Steve and Seanne Contursi
Arrow&Branch proprietors Steve and Seanne Contursi share a great love for the wines of Bordeaux, particularly those produced with a large quantity of Cabernet Franc, such as Château Cheval Blanc. The couple began their romance while traveling through Bordeaux in the mid 1980’s, and have since found their dreams come true in being able to live and make wine in Napa Valley. They sought out their Coombsville vineyard property with an eye to producing top-quality Bordeaux blend wines from Napa Valley.
The Contursi family lives in Laguna Beach and bought the Arrow&Branch Estate Vineyard in November 2007. Etude Wines founder Tony Soter, a renowned Napa Valley winemaker and prominent wine consultant, previously owned the organic vineyard property. The vineyard was the source of Soter’s renowned and highly rated “Little Creek” Cabernet Franc. The Contursi’s have maintained the organic farming and, through their work with the detail-oriented Viticulturalist Mike Wolf, are continually improving this wonderful vineyard site.
The couple constantly shares wines, tasting notes and insights with their highly regarded Winemaker Jennifer Williams and esteemed Viticulturist Michael Wolf. Collecting wine since the mid 1970’s, much of it purchased directly from the chateaux of Bordeaux, the Contursi’s collection has been featured in Wine Spectator magazine as well as on CNBC’s investing news.
Arrow&Branch was chosen as the name for the couple’s wine as a subtle reference to numismatics, the study and collection of coins. Steve Contursi became enamored with coins at seven years of age, when, as a paperboy, he was often paid in coins. He built his childhood pastime into one of America’s most respected and renowned dealerships and now owns Rare Coin Wholesalers and RCW Financial. A professional numismatist since 1975, and armed with a Cum Laude degree in physics, Contursi has bought and sold more than $1 billion worth of United States rare coins, and helps both collectors and other dealers acquire the finest quality, historically significant, museum quality coins. Found on the reverse of most United States coinage is an eagle holding an olive branch and arrows in its talons. The Arrow&Branch name is both a nod to Contursi’s success in the rare coin business, as well as paying homage to both US coinage and Americana. The olive branch signifies the United States as a peace-loving nation, while the arrow portrays the country’s ability to defend itself if that peace or freedom should ever be compromised.
Contursi made international headlines in March 2004 when he and the American Numismatic Association unveiled new evidence about “Uncle Sam’s first buck.” The Neil/Carter/Contursi specimen, 1794 Flowing Hair dollar, is believed by many experts to be the very first silver dollar struck by the U.S. A truly historic national treasure, this mint coin represented an economic declaration of independence for the young United States. Contursi has loaned the now famous coin to the ANA Money Museum in Colorado from 2004 through 2010 where tens of thousands of visitors have viewed it there and on exhibits around the country. In May 2010, Contursi again made the news by selling this coin for $7.85 million, setting the record price for a single coin.
Honored by Lehman College of the City University of New York in 1974 as the graduating physics student with the highest academic achievement, Contursi then attended the University of Minnesota graduate school while moonlighting at a coin shop. Deciding that his future should involve numismatics rather than Newton’s Laws, he opened his own coin shop in a Minneapolis suburb in 1975. Since then, he has held executive positions with several prominent rare coin and precious metals companies including Northwest Territories Gold and Silver Exchange; Miller-Contursi, Inc; James U. Blanchard and Company; and Monex Rare Coins. Contursi has served as President of Rare Coin Wholesalers since January 2001, combining his management skills and numismatic expertise to create one of the country’s foremost dealerships.
Seanne Contursi has worked alongside her husband in the numismatics business, and now with the development of Arrow&Branch, in the fine wine business. The couple enjoys spending time with their five children, ranging in ages from 16 to 32, which usually involves sitting around a table partaking of food and wine. Their eldest son served four years in the United States Air Force, of which they are very proud. Their family continues to grow, as their eldest daughter was wed at Arrow&Branch Vineyard during the summer of 2010 and their first grandchild, from their eldest son was born in the fall of 2010.
One of the rising stars of Napa Valley winemaking, Jennifer Williams, was named Winemaker for Arrow&Branch in April 2011. After years of working with and learning from legendary winemakers such as Rosemary Cakebread, Francoise Peschon and the Novak family, Jennifer now brings her outstanding talents and experience to Arrow&Branch.
In 2002, Williams joined Araujo and Spottswoode as a harvest intern, splitting her time between these two great winemaking estates. At Spottswoode, Jennifer was drawn to the philosophy of organic and sustainable farming, which Tony Soter had introduced in 1985. Following harvest, she joined their team full time, working under guru David Abreu in the fields and Rosemary Cakebread in the winery. In 2004, with a deeper understanding of the estate vineyard, she took over as Vineyard Manager and was Spottswoode’s Winemaker from 2006 to 2011. The San Francisco Chronicle named Jennifer a “Winemaker to Watch” in 2007.
Jennifer grew up in rural Valley Center outside of San Diego where her passion for agriculture began as an adolescent. She was captivated by the many fruit trees on her parent’s property. This is where she first explored the taste, texture and acidity differences between varieties of apples growing there. This introduction to flavor laid the groundwork for a career in winemaking and an obsession with the farming practices that influence flavor.
She attended California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, set on becoming a large-animal veterinarian. However, through her course work, botany and grape growing caught her attention and in the summer of 1995, she came to the Napa Valley to study viticulture from local growers. Inspired by this experience and having earned a degree in agriculture, she worked in vineyards and wineries in California’s Central Coast then took an enologist job at Napa’s Trefethen Family Vineyards; later working harvest in Spain’s Rioja Alavesa region.
At Arrow&Branch, Jennifer works very closely with our Vineyard Manager, Mike Wolf, to ensure the healthiest growing conditions for the vines. Together they walk the vineyard as well as the vineyards Arrow&Branch contracts with, many of which Mike also manages. This close relationship allows for timely decision making during the critical stages of the grape growing season. Her firm belief is in organic practices, making sure the soil is active, living and healthy so that the vines can draw the nutrients they need.
Jennifer and her husband Mark also make wine under their label, Zeitgeist Cellars.
“Arrow&Branch is an exciting new project founded on the pursuit of quality, collectible wine. Our vineyards are carefully chosen boutique sites of well-drained soil. The jewel is the Arrow&Branch home vineyard in the cool Coombsville region of Napa. There, cool bay breezes temper the valley’s warm summer days creating a microclimate perfect for growing complex, aromatic Cabernet Franc wines.”
Elizabeth Robertis has a broad range of marketing and business experience, formerly serving as the director of sales and marketing for Ovid. She has also served as an associate public relations manager with Constellation Wines in St. Helena, California.
Born and raised in Napa Valley, Robertis has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She spent several years with Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, as well as with several book publishers, before moving back to the region to pursue her dream of working in the wine industry.
“I am thrilled to join the team at Arrow&Branch,” said Robertis. “I’m looking forward to making a real difference, using the knowledge I’ve gained over the years to help spread the word on this progressive winery’s commitment to true excellence and quality. I now have the opportunity to work with a special brand that needs to have its story told.”
Originally from New York, Wolf and two college friends made their way west after college, settling on forty remote acres in Mendocino County. Wolf’s first position in a large vineyard operation made immediate sense to him, and he became serious about pursuing a career in viticulture.
After serving three years as Ranch Foreman at Mendocino Vineyard Co. in Ukiah, Wolf signed on as Vice President of Vineyard Operations at Juliana Vineyards in northern Napa County’s Pope Valley. During his twelve years there he was charged with transforming wooded grazing land into productive vineyards, and garnered extensive experience in all facets of vineyard development and management. Wolf was then appointed Vineyard Manager for Beckstoffer Vineyards in Napa, where he oversaw planning and implementation of all viticultural operations for 700 acres of vineyards.
In January of 1997, Wolf became president of the start-up vineyard management and business services company, Emmolo Vineyard Management, which served as a platform for launching Michael Wolf Vineyard Services in September of that same year. Through this full-service vineyard management company, he farms approximately 800 acres of Napa Valley vineyards for quality-oriented clients, including large and small growers and several wineries.
In addition to serving on the Board of Trustees for the California Grower Foundation, Wolf is also a past President, Vice President and Director of the Napa County Farm Bureau, and a member of the American Society of Enology and Viticulture. He is also a member of the Napa Valley Viticultural Technical Group.