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Arrow&Branch: A Numismatist’s Winemaking Dream

by Nancy Brazil, PullThatCork, July 18, 2017

Numismatist. Not your everyday word. Thanks to Steve and Seanne Contursi, the creative couple behind Arrow&Branch winery, I recently learned the meaning of this difficult-to-pronounce word and had the opportunity to taste their Arrow&Branch wines. It is because of Steve’s success as a numismatist (a coin collector and trader) that the Contursis are able to realize their dream of owning a winery.

As I sipped a glass of Arrow&Branch Sauvignon Blanc, Seanne explained the meaning and importance of numismatics to the couple and how Steve’s profession influenced their choice of winery names as well as the design details of their wine bottle labels and even the corks. The setting was the Hospitality House at Wheeler Farms in St. Helena where Steve and Seanne hosted a tasting of their Arrow&Branch wines.

It’s All In The Name

The winery name, Arrow&Branch, is inspired by an image on many U.S. coins of an eagle with arrows in one claw and an olive branch in the other. The artful wine bottle labels also take inspiration from the same image. Each label carries the words Telum and Stipes (Latin for arrow and branch) as well as arrows and olive branches.

As students of U.S. coins, it isn’t surprising that the couple is also aware of the contributions of Benjamin Franklin, whose early designs of U.S. currency included the advice, Mind Your Business. Various sayings attributed to Benjamin Franklin appear on the back label of Arrow&Branch wines and Mind Your Business appears on the corks.

Steve and Seanne have given every design detail of their winery great consideration. That same attention to detail has been applied to the winemaking.

The red wines of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, specifically those of Château Cheval Blanc, were the wines Steve and Seanne first fell in love with. They have brought that love of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to the wines of Arrow&Branch.

The Contursis began the path toward winemaking with the purchase of their Estate Vineyard in the Coombsville AVA in 2007. The vineyard was formerly owned by Tony Soter, founder of Etude Wines and continues to be farmed organically. It is the source of the Cabernet Franc for their outstanding Red Wine “Bordeaux Blend”.

New Winemaking Facility

Jennifer Williams has been the Arrow&Branch winemaker since 2011. She brings a wealth of experience with her to this project in the form of vineyard and winemaking experience at both Araujo Estate Wines and Spottswoode Estate Winery in Napa Valley. In addition she has a keen understanding of organic viticulture. Jennifer now has the pleasure of making Arrow&Branch wines in the new Wheeler Farms custom crush facility located on Zinfandel Lane in St. Helena.

The recently-completed facility is the project of Bart and Daphne Araujo who, in 2013, sold their Araujo Estate, which included the historic Eisele Vineyard, to Artémis Group. The Wheeler Farms facility is named for Wheeler Farms Winery established by Charles Wheeler in 1880.

Jennifer described the new custom-crush facility as a winemaker’s dream. Rows of temperature-regulated stainless steel tanks line the production facility. Automated pump-over and punch-down mechanisms makes completing those tasks a snap. Standing on either end of the center rows of tanks like book ends are a Bucher JLB basket press (for red wine production) and Bucher X Plus pneumatic press (used for white wine and rosé production). The below-ground barrel room is expansive according to Jennifer’s description.

Hospitality House

Along with the state-of-the-art winemaking facility, Wheeler Farms includes hospitality and administrative space for the use of its custom-crush clients. Hospitality House includes a gourmet kitchen, space for seated wine tastings and dining or meeting space. The spaces open on to a large patio with vineyard views.

Arrow&Branch Wines

2016 Arrow&Branch Sauvignon Blanc — pale yellow in the glass with generous tropical and stone fruit aromas and flavors with a bit of roundness in the mouth and juicy acidity. 14.1% abv. 143 cases produced.$35

This 100% Sauvignon Blanc is a blend of 85% Sauvignon Blanc Musqué and 15% Clone 1 and 6 Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc Musqué is a naturally-occurring mutation of Sauvignon Blanc that results in grapes that are more aromatic with tropical fruit flavors rather than grassy, herbaceous flavors characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc.

65% of the wine was fermented in French oak, 35% in stainless steel with 6 months on the lees.

2013 Arrow&Branch Cabernet Sauvignon “Black Label” — dense ruby in the glass with generous dark fruit aromas, earth and hints of spice. Substantial tannins support the generous flavors and the finish is medium + in length. Flavorful, but not a heavyweight. 14.8% abv. 245 cases produced. $100

This blend consists of 95.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1.5% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot sourced from the Stagecoach Vineyard in the Atlas Peak AVA and Lewelling Vineyard in St. Helena AVA; a blend of mountain and valley floor flavors and textures.

2013 Arrow&Branch Red Wine “Bordeaux Blend” — dense ruby in the glass with generous fruit and herbal aromas. Complex dark and red fruit flavors combine with an interesting herbal flavor and are supported by substantial, but integrated, tannins. The flavors last a good long time. 14.8% abv. 250 cases produced. $125

The cooler climate of the Arrow&Branch Estate Vineyard in Coombsville and the mountain vineyards of Atlas Peak produce wine with great depth of flavor and structure. The blend is 59% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot. Love those tannins. This wine has the most interesting aromas, it is the one I kept coming back to. Just delicious.

2013 Arrow&Branch Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon — dense ruby in the glass with earthy, dark fruit aromas and flavors. Hints of spice, black pepper and cocoa contribute complexity. Tannins are significant and the wine has a long finish with flavor and tannins. 14.8% abv. 308 cases produced. $175

The Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard is located in St. Helena west of Highway 29. This historic vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

Arrow&Branch red wines are aged in predominantly new French oak for 20 months. These are wines with complex flavors and plenty of texture but that are also harmonious. There are no rough edges. Truly red wines for Cabernet lovers. Current production is about 1,000 cases.

Arrow&Branch wine tastings are available by appointment at Wheeler Farms. Details can be found on the Arrow&Branch website.

Cheers!

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