FOR STEVE AND SEANNE CONTURSI, CREATING ARROW&BRANCH WINES WAS ONE OF THE BEST DECISIONS OF THEIR LIFE
by Meridith May, Somm Journal, February-March 2017
For over 40 years, Bronx-born Steve Contursi has collected rare coins as a business, but the hobby started in his childhood. “Before computers, there were only so many board games you could play, and I became interested in the hunt for these artifacts that could lead to something valuable.” Although armed with a degree in physics, it was the pursuit of the prized coin that inspired Contursi. Whether looked at as objets d’art or merely possessions of value, the success of his coin trade would lead him to conventions, dinners and the art of dining with fine wine. “I sold two of the three most expensive coins in the world,” he told The Somm Journal on our recent visit to the Contursi Napa retreat. With profits in the works throughout these types of transactions, the curator was looking for investments. Seanne Contursi was born and raised in Southern California and studied to become a nurse. “I took a sharp turn when I met Steve,” she confessed. With a combined clan of five children between them, her life was dedicated to family.
Together, after years of family trips to favorite spots all over the world, and motivated by their love of Bordeaux, they decided to put a bid in on a Napa Valley property, buying five acres of Cabernet Franc from Tony Soter in 2007 and, in 2010, the adjacent 1.5 acres purchased directly from the family that had owned it for nearly 100 years. They called their label Arrow&Branch, a name taken from the eagle holding arrows and an olive branch in his talons. “This pays homage to American coinage, signifying we are a peace-loving nation but will defend ourselves. After all, it was that industry that enabled us to start our enterprise in the wine business,” Steve points out. “Our A&B brand motto is Benjamin Franklin’s quote, ‘Mind Your Business.’” Although the property is located in Coombsville, the grapes for Arrow&Branch are carefully sourced by Winemaker Jennifer Williams. She was formerly at Araujo and Spottswoode and was drawn to Tony Soter’s organically farmed Cabernet Franc property that is now Arrow&Branch. She works with Vineyard Manager Mike Wolf to contract with growers and continues organic practices.
With production at just about 1,200 cases, and distribution beginning to grow slowly but surely (they are presently seeking representation in Texas), the Contursis’ pursuit of high standards is similar to that of coin collecting at its highest pitch: Rare coins are deemed important, unique and worthy of attention; they are usually in exceptional condition, appreciated for their distinct aesthetics and have a story to tell.
Arrow&Branch deserves to be known as a rare bird, with value in its (s)cents and treasure in its stunning liquid assets.
Arrow&Branch 2013 Red Wine, Napa Valley ($125): With the organically farmed Cabernet Franc off the Contursis’ Coombsville estate making up 59% of this Bordeaux-style blend (along with 35% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot from top Napa Valley sites), it sends out a perfume of ripe cherry sandalwood. The tannins are grainy, wiping the upper palate with Worcestershire, ripe plums and blueberry, basil, sage and ginger. The sweet orange peel works its way to the rich finish and is underscored by new leather and tobacco.
Arrow&Branch 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dr. Crane Vineyard, Napa Valley (SRP $175): Rosehips, black raspberry, dark chocolate and tilled soil: and that’s just the nose. Dusty but indulgent cocoa tannins are reminiscent of the chalky texture of bittersweet dark chocolate melting on the tongue. The grapes are from the highly regarded Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard off Route 29 in St. Helena.
February-March 2017, Somm Journal