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Berger: Two wineries linked by history

  • 3/9/2011: D6:

    PC: Richard Arrowood, winemaster of Amapola Creek has decided to make a blend of Syrah and Grenache.

The connection between different wineries from radically different regions often is not evident until you look below the surface.

The parallels between two California wines last week wasn't initially evident, until I saw that the parallels were related to something rather basic: the soils from which they get their fruit.

Both prefer to make wines that show their regional characteristics, and both want to honor those who pioneered their respective regions.

Amapola Creek is a small, prestige winery in Sonoma Valley whose owners, Richard and Alis Arrowood, are making remarkable strides.

Among their top wines is a stellar Cabernet Sauvignon, a terrific Syrah, dramatic Zinfandel, and a superb Chardonnay.

Alta Maria Vineyards is a joint project between grower James Ontiveros and winemaker Paul Wilkins in Santa Maria Valley, in the central coast. The winery makes a brilliant Chardonnay, a sublime Sauvignon Blanc, and a classic Pinot Noir.

Since the wines are rather different in style, you might think nothing connects these two properties. But the connections are soil-based.

Arrowood, who was Chateau St. Jean's first winemaker in 1975 and then went on to found his own eponymous winery, set up Amapola Creek after his own winery was sold.

And visiting his secluded project recently, I asked why he chose this Sonoma Valley hillside property, just down the road from where he has made wine for nearly 40 years.

"I was looking for a special hillside property, and I knew that one of the best vineyards in California was Monte Rosso, so we decided this place was best," said Arrowood.

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