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2001 Arrowood "Grand Archer" Chardonnay, Sonoma

Massive corporate wine property or small family run business? With Arrowood, you're looking at both. Started as a family affair in 1986 by Dick Arrowood, who spent years making wine at Chateau St. Jean, Arrowood Vineyards was a popular Sonoma Winery from the start. In 2000 it was purchased by the Mondavi Corporation in an effort to expand their portfolio of premium Sonoma wines, and with the impending breakup of the company, it looks like it's going to be on the market again.

This may be good or bad news for Dick depending on how you look at it. He expressed some excitement about the purchase of the winery (not just because he was making $45 Million on the deal) but also because as part of the deal he got to focus exclusively on winemaking. Perhaps now it will revert back to his ownership, or perhaps he will find someone else to manage the office work so that he can continue to focus on the grapes.

Arrowood is one of those Sonoma brands that is both somewhat expensive (read more than $20), but is also relatively easy to get. With production levels of around 30,000 cases, it can afford to be in both fancy restaurants (although some restaurants would see this wine as not boutique enough to carry) as well as grocery stores.

Recently Arrowood also started making a more "approachable" series of wines. For the un-initiated, this is mostly like calling a used Porsche merely "pre-owned" -- both are fancy ways of saying "cheaper." But as we all know, cheaper is not actually always worse. However, I think that there has also been an effort with this wine to make it more mainstream in appeal -- the oak has been dialed back a bit and the complexity mellowed -- without resorting to cheap grapes or cutting corners.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is the color of light straw in the glass and has an unusually tart nose, with aromas of wet stones, chalk, and unripe mango or other tropical fruits. In the mouth it does an about face from its clean crisp aromas and comes through with rich musky flavors of honey, some floral elements, dried nuts, and toasted oak. The finish is reasonable and clean.

Food Pairing:
While I realize it's preobably a little more expensive than some would like for this sort of thing, its a great everyday white wine that will go with a lot of dishes that might come out of a family kitchen. In particular I think it would complement pasta with chicken and sundried tomatoes.
Overall Score: 8

How Much?: $15

Look for this wine at your local grocery store or online at your favorite Internet wine shop.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud