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August 28, 2015 - USA, California: Richard Arrowood 50th Anniversary Retrospective Tasting

Richard Arrowood, who I have known for close to 30 years, certainly has one of the most impressive resumés of any winemaker in California. He was born in Santa Rosa, California, and by age 20 was already working in a laboratory at Korbel Winery. After completing his college and post-graduate education in Fermentation Science at California State University in Fresno, he joined United Vintners, then in 1970 became Assistant Winemaker at Rodney Strong. From there he went on to his first fame and hopefully fortune, working at the brand new Chateau St. Jean winery in 1973. He stayed there until 1990, when he started his own Arrowood Winery in Glen Ellen. This lasted for a decade, when he sold Arrowood to the Robert Mondavi family, who subsequently sold the winery in 2006 to the Jackson family (Kendall-Jackson).

 In 2000, Arrowood started Amapola Creek Winery on a 100-acre site and began planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petite Verdot. The winery is relatively limited in production, producing 3,000 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, a handful of Chardonnays, and Zinfandel from their neighbor, the historic Monte Rosso Vineyard.

 In 2015, Dick Arrowood celebrated his 50th anniversary in the wine business, and it has been an impressive run, as indicated by the following tasting notes. This tasting took place at the end of April, 2015. It was remarkable in its scope, diversity, overall quality, and particularly the ability of so many of the wines to age beautifully. Since I have only been writing about wine for 37 years, it was a true honor and privilege to be invited to this 50th anniversary retrospective tasting. The following are my notes in the order in which the wines were actually presented.

 In summary, kudos to a career and life well lived by Richard and Alis Arrowood. Their impressive achievements over a 50-year span are largely unmatched in California today, but hopefully there will be more and more members joining that club as some of my peers who started around the same time I established the Wine Advocate also approach 50 years of winemaking. This was a great event, and it was a real honor for me to participate. —Robert Parker

April 22, 2015 - Robert M. Parker, Jr Sits down with Richard Arrowood

Richard Arrowood and his wife, Alis, recently invited renowned wine writer Robert M. Parker, Jr., to the third in a series of Retrospective Tastings at their home in Sonoma Valley. They also invited the winemakers and viticulturists who contributed to the success he attained over this half century of winemaking in Sonoma. Don Van Staaveren, his longtime assistant at St. Jean, now winemaker at Three Sticks Wines; Margo Staaveren, who is now head winemaker at St. Jean. Mike Berthoud, who worked at Arrowood as Dick’s winemaker, now with Mayo Family Winery; Erich Bradley, who worked at Arrowood and now makes wine for both Sojourn as well as Repris wines; Arrowood’s longtime viticulture experts, Barney Fernandez and Phil Coturri; Milla Handley, who worked at St. Jean for Dick and later founded Handley Cellars in Anderson Valley; Heidi von der Mehden, former associate winemaker at Arrowood, now at Merry Edwards, and oenologist Micah Zuorski, who is Richard's right hand at the new venture, Amapola Creek.

Together they tasted over 60 wines from Chateau St Jean, Arrowood Winery and Amapola Creek Winery, spanning vintages from 1974 to 2012.  The wines were impressive across the board and many of them were described as "surprisingly youthful", "still holding loads of fruit", and "drinking beautifully". Truly a testament to Richard’s talents and our Sonoma County wines. 

March 18, 2015 - The Celebration Continues

Richard Arrowood hosted the second in a series of 50th Anniversary tastings last week. There were a dozen guests including long time fellow winemakers and wine press. An array of 57 wines were sampled spanning 40 years that included Cabernet, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Syrah, and Late Harvest Rieslings from Chateau St. Jean, Arrowood Winery and Amapola Creek Winery. The conversation was lively and focused on the wonderful diversity and age ability of Sonoma County wines.  The proof was in the tasting.

Dan Berger, who writes his own weekly newsletter and  for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, wrote  “It’s hard to believe Richard Arrowood has been making wine in Sonoma County for 50 years.” Yes, it’s true. Read more about what Dan had to say last week at:

Steve Heimoff  blogged  “Richard Arrowood was not only a testament to the oeuvre of one of California’s greatest living winemakers, but a refreshing reminder—if one were needed—of how well Sonoma Valley wines, red and white, can age.”  See more at:

And in thanks and appreciation, on behalf of all of yesterday’s participants , I sincerely thank you for joining us for our 50th Retrospective tasting…..It was fascinating to see just how some of these older wines stood up to the test of time ! Again , my appreciation is extended to you all for joining with the team that made these wines happen and to see just how they have developed over these many years….Looking forward to seeing you all again very soon…. Cheers, Richard  


February 27, 2015 - Celebrating 50 Years of Winemaking

 2015 is a monumental year for Richard Arrowood, marking 50 years of winemaking exclusively in Sonoma County. Beginning in 1965 at Korbel Champagne Cellars, creating the first single vineyard designates at Chateau St. Jean in the 1970’s and 80’s, and the admirable success of Arrowood Winery through the 1990’s and 2000’s. Over the years Richard has earned critical acclaim and gained a reputation for making wines of quality without compromise.

Recently we tasted a few (54) examples of these wines produced during his half century in Sonoma wine country. Many of the winemakers who contributed to the successes attained over this period of winemaking history in Sonoma attended.  It was with great pleasure and humbleness that we presented the people and their wines for this retrospect tasting.

“It has been quite a ride so far, but I don't want to get off the train yet! Fingers crossed for a super 2015 vintage!” quipped Richard. Saving the Best for Last!

Here are some comments and tasting notes from attending wine writer Tim Fish of the Wine Spectator, posted Feb 18, 2015 on his blog Exploring Wine with Tim Fish:

50 Years in Wine and a Cellar to Prove It - Winemaker Richard Arrowood stages a remarkable retrospective of his wines through the years.

The list of star winemakers in Sonoma is fairly short and no one has a longer and more impressive record than Richard Arrowood…The tasting was a rare opportunity indeed and a tribute to Arrowood's history and skills as a winemaker.

Amapola Creek Zinfandel Sonoma Valley Monte Rosso Vineyard 2006: Still has lots of spunk, with notes of rose petal, red clay, spicy raspberry and cinnamon. (92 points, non-blind) TF

Amapola Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley Estate 2005: Polished and powerful, with lush notes of black cherry, mocha and cinnamon. An excellent wine from a young vineyard. (94 points, non-blind) TF

Amapola Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley Estate 2010: The current release has a hint of Zin-like briary fruit with fine focus and power, plus rich flavors of boysenberry and spice. (92 points, non-blind) TF

 To gain complete access to Exploring Wine with Tim Fish and read his entire blog, please visit