Cabernet & Coins: Arrow&Branch
Arrow&Branch (lack of spacing intentional) is a small, estate winery located within the newest Napa Valley AVA of Coombsville. It was purchased by proprietors, Steve & Seanne Contursi, in 2007. Arrow&Branch focuses on Bordeaux-style wines, made from small, hand-crafted lots. Their aim is “to be the Napa Valley expression of the greatest wines of Bordeaux, an American Cheval Blanc.”
The 5-acre estate vineyard, planted to Cabernet Franc, is located on a swath of land called Tulocay, named after the ancient Native Americans who once lived on that land. Tulocay has a unique micro-climate, with warm days and cool evenings, and a morning fog that dissolves quicker than in neighboring areas. Winemaker, Jennifer Williams, is firmly committed to organic and sustainable farming. Vineyard manager, Michael Wolf, employs meticulous canopy management to ensure the estate Cabernet Franc has every opportunity to ripen fully and express itself completely.
In addition to the estate vineyard, Arrow&Branch sources grapes from the following Napa vineyards: Beckstoffer Dr. Crane (St. Helena), Stagecoach (Atlas Peak), Lewelling (St. Helena) and Criscione (St. Helena), as well as other properties in the valley.
Proprietor Steve Contursi has been a professional numismatist since 1975. He has bought and sold over $1 billion worth of rare US coins, including the Brasher Doubloon (see below). The winery’s name, Arrow&Branch, as well as the design of its logo and wine labels are a nod to the realm of coin collecting.
A little history (because I love it when wine and history get mixed up together) . . .
Back in 1787, when the United States wasn’t quite united (the Constitution had yet to be fully ratified), the first gold coin was made for our young country. The 1787 Brasher Doubloon (from the Spanish doblón, meaning double) coin was struck by silversmith Ephraim Brasher, George Washington’s New York City neighbor. (I wonder if Ephraim ever stopped by to ask Martha for a cup of sugar?). The Brasher Doubloon has been described as America’s most significant coin, “underscoring the beginnings of our economic system“.
One side of the Brasher Doubloon features an eagle holding an olive branch in one talon and arrows in the other. This enduring symbolism represents America’s desire for peace, but willingness to defend itself. The Arrow&Branch logo (see photo above) and wine bottle labels feature a stylized representation of the same arrows and branch, with the Latin words, TELUM (arrow) and STIPES (branch).
Even the Arrow&Branch wine corks are a salute to the history of coins. The coin photos below (courtesy of coinfacts.com and Wikipedia) are the 1776 Continental Dollar and the 1787 Fugio Cent, both said to be designed by Benjamin Franklin. The design on the coins is a rebus (clever, huh?) featuring a sun shining down on a sundial. Along with the Latin word, Fugio (to flee/fly), and the motto, Mind Your Business, the rebus is a pictorial representation of Time Flies, Mind Your Business.
Sidebar: Apparently, Franklin wasn’t a fan of putting portraits of people on coins, preferring reflective proverbs instead (he was, however, a big fan of wine). Benjamin Franklin was featured (in full portrait) on the US half-dollar coin from 1948 to 1963. I wonder what Mr. Franklin would have to say about that??
I tasted these Arrow&Branch wines with my family, pairing them with our traditional family gathering meal of Omaha Steaks (I’m from Nebraska, there is no other kind of steak), sauce Béarnaise, potatoes au gratin, and roasted squash.
Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Pale lemon-green color. Super inviting nose of grapefruit, lemon, grass, fresh bell pepper and basil. That basil note is like catnip to me — I can’t resist it. Dry, with medium body and sparky acidity. Flavors of grapefruit, pear, and lemon with a mineral note throughout. Soft vanilla on the lingering finish. Absolutely lovely. Retail = $35.
Red Wine “Bordeaux Blend” 2012
A Cabernet Franc driven Bordeaux-style blend of 59% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Petit Verdot. Sourced from Coombsville and Atlas Peak. Medium garnet color. So many aromas in my glass, I don’t know where to start. Blackberry, black currant, vanilla, toast, charred wood, smoke, lavender. Dry and acutely balanced. Soft, elegant and immediately approachable, with flavors of blackberry, black licorice and black currant. Super. Retail = $125.
Cabernet Sauvignon “Black Label” 2013
A blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1.5% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot sourced from St. Helena and Napa Valley (I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen half a percent of something in a blend). Deep garnet color. Nose of blueberry, blackberry, black cherry, graphite, cedar and vanilla. There’s a precise balance and elegance to this wine, with layered flavors of blueberry, blackberry, vanilla, violets and tobacco. The tannins are firm, but approachable. I’d love to taste this again in a few years and see where it’s at. My guess is killer. Retail = $100.
Dr. Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the historic Beckstoffer’s Dr. Crane vineyard in St. Helena. Aged for 20 months in 85% new French oak barrels. Deep garnet color. This is one of those wines — you stick your nose into the glass and you know without even tasting, that it’s going to knock your socks off and across the room. The nose is a tidal wave of violets, blueberry, toast, vanilla, clove, cinnamon and cocoa. Beautifully balanced, with flavors of violets, red currant, black cherries, cocoa, and vanilla that dance and linger, and then linger and dance. A home run! Retail = $175.
All of these wines are graceful, elegant, nuanced, and teeming with finesse. Adeptly made, well structured, and finely balanced. Bravo, Arrow&Branch!