Arnot Roberts winery has trailblazed a new style of California winemaking with a nod to the old world. They focus on unique vineyard sites, indigenous fermentations, and little or no new wood usage; surprising since Roberts is a cooper! His father taught him the trade, and whenever new barrels are needed, he makes them himself.
Their low tech, low stress, super chill style of winemaking makes you wonder if the wine itself picks up on the vibes of its creators. In 2013 they were The Chronicle’s Winemakers of the Year, and that accolade holds up today. So many young up-and-coming winemakers attribute them as inspiration. The label produces 13 different types of wine, but the output is only about 2,000 cases per year. They work heavily with vineyard partners to encourage organic farming with little environmental impact. Their approach is to tap into the potential of what their wine can be, starting in the field.
Arnot Roberts tracks down unique, distinctive, and sometimes extreme vineyard sites that span from Mendocino to Santa Cruz Mountains. In fact, they have helped to establish some previously unrecognized sites- or maybe they just showed the world what these site’s true potential is. Trout Gulch in the Santa Cruz Mountains is one such vineyard. Sitting just 4 miles from the ocean, the site was planted in 1980 with the Wente clone of Chardonnay (the heritage selection of California Chardonnay). Here, the vines thrive in sandy loam soil. The vineyard experiences a cool climate with ocean breezes, creating a wine with high natural acidity and a touch of salinity. The grapes are organically grown and dry-farmed.
The 2015 Trout Gulch Chardonnay is whole-cluster-pressed, fermented with native yeast in stainless steel, and aged for 10 months in neutral French oak. This was an unusually ripe vintage. Aromas of green orchard fruit, brioche, and oyster shell are supported by a medium body and followed by a long, pleasant finish. This wine drinks beautifully now but will continue to develop for years to come.
90 points from Antonio Galloni: The 2015 Chardonnay Trout Gulch is another rich, intense wine. Here, the low yields of vintage blur the personality of the site. There is some underpinning of the salinity that makes the wines from this site so distinctive, but this is a freakishly ripe Chardonnay from Arnot-Roberts. Orange peel and exotic spice notes add to the wine’s eccentric feel. The fruit was also picked a bit later than normal because the acidity was too high for the wine’s sugar ripeness. As a result, the alcohol is also a bit high by Arnot-Roberts standards.