cabernet, Kristina always starts with mountain-side fruit, “The closer you get to Mount Saint Helena, the more structure you get from that fruit. So, that first 20-25% of mountain side fruit really makes up the base of this wine. As you start moving away from Mount Saint Helena there’s this little plateau, with amazing soils, that I like to call the sweet spot - that’s where I source the rest of the Cabernet along with some Merlot and Malbec to round out  this Cabernet.”
 
When asked about the signatures of her Knight’s Valley Cabernet, Kristina says, “outside of its unmistakable structure; the other defining characteristic is the finish: cocoa powder. It’s the flavor, but also the texture; you get just a hint of this chocolatey-sweet dust that stays with you - it’s a pretty special Cabernet.”
 

Discover Knights Valley for Yourself

Not all journeys have a single destination. In the case of Cabernet, there are so many soil-types, elevations, rootstocks, clones, barrel regimens, and aging techniques that can transform neighboring clusters, let alone neighboring blocks. But, while it may not be the only destination, Knights Valley is certainly an AVA worth seeking out when that spirit of adventure strikes.

 

As a winemaker, the blending process is where I get to earn my stripes, composing a distinct expression of the vintage and capturing a snapshot in time. Monitoring the individual grape varieties through the growing process in the vineyard and following their progress into barrel lends to a keen understanding of how each grape is performing in the vintage.  This is essential knowledge when determining the components that are going to make up the blend in a specific vintage.

Building blends from sample bottles containing individual varieties from specific vineyard sights
So many options…

We are now making eight or more red wines each year, expressing Sonoma County Bordeaux varieties in various ways.  Our Reserve is our flagship wine, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and barrel selected from our top vineyard sites.  The vineyard designate wines showcase the unique terroir of a single vineyard.  These vineyards are primarily distinguished by their altitude and soil type, and give such a distinct expression of terroir that their quality and intrigue merit their own individual bottling.  Our appellation wines bring together several vineyard blocks to highlight the characteristics of the region.  Working with fruit from the three best AVAs (American Vinicultural Areas) in Sonoma County for growing Cabernet, I can make distinctly different wines from Knights Valley, Sonoma Valley and Alexander Valley.  One of the newest offerings at Arrowood is the Proprietary Red wine, which is a blend that expresses the vintage using any or all of the five Bordeaux varieties.  But before I tell you more, let’s review these varieties and talk about their individual qualities.

Kristina carefully measures each grape variety to ensure an accurate blend composition.
Carefully measuring out each grape variety

In California, Cabernet Sauvignon is king.  Known for its bold fruit character and heavy weight and texture, Cabernet is most commonly bottled as a single variety.  Cabernet Franc is its close relative, with some similarities in aromatics, but tends to give more savory and sometimes herbal character.  (Fun fact:  Cabernet Sauvignon is actually a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.)  Merlot often has a lot of blue fruit aromas, offering a soft and round texture.  When used as a blending component, it can increase the depth and length of the mouthfeel.  Malbec is aromatically very distinct, often exotic with violet and spice, along with velvety tannins.  Those of you who have had our Sonoma Valley Malbec know exactly what I’m talking about!  Lastly, Petit Verdot is known for its dark color and intense tannins.  Both Malbec and Petit Verdot can be very impactful in a blend, where a little goes a long way.

The current release of the 2013 Proprietary Red blend has the following blend composition:  63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet franc, 14% Merlot and 8% Malbec.  In this particular year, Petit Verdot didn’t make it into the blend.  After trying to use as little as 1%, I decided that it did not make a better wine.  Each year, this blend will be completely different depending on the performance of each variety and how each variety interacts with one another.

Jakey the winery dog stands by, as Kristina utilizes her senses to judge the aromatics and flavor profiles of her contending blends.
Jakey the winery dog stands by, ready to help calculate percentages

With so many different growing conditions in Sonoma County, each of these five varieties can be farmed to their full potential, giving me a diverse range of options for blending the Proprietary Red.  I love that there aren’t any rules when blending this wine.  I can use any of these five varieties to make the most intriguing and texturally complete wine possible.  However, this also makes it the most challenging wine to blend, often requiring more than ten different iterations of the blend before coming up with “the one.”  The 2015 Proprietary Red actually took me seventeen tries before I was happy with the final blend!

The new release of the 2013 Proprietary Red blend is one I am very excited about having followed this wine from barrel to bottle, and the vintage couldn’t have been a much better growing season.  Come by and see one of the friendly familiar faces at the Arrowood tasting room and give this wine a taste. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think!

After days of deliberation, Kristina finds “the one” out 16 finalists!
Kristina finds “the one”!

The final product - a glass of Arrowood proprietary red blend next to the bottle on an outdoor table

Arrowood Winemaker, Kristina Werner has worked at wineries across New Zealand, Portugal and Argentina until landing in Sonoma County. Today, she and her dedicated winegrowing team, craft artisan Cabernet Sauvignons that convey the best sites and appellations throughout Sonoma County.

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