Arkenstone: Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet from Howell Mountain

By Robin Alix Austin

Just as wine changes over time, your memories of how a wine tastes will change. Last year I wrote that Arkenstone’s Sauvignon Blanc was my favorite white wine at the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction. One year later I was curious to see how their latest vintage would compare.

Underneath the tents at Atlantic Station winemaker Sam Kaplan was offering a taste of Arkenstone’s 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. After just a couple of sips the memories of how much I enjoyed the 2007 vintage came rushing back – and I was delighted to discover that the 2009 wine is just as memorable.

Arkenstone is located on the western shoulder of Howell Mountain in California’s Napa Valley. Owners Ron and Susan Krausz planted their first vines in 1998. Today their traditional Bordeaux varieties and Syrah are grown using organic methods. Sam joined Arkenstone as winemaker and vineyard manager in 2006.

The 2009 Arkenstone Sauvignon Blanc is 97% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Semillon. The wine was aged approximately 11 months on the lees in a combination of French oak and concrete.

Floral, aromatic and lush, this wine will convert non-Sauvignon Blanc fans. Missing are the grassy notes that turn off many. Instead there is an explosion of blooms – honeysuckle, jasmine, gardenia and orange blossom – woven in with stone and tropical fruit. As you sip you get flavors of peach, golden pear, kiwi and honeydew. The finish is long and crisp, with refreshing minerality and a hint of green apple.

As impressive as the Sauvignon Blanc was, it shared the spotlight with Arkenstone’s two outstanding red wines: the 2008 Estate Obsidian and the 2008 Coliseum Block Cabernet Sauvignon.

The 2008 Estate Obsidian is a Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The wine spent 22 months in French oak barrels. Intense and layered, the Estate Obsidian has mouth-filling flavors of blackberries, ripe dark cherries, mocha, tobacco and fig. A touch of spice lingers on the long and satisfying finish.

The 2008 Coliseum Block Cabernet Sauvignon has everything you look for in a top Napa Cab. Lush dark berry fruit is rounded out with notes of leather, licorice, dark chocolate and cedar. A full and velvety mouthfeel makes this a wine you’ll want to enjoy over time.

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This is part of a series of articles on wines from the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction. Click here to read more.