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Winery Blog

Kristina Werner, Winemaker

The hills are green and the vineyards are striped with yellow mustard here in Sonoma County, thanks to the early (and welcomed) El Niño rains.  Although there’s still a long road ahead to complete drought relief, we are starting off the 2016 growing season with flowing streams and replenished soils.

Sonoma County typically receives the majority of its rainfall between the months of October and March.  The rest of the year remains dry, reducing the risk of rot and fungal disease in the vineyard during the most critical times of the growing season.  During these dry months, we are able to control the amount of water that the vines get through drip irrigation.  In the past few years, the wine industry has made a huge effort in water conservation and more technology has become available to determine how much water a vine needs at a given time.  At Arrowood, we use several of these technologies to help make our irrigation decisions.  In fact, a few of our vineyards are even “dry farmed,” meaning that they do not receive any water from irrigation.  What determines if a vineyard can be dry farmed or not?  Well, it’s very site-dependent: soil, climate, vine age, crop load and grape variety all impact the amount of water a particular vineyard needs.

Discussing pruning on a rainy day on Sonoma Mountain.

For Cabernet Sauvignon, the amount and timing for irrigation is especially important because of its impact on berry size.  Smaller berries produce more skin than watery pulp, which means more flavors coming from the skin and more concentration.  So when you hear that wine is made in the vineyard, there is quite a bit of truth to that.  From rainy winter walks in the vineyard to tasting the berries ripen in the fall, I’m always thinking about how to get the characteristics in the fruit that I ultimately want in the wine. 

And as for what Mother Nature has planned next for the rest of 2016, we’ll have to wait and see! 


Kristina Werner, Winemaker

One of the things I love most about winemaking is following nature through its seasons.  Now that the grapes are harvested, leaves are turning to show the beautiful fall colors and the vines are preparing themselves to start the cycle all over again.  This period of time in the vine’s cycle is called senescence, which much like harvest, came early this year.  We had a record breaking start date for harvest this year at Arrowood, with Sauvignon blanc being picked on the 14th of August.  Chardonnay closely followed, and then red varieties started trickling in.  It’s no secret that this year brought a very light crop load. 

Due to a cold spring season, the young clusters failed to pollenate and set every grape berry, therefore producing looser and lighter clusters.  However, these lower yields along with the nice warm weather during the summer and early fall produced extremely high quality fruit.  Fewer tons allowed for great attention to detail in the winery, where no matter how small, every vineyard block was kept separate.  This picture below demonstrates small lot winemaking at its finest!  Even with our top notch destemmer machine, shorter stems can remain attached to the berries.  For our top vineyards, we sort each berry after destemming in macrobins to ensure that nothing but perfect berries end up in the fermenter.

Small lot winemaking

The quality of Cabernet from all three AVAs (Knights Valley, Alexander Valley, and Sonoma Valley) was especially stunning.  As my first year working with Sonoma Valley fruit, I spent a considerable amount of early mornings in the vineyards.  I absolutely fell in love with the Smothers and Monte Rosso vineyards, working closely with the vineyard team to harvest each section of the vineyard at its peak.  The vineyard managers are so key to a successful harvest, working around the clock to ensure that the grapes seamlessly get from the thousands of vines out in the elements and into the winery.  Below is a photo of the sunrise at Smothers vineyard after crews had picked by hand on the steep terraces.

Sunrise at Smothers Vineyard

As the harvest season comes to a close, it’s also time for us at Arrowood to enjoy the fruits of our labor.  While the 2015 vintage is sleeping in barrel, I look forward to sharing the holidays with friends, family, and of course with a few bottles of Arrowood Cabernet.  Cheers to another great vintage – I look forward to sharing these wines with you in the coming years!