Arkenstone Howell Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2017
The Arkenstone Estate Sauvignon Blanc originally planted in 1997 is grown in 6 different very steep, very rocky, vineyard blocks on their Howell Mountain Estate. Choosing to plant only in the perfect patches of nutrient lacking, well-drained, white volcanic soils they are able to grow very concentrated, rich, but balanced, beautiful Sauvignon Blanc. Along with the Sauvignon Blanc in the lower part of their vineyard, they also farm a small block of Semillon which is blended with their Sauvignon Blanc. The percentage of Semillon will change with each vintage, but the results are always consistent. The Semillon adds beautiful floral aromatics along with a bigger mid-palate that seamlessly complements and integrates with the Sauvignon Blanc's natural notes of melon, citrus, and minerality. From their rigorous farming practices to winemaking to their final blend, this wine is very much a tip of the cap to the classic white wines of Bordeaux. As with all 13 acres of the Arkenstone Estate , the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are both farmed exclusively in-house using only organic farming techniques overseen by Winemaker Sam Kaplan.
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Our serious interest in wine and our families’ farming history perhaps made it inevitable that we would think about planting vineyards here. We knew we did not want to clear the site for an “industrial” vineyard but didn’t know whether the effort required of farming the small patches of open space using sustainable practices could be justified. Then, in early 1995, a good friend of ours, who grew up in a Napa Valley wine family and founded her own label, encouraged us. She arranged for an expert who consulted for top vineyards all over the world to come to the Napa Valley to evaluate a number of potential vineyard sites. He included Arkenstone on this visit. Test holes were dug, and on a cloudy wet day we tramped around the property talking about dirt, drainage, exposures, air movement, and, most importantly, the promise of the site. His conclusion was that wine grapes of very high quality could be produced here, and that Arkenstone was indeed a special site. We didn’t then know to say “terroir” but understood that the grapes and the wine from these vineyards could over time become a recognizable expression of our site, climate, farming and winemaking. We decided to make this promise a reality.
Winemaking in Howell Mountain was abandoned during Prohibition, and wasn’t reawakened until the arrival of Randy Dunn, a talented winemaker famous for the success of Caymus in the 1970s and 1980s. In the early eighties, he set his sights on the Napa hills and subsequently astonished the wine world with a Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Shortly thereafter Howell Mountain became officially recognized as the first sub-region of Napa Valley (1983).
With vineyards at 1,400 to 2,000 feet in elevation, they predominantly sit above the fog line but the days in Howell Mountain remain cooler than those in the heart of the valley, giving the grapes a bit more time on the vine.
The Howell Mountain AVA includes 1,000 acres of vineyards interspersed by forestlands in the Vaca Mountains. The soils, shallow and infertile with good drainage, are volcanic ash and red clay and produce highly concentrated berries with thick skins. The resulting wines are full of structure and potential to age.
Capable of a vast array of styles, Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp, refreshing variety that equally reflects both terroir and varietal character. Though it can vary depending on where it is grown, a couple of commonalities always exist—namely, zesty acidity and intense aromatics. This variety is of French provenance. Somm Secret—Along with Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc is a proud parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. That green bell pepper aroma that all three varieties share is no coincidence—it comes from a high concentration of pyrazines (herbaceous aromatic compounds) inherent to each member of the family.