Napa Wine Project profiles Arrow&Branch

Dave Thompson at Napa Wine Project profiles Arrow&Branch:

Arrow&Branch was founded by Steve and Seanne Contursi. Both have enjoyed Bordeaux wines since the 1980’s and have collected wine from a number of premium Bordeaux based, primarily Right Bank producers. Living in Laguna Beach (Southern California), they soon gravitated towards the Napa Valley and in 2007 purchased a small property in what is now Coombsville (east of the city of Napa). This property was noted winemaker and founder of Etude Winery, Tony Soter’s former Napa residence. He sold this property to move back to the Willamette Valley in Oregon to focus on Soter Vineyards. This property was already planted to three acres of Cabernet Franc at the time (the original Cabernet Franc planting on site was from 1991) with fruit from this vineyard being used in Soter’s “Little Creek” Cabernet Franc. Since the purchase, an additional 2 acres of Cabernet Franc has been planted using the cuttings from the existing vineyard.

Steve has been interested and intrigued by coins since a young boy. He channeled his passion for coins into a business – having become a professional numismatist in 1975. Today he owns Rare Coin Wholesalers and RCW Financial helping collectors find and purchase museum quality rare coins. One of his most interesting and high profile sales was in 2010 when he sold a special 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar for a world record price at the time of $7.85 million dollars.

The name Arrow&Branch directly ties into his love of numismatics and is a tribute to coins minted in the USA. It also represents the symbol on the back of many US minted coins with an eagle holding both an olive branch and arrows in its talons.

Helen Keplinger was hired as their first winemaker – they made wine in 2008 (merely 65 cases due to a very rare frost that damaged many vineyards in Napa County including theirs) but did not release this. 2009 was their first commercial release. Helen later left to go to Bryant Family and suggested accomplished winemaker Jennifer Williams who was winemaker at Spottswoode Estate Vineyard and Winery at the time to take her place. Jennifer has been the winemaker at Arrow & Branch since the 2011 vintage. While at Spottswoode, Jennifer was partly responsible for grower relations – her vineyard expertise and vineyard contacts cultivated while at Spottswoode have have certainly been helpful for securing additional premium vineyard sources beyond their own Cabernet Franc estate vineyard.

While the focus is on premium red wines – they do produce a Sauvignon Blanc each year. The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc is a seamless wine throughout from the bouquet onto the palate and shows no harsh or overtly acidic edges. The bouquet reveals both lemon and lime nuances and floral notes while framed subtly with tropical undertones. On the palate this wine drinks lively – it is fresh and vibrant with just the perfect balance of acidity and fruit.

The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Black Label” was sourced in equal proportions from the historic Lewelling Vineyards in St. Helena and Stagecoach (the Pritchard Hill part of this vineyard). Arrow&Branch has worked with Stagecoach fruit since their earliest vintages. Like their other red wines, this wine often spends between 20 and 22 months in oak and another year in bottle before being released. The bouquet is elegant with aromas of currant, red cherry, cinnamon and toasted cedar. Ample but not overbearing somewhat dusty tannins anchor a satisfying finish.

The 2012 “Red Wine” (Bordeaux styled blend) features a majority of their estate Cabernet Franc blended with varying percentages of other sourced red varietals from locations within the Napa Valley. While starting with excellent fruit, this wine always gives Jennifer a chance to showcase her blending talents based on each particular vintage. The bouquet reveals deeper notes of darker fruit – blackberry, with chocolate undertones along with some floral notes (lavender). As it opens it becomes more floral with some aromatics of raspberries also showing. Rounded on the entry, this wine delivers plenty of flavor and acidity. Smooth integrated tannins linger along with a sweetness of mocha.

The Dr. Crane Vineyard is one of Beckstoffer Vineyards six Heritage Vineyards – some of the most historically significant and premium quality vineyards under their Napa management. This particular vineyard was originally planted in 1858 by Napa pioneer Dr. George Belden Crane. Jennifer introduced them to this vineyard; today they are only one of seven producers making wine from this special slice of St. Helena. The 2012 vintage shows dark ruby in the glass – with a very identifiable bouquet. Aromatically it shows a neat mix of dustiness and smoke framed by elegant fruit. Also slightly floral. As the wine breathes this element of ‘dust’ continues to show. The mid palate structure is impressive – showing a noticeable density of fruit. This wine drinks very well young.

Their bottles are a direct nod to the First Growth properties in Bordeaux. They source the same green Bordeaux bottles these chateau’s use for their own red wines. This is one of only several Napa producers we have seen sourcing these particular bottles for their red wines. And each of the bottles representing each of their wines are creatively packaged; with an homage to American statesman, Benjamin Franklin – one of his quotes is printed on every cork. And their recognition of Franklin is a more subtle nod to his role with France as our country’s first American Minister (the equivalent of Ambassador at the time) and to his love of wine. Each label is unique with multiple references to coin heritage in the United States. Even their capsules have a numismatic theme.

Most of the wine is sold direct via a mailing list although they have some select distribution in California, Georgia, and North Carolina. Locally several retails outlets carry some of their wines including 750 Wines and ACME Wine Shop in St. Helena as well as at the K. Laz Collection in Yountville. They are members of the Napa Valley Vintners, Napa Valley Grapegrowers and the Coombsville Vintners and Growers. For more information and to join their mailing list – visit: