A brief history
ARNS WINERY is located on the hillside east of the historic City of St. Helena, CA, in the heart of the Napa Valley. The 160 acre parcel sits at an elevation of 800 feet above the valley floor and below the Howell Mountain Appellation. The soil for the ten acre all-Cabernet vineyard is Red Aiken Loam, which was planted in the mid-to-late 1960’s. Our wines represent selections from ten different blocks, with clones from Bordeaux and the Napa Valley. The vines consist of up to 2,900 plants/acre trained in a vertical shoot positioning.
Arns property was homesteaded in the late 1880’s by a fellow from Germany. The second owner was a stone mason who did very creative plaster work in homes and caves throughout the Valley. He built the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Ca from stones quarried from our property. There is a long history of Zinfandel grapes grown from the previous owners. The Arns family purchased this parcel in the late 1950’s as a retreat for their family. John Arns, along with his brother, Steve, have kept the tradition of grape growing here at Arns. John Arns and Sandi Belcher developed Arns Winery after years of selling grapes to local wineries.
Although the total property is 160 acres, most of which is rocks and forest, the vineyard itself is ten acres in ten different blocks. The exposure of the different blocks accentuates the clonal differences and makes each separate area of vineyard unique. The vines vary in age from 15 to 45 years. The newer blocks are planted at a much higher density, with spacing of 5′ x 3′ and on vertical shoot positioned trellises. There are a total of seven different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon in the various blocks. These clones have distinct flavors of black fruit, anise, chocolate, cherries, allspice, sumac with deep, dense, purple color and loose clusters. The yields are low and average about 1.5-2 tons per acre. All of the vineyards are farmed using organic methods.
Aiken and Boomer Gravelly Loam dominate the soil profile of these vineyards. Deep and well-drained soils allow the roots of the vines to travel down in search of water and require little or no irrigation. The combination of clonal selection, low yield, and minimal irrigation produces fruit that is concentrated and intensely flavorful. We spend our growing season listening to the vines to get a sense of the organization of the wine. Harvesting grapes by hand and picking in small lots allows us to deliver the grapes into the winery in a very short time. After vinification, the different blocks are kept separate to evaluate their performance. This study gives us direction in the future to improve various blocks. We find our grapes are very multidimensional and putting these clones together for the final taste of the wine is very labor intensive. We have also learned that the span of time our wines are in the bottle makes a significant difference in the glass. We bottle here on the property when the timing is right – usually 2+ years of aging in the cellar.