Arnot Roberts
Elegant, balanced single vineyard wines from one of California's most exciting small wineries


arnot roberts
Duncan and Nathan  

Arnot Roberts is a collaboration between Nathan Roberts and Duncan Arnot Meyers. For me, this is one of California’s most exciting wineries. They make just 2700 cases a year from a small winery in a warehouse in Healdsburg. Nathan’s father founded a cooperage in Napa (he helped Demptos open a Napa branch in the late 1970s), and his grandmother is Margrit Biever Mondavi, Robert’s widow. Nathan is a trained cooper and he carried on working in his dad's company until 2008. Duncan's father was a Napa attorney.

They made their first wine together back in 2001 – a solitary barrel. The next year – their first proper vintage in 2002 – they made 4 barrels, and then in subsequent years grew production gradually to its current level. It’s still just a two-person operation and the wines are sold through a mailing list, three times a year.

Owning land isn't an option for them, so they buy grapes from a network of growers, and they seem to have a keen eye for ideal vineyard sources for the styles of wines they make.

The wines are restrained and elegant, without any of the over-ripeness that many California wines display. They seem to possess a beautiful textural quality, with attractive fruit but also lovely balance.

They don't go to wood with sugar. When ferment is whole berry or whole bunch there's usually some sugar liberated at pressing, and so they go to tank after pressing before barrel. Regarding stems, Nathan says, 'The stem conversation is often confusing and there is so much funny information out there. It's not a good thing to get dogmatic about: it works well with some vineyards but not with others.'

'It's an exciting time in California to make wine,' says Duncan. 'We're still in our infancy in understanding what works well.  Everything needs to come together: weather, soil, intention and farming. We are so young in California. I am still learning every year: it is fantastically energizing.'


Arnot Roberts Chardonnay Watson Ranch 2014 Napa, California
12.5% alcohol. This is the southernmost vineyard in Napa, up in the hill on American Canyon almost at Vallejo. Clay over limestone soil, whole cluster pressed to stainless steel, then to barrels all at least five years old. They find that steel ferment sharpens the wines, something they are keen on doing at every step. Very fine and expressive with pear and crystalline fruits, and nice citrus. It's lively and spicy with good acidity and lovely precision. Very fine. 95/100

Arnot Roberts Chardonnay Trout Gulch Vineyard 2014 Santa Cruz Mountains, California
From a cool site at 600 feet in the fog belt, planted in 1980, old Wente clone. Picked a month later than the Watson Ranch. 12.7% alcohol. Fresh, lively, bright and a bit pithy with some grapefruit and lemon. Very expressive with a lean, mineral core. Focused and lemony. 95/100

Arnot Roberts Trousseau Noir 2014 North Coast, California
'It has been a journey working with Trousseau,' says Nathan. 'We liked the wine from the beginning but we weren't sure how it would be received.' Fine and expressive with a sweetly herbal nose. Nice sappy red cherries with cranberries and a hint of undergrowth. Supple, sweet, fresh, rounded textural palate with a bit of warmth but also purity. Fine cherries and a hint of damson. 94/100

Arnot Roberts Peter Martin Ray Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Santa Cruz Mountains, California
This vineyard was planted in the 1940s by Rusty Ray, and the vines that make this wine were planted in 1979. It’s a three-acre block and they get three tons from it, and it’s described as organic by neglect (it’s disced, dry farmed, and dusted with sulfur twice a year). Floral and aromatic raspberry and cherry fruit nose. Very fine and fresh on the palate with sweet cherries and raspberries and a lovely silky texture. So supple, complex and elegant. 96/100

Arnot Roberts Cabernet Sauvignon Fellom Ranch 2013 Santa Cruz Mountains, California
At the top of the mountain on depleted soils, this vineyard ripens fast, so the biggest challenge is nailing the picking decision. Dry farmed. Fresh and concentrated with dense blackcurrant fruit and some grip. Firm tannins, with lovely freshness and definition. Has fruit sweetness and structure. 95/100

Arnot Roberts Cabernet Sauvignon Fellom Ranch 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains, California
This was the first vintage, and it was picked riper than they do now, at 25 Brix (14.5% alcohol). Fine, spicy and herby with blackcurrant, pepper and gravel notes. The palate shows great concentration. Fresh with pure blackcurrant fruit and some blackcurrant bud, as well as spice and earth. Has structure and density, and is delicious, with potential for further development. 94/100

Arnot Roberts Clary Ranch Syrah 2014 Sonoma Coast, California
This is the coldest Syrah vineyard in California, and in the past it has been picked as late as November 20 at 11% alcohol (this is 12%). Lovely aromatics: subtly peppery with fine sweet raspberry and black cherry fruit. Vivid, and very much in a northern Rhône style. Very fine and pure with lovely precision. 96/100

Arnot Roberts Syrah 2014 Sonoma Coast, California
At 1000 cases this is their biggest production wine. Fine, expressive and peppery with nice raspberry and black cherry fruit. Grippy and bright with cherry, cranberry and raspberry on the palate. 94/100

Arnot Roberts Syrah Que Syrah Vineyard 2014 Sonoma Coast, California
Planted by Ehren Jordan in 1993, this is the oldest planting of Syrah on the Sonoma Coast. 12% alcohol. 23 Brix at picking, pH 3.3 (finished, after whole cluster ferment), 12% alcohol. Very floral with a pure raspberry and pepper nose. Bright, vivid and expressive with pure raspberry fruit and some nice sappiness, as well as a hint of pine resin. So distinctive. 95/100


Older notes

Arnot Roberts Pinot Noir Peter Martin Ray Vineyard 2012 Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Textured, pure and lovely, with raspberry and cherry fruit. Shows real finesse: pure but rich and textured at the same time. 94/100 07/14

Arnot Roberts Pinot Noir Legan Vineyard 2012 Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Fresh and vivid with plums and cherries. A lovely fresh wine with seductive yet precise fruit. Quite beautiful. 94/100 07/14

Arnot Roberts Pinot Noir Coastlands Vineyard 2012 Sonoma Coast, California
Six barrels made. Pure and fresh with lovely red and black cherry fruit with some green and herbal notes in the baclkground. Lovely purity here. 94/100 07/14

Arnot Roberts Luchsinger Vineyard Trousseau 2012 Clear Lake, California
13% alcohol. Pale colour. So pretty and fine with silky, bright cherry and plum fruit, as well as fine herbal notes. There’s some fruit sweetness but also some fresh, sappy notes, finishing juicy and a bit grippy. 93/100 03/14

Arnot Roberts Syrah 2012 North Coast, California
13% alcohol. Textured, meaty, fine and fresh with bright, focused raspberry fruit, and fine grained yet firm tannins. Grainy mouthfeel with lovely purity of fruit. A really seductive, intriguing wine. 94/100 03/14

Arnot Roberts Bugay Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Sonoma County, California
Vivid, fresh yet textured with perfumed blackcurrant and raspberry fruit. Structured and grippy with nice freshness and intensity. Dense, bold, quite tannin – a remarkable wine. 94/100 03/14

Arnot Roberts Syrah 2010 North Coast, California
11.9% alcohol. Deep coloured, with a vivid, fresh, spicy, savoury nose. The palate is fresh with ripe berry and cherry fruit, as well as some peppery freshness, and reductive savoury notes. Sweet, pure, fully ripe yet grippy: a lovely Syrah. 94/100 05/12

See also:

Hirsch Vineyards
Visiting Napa

Wines tasted 03/16 unless otherwise indicated  
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