After over 30 years of crafting Sonoma County’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s safe to say that we at Arrowood Winery have amassed a small wine collection over the years. Okay, small might not be the best word considering that the shelves of our cellar are lined with vintages spanning the last three decades. And although the Arrowood Wine Library is not a collection of books, it still tells a story. Each bottle conveys the nuances of each Arrowood vintage from year to year and from decade to decade. Each year the weather and vineyards have something unique to offer and the flavors and textures can be immensely different from one vintage to another.
Occasionally we have the privilege to sit down and analyze some of these wines to see how the stories are playing out. Winemaker Kristina Shideler and Joe Label recently tasted through several decades to develop an easy-to-use chart that indicates when a wine is ready to drink, or when it may require further cellaring. We will be posting the results as a vintage chart on our website as well as having it available in the Tasting Room.
Our inventory of older vintages in the Arrowood Wine Library varies depending on production levels from the year the wine was produced and vintage popularity. Right now we are lucky enough to have at least one case of wine from every year going back to our very first vintage in 1985.
When starting your own wine collection, it’s best to begin with a producer who has a tradition of making age-worthy wines. We recommend purchasing several bottles of the same wine to open over the course of a few years. This allows you to monitor the development of the vintage, which helps you know when the wine has reached its optimal drinking age. As your cellar grows, we suggest bottle cellar tags that display the wine and vintage with notes to indicate the optimal drinking window. Organizing your cellar by producer and vintage is also helpful. It is also fun to purchase wines from noteworthy years, such as a child’s birthyear or anniversary, it can add that special touch to celebrating milestones.
If you plan on holding these wines for several years, or longer in some cases, proper storage conditions are key. Ideally, an in-home wine cellar or wine fridge is best and the optimal temperature should be 55 degrees and 70% relative humidity. The higher humidity protects the cork form drying out, which can lead to premature aging of the wine. Wine should also be stored on its side or upside down in a case box, to further protect the cork from drying out. When opening an older bottle of wine, we suggest the use of a two-pronged wine opener (also called an ah-so). If you are planning on opening an older bottle of Arrowood and don’t have one of these openers, send us a note and we will ship one to you.
Our tenure of producing age-worthy Cabernet hasn’t gone unnoticed and we have collectors around the country who frequently take the time to share their experience with us. Last January, a group of guests visited the tasting room and brought in a 1989 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon to share with their guests and the Tasting Room staff. They chose that vintage to celebrate the wine’s 20th anniversary and because of their love for Arrowood. It was absolutely fantastic; everyone was surprised by how fresh and vibrant the wine was. At our Fall Release event last October, one of our most noteworthy collectors shared a 3 liter of the 1989 Sonoma County Cabernet, which was also exceptional (Thanks again, Steve!). Below is a recent letter we received from one of our fans in Georgia.
As we all know, wine is more than just a beverage to be sipped; it’s a story of time and place, told through the senses. Discovering new vintages and varietals is part of the joy of being a wine drinker. Sifting through your wine library and finding just the right bottle to open with family and friends always makes for a great ending, especially when that bottle is an Arrowood Cabernet. Please share your stories in the comments below.