Arkenstone Vineyards on Howell Mountain has been a long-time labor of love for Ron and Susan Krausz. The couple bought 42 acres of pastureland and undeveloped hillside in 1988 without any particular plans to grow grapes. But surrounded by grape growers and winemakers, they eventually had the site analyzed for its grape growing potential by Philippe Melka, a legendary winemaker and viticulturalist. Melka was impressed, and the first vineyards were planted in 1998. The 13 acres of vineyards were planted to red and white Bordeaux grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. There also is a small amount of Syrah. Arkenstone’s first commercial release was the 2006 vintage and today the winery makes premium red, white and rosé wines. Sam Kaplan is winemaker and general manager. Arkenstone produces about 1,800 cases a year. The winery also produces a portfolio of wines from non-estate grapes that come from nearby vineyards situated at about the same 1,400 – 1,650-foot elevation as Arkenstone. The winery calls these non-estate wines its NVD, or Native Vista Domaine wines. The name of the winery comes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, in which the “Arkenstone” is a gem representing all that is precious.
Napa Valley AVA is the most famous winemaking region in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world. With nearly 43,000 acres of vineyards and more than 300 wineries, it is the heart of fine wine production in the United States. Winemaking started in Napa in 1838 when George C. Yount planted grapes and began producing wine commercially. Other winemaking pioneers followed in the late 19th century, including the founders of Charles Krug, Schramsberg, Inglenook and Beaulieu Vineyards. An infestation of phylloxera, an insect that attacks vine roots, and the onset of Prohibition nearly wiped out the nascent Napa wine industry in the early 20th century. But by the late 1950s and early 1960s Robert Mondavi and other visionaries were producing quality wines easily distinguishable from the mass-produced jug wines made in California’s Central Valley. Napa Valley’s AVA was established in 1983, and today there are 16 sub-appellations within the Napa Valley AVA. Many grapes grow well in Napa’s Mediterranean climate, but the region is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay is also very successfully cultivated, and about 30% of the AVA’s acreage is planted to white grapes, with the majority of those grapes being Chardonnay,
One of the most widely grown grape varieties, it can be found in nearly every wine growing region. A cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a hardy vine that produces a full-bodied wine with high tannins and great aging potential.