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Notes Worth Savoring

Richard Arrowood celebrates five decades of making fine wine.



Christopher Sawyer

Legendary winemaker Richard Arrowood still gets a twinkle in his eye when he talks about how his mother loved “Amapola,” a classic big band song his dad played at The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa when Arrowood was a child.

“I’ve always felt the musical details in the song reflect the attention we put into the wines we make at Amapola Creek,” says Arrowood, who is celebrating his 50-year anniversary of crafting world-class wines in Sonoma Valley.

After starting in the wine industry in the 1960s, Arrowood carried memories of the song to Chateau St. Jean, where he was the original winemaker. The song accompanied the critical acclaim he received for his elegant and complex Arrowood Vineyards brand in the 1980s and ’90s. And it followed him to the boutique Amapola Creek label, which he launched with his wife, Alis, in March of 2008.

“From the beginning, my goal has always been to make high-quality wines that can rival the world’s best, yet still have the unique flavor profile, texture, and rustic charm that come from fruit grown on the mountain,” he says.

A few miles north of downtown Sonoma, the Amapola Creek ranch encompasses 100 acres in the Moon Mountain District appellation. Located on the rugged west-facing slopes of the Mayacamas range, the property features rich red and white volcanic soils, indigenous oak trees, ancient lava caps, and beautiful views of the majestic valley below.

The 20 acres of hillside estate vineyards are certified organic, and the wines are made in a red, eco-friendly metal barn in the middle of the property. Arrowood primarily grows cabernet sauvignon, which he blends with a small amount of petit verdot to produce a rich and sophisticated wine layered with deep flavors of black fruit, spice, mineral, and fresh mountain herbs. The smaller blocks of grenache, syrah, and mourvèdre are used in Cuvée Alis, a Rhône-style blend.

“Our goal is to make the best, not the most,” says Arrowood.


Christopher Sawyer

Tours and tastings by appointment only. 392 London Way, Sonoma, (707) 938-3783, amapolacreek.com.

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