Private tastings of Arrow&Branch wines available at Wheeler Farms Winery in St. Helena
By Anne Ward Ernst, Weekly Calistogan, July 18, 2017
Arrow&Branch relocated its winemaking production last year from Coombsville to the Wheeler Farms facility in St. Helena where they can also host guests for tastings.
With the recent opening of a custom crush winery and hospitality center in St. Helena, Steve and Seanne Contursi finally have a place to welcome guests to enjoy their Arrow&Branch wines.
Acting on a love of Bordeaux wines, and especially cabernet franc, the couple purchased a 3.5-acre estate vineyard planted to that varietal and in 2011 added another contiguous 1.5 acres. They founded Arrow&Branch (spelled with an ampersand and without spaces between the words) in 2008, but until now they have not had a tasting room.
They’ve moved their winery operation to Wheeler Farms Winery on Zinfandel Lane where winemaker Jennifer Williams made the 2016 vintage for the Contursis.
“It’s a winemaker’s dream,” Williams said of the state-of-the-art custom crush facility that is used by a handful of other wineries.
A barrel cellar located under the 10,000-square-foot fermentation tank building stretches beyond the building’s footprint that houses 70 fully automated stainless steel fermentation tanks. Williams said each tank is equipped for pumpovers using an oxygen piping system and temperature controls.
The Contursis are equally as excited about the hospitality center that opened in the spring. Designed by Taylor Lombardo Architects, the large open-space structure has a full kitchen that can be tucked away by trendy sliding barn doors, parlor, and a living room with sofas and chairs surrounding a fireplace. A wall of windows and sliding glass doors take in the vineyard view and patio.
Out front a raised bed garden is growing, with plans to add chickens and maybe some other farm animals in a nod to the property’s history as a working ranch.
Arrow&Branch produces about 1,200 cases of wine annually including cabernet sauvignon, a red blend with cabernet franc as its base, and a sauvignon blanc.
The name Arrow&Branch is a reference to Steve Contursi’s numismatics career that began in 1975, but his love and interest in coins started when he was 7 years old. On the back of most United States coins is an eagle holding arrows – representing war, or defense – and in the other talon an olive branch, representing peace.
One of his most high-profile coin sales was in 2010 when he sold a 1794 coin known as “Flowing Hair Silver Dollar,” for $7.85 million, then a world record that has since been topped by the re-selling of the coin for $10 million in 2013. It is believed to be among the first silver dollars struck by the United States Mint.
Tastings of Arrow&Branch wines are available by appointment only at Wheeler Farms Winery. For appointments or more information contact Elizabeth Robertis at email@example.com or 707-200-3640.
Arrow&Branch Wines, St. Helena, by California Girl, July 19, 2017
This week we had the opportunity to taste wines from a relative newcomer to Napa Valley, Arrow&Branch Wines. They have just opened a by appointment only tasting room in Saint Helena.
I didn’t type it wrong when I wrote Arrow&Branch. That is the name, spaced that exact way. The owners, Steve and Seanne Contursi, chose the name purposefully as a subtle nod to numismatics (coin collectors) which is Steve’s passion and the basis for one of his other businesses. The arrow and branch on the label is a nod to our US currency and its symbolism. I thought that was very cool and interesting. I am sure The Brit is sorry he missed out on the tasting as he would have loved the geek factor to their story.
The Brit comments: Of course I am sad that I missed out on a wine tasting opportunity, especially as the wine seems excellent and the geek factor would have been an added bonus.
During my visit, I had an opportunity to sip the wines, talk with the owners and the winemaker, Jennifer Williams. I was especially interested to hear about Jennifer’s winemaking philosophy and especially her take on the Sauvignon Blanc that they make. We toured through the barrel and fermentation tank rooms to see this extremely modern and high-tech set up for making wine.
Tasting the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc ($35) I absolutely loved its creaminess and the stone fruit; flavors of peaches and white plums with a hint of orange. The wine was lush and I could have sat on the back patio outside the tasting room and enjoyed that beauty for the rest of the afternoon. It was made with an interesting mix of steel and oak fermentation. It also features the Musque clone of Sauvignon Blanc as its base with small portions of clone 1 and 6 thrown in to round out the flavors. I thought the winemaker hit the ball out of the ballpark on this one. Buy this wine! It has it all, value, quality, and flavor.
I then tasted side by side the 2013 Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Cabernet Sauvignon ($175) and the 2013 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon ($100). Whilst they were both great, I really preferred the Beckstoffer Cab for its spicy rich notes, hints of chocolate, a little leather, and its earthy scent. I think it will age beautifully and just get better as the years go by. The black label Cab was no slouch though with its wood, earthy, and smokey flavors. It had a very long finish and I enjoyed my glass.
Finally, I tasted their 2015 red blend ($125). It has a base of 59% Cabernet Franc with 39% Merlot and 2% Petite Verdot. I liked this wine and could imagine pairing it with lamb chops and roasted vegetables. I thought that its flavors were rich, spicy, and a little floral. It would really make the lamb sing in the mouth.
All of their wines are very foodie based. They are on the higher end as far as price, so they would tend to be more of a special occasion wine rather than something one drinks on a Tuesday night in your pajamas, eating popcorn, and watching Netflix. No, this wine is all class and sophistication which matches the style of its owners.
If you are looking for a taste of luxury in your glass, from a small relatively unknown producer, Arrow&Branch wines may be for you. If you want information on how to arrange a tasting or to buy their wines, check out their website here.
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.
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.
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.
Laguna Beach couple’s Arrow&Branch Napa Wines are Worthy Investments
by Valory Reed, April 7, 2017, Orange Coast
Laguna Beach residents Steve and Seanne Contursi own Arrow&Branch wines in Napa Valley. Steve, a numismatist , who has had immeasurable experience with historic treasures, purchased the estate in 2007. Now the couple is creating their own precious gems—and in a fitting analogy, these wines are worthy investments.
Here are four that are currently released, with my notes:
2015 Sauvignon Blanc, $35 (this wine is amazing—in capital letters)
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon “Black Label,” $100
2013 Red Wine, $125
2013 Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, $175 (I gobbled up this 100 percent cab, which was a knock-out. Wine critic James Suckling gave it a 97-point rating.)
Dining out, you can experience Arrow&Branch wines at Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach, and at Michael Mina’s Stonehill Tavern at Monarch Beach in Laguna Niguel. To purchase by the bottle, try Hi-Time Wine Cellars, Spectrum Wine, and Hidden Vine. Or shop direct at www.arrowandbranch.com
I had the opportunity to learn more about the Contursis transitioning from the beach to the vineyard:
What lured you to the wine business? After several decades of being a premium Bordeaux and Burgundy lover, it became natural—after raising five children in Laguna Beach—to look for a second home with a drastic scenic change focused around what Seanne and enjoy immensely: great food and great wine. In our minds, the greatest wines in the USA are coming from the Napa Valley.
With a home in Laguna Beach, how much time do you spend at the vineyard? For the last nine years, we’ve been averaging 3-to-5-day visits twice a month. This routine may change to more time in Napa when all five of our children are out of the house and Seanne and I are finally empty nesters.
I’m a big lover of quotes, so I noticed the Benjamin Franklin quotes on your bottles and corks. Good observation! Each one of the four Arrow&Branch wines carry a unique Ben Franklin quote. On our flagship Red Wine, we change the quote every year. We selected Ben Franklin because of his ties to Americana and because he holds the distinction as the designer of the first coin struck for colonial use in 1776. This Continental Currency coin was struck primarily in pewter, with the quote “Mind Your Business” shown boldly on the coin. His meaning, of course, was to tend to your affairs. This is our motto for Arrow&Branch. Since my day job for over 40 years is as a numismatist and I’ve had the honor of being the custodian of many of America’s greatest coin rarities, Seanne and I decided that every branding element will subtly incorporate numismatics elements. Furthermore, Benjamin Franklin was a lover of French wines and served as the first Ambassador to France.