Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts grew up in Napa and have been friends since childhood, with a shared passion for bike-riding, food, drink, and travel. While trying flat out to have as much fun as possible, they are at the same time making some of the more amazingly unique, yet broadly encompassing wines–the benchmark of how these guys operate.
Arnot-Roberts, their joint venture founded close to 20 years ago, showcases their dedication to this craft, and it’s one of the more inspiring processes I’ve witnessed. I had the privilege of being their harvest intern and assistant for three harvests (2012-2014), immersing myself in their lives for the most intense but gratifying months of the year.
The winery focuses on cool (if not very cold) microclimates for their fruit sources, as retaining acidity is one of the key elements to the freshness and lift in their wines. They are hyper focused on “nailing the pick,” as Duncan would often say, because of the importance of capturing the balance of sugars, acids, and flavors to set a proper foundation for the fermentation process. They also incorporate a number of old-world techniques, like whole-cluster fermentations for all reds (only about one-third whole cluster for their cabernet sauvignons), very little use of new wood (only some in the cabernets), and natural-yeast fermentations. Chardonnays are fermented in stainless and aged in used oak.
Duncan and Nathan have always had a knack for finding some of the smaller, more interesting vineyard sites, ones that seem to have vast, untapped potential. If you look at their vineyard portfolio, it becomes apparent that they know where to look for killer fruit.
Their true passion lies in syrah; their Clary Ranch syrah just might be my favorite wine they make. Heralding from west of Petaluma and a couple miles from the Pacific Ocean, this vineyard is arguably the coldest syrah site in the country. It could easily be slipped into a blind tasting of Saint Josephs from the Northern Rhone and hold its own.
At Paul Marcus Wines, we are fortunate to have more than a dozen of their low-production, hard-to-find offerings, including the Clary Ranch syrah, three different expressions of chardonnay, and a couple of stellar pinot noirs. We also feature two brilliant versions of their coveted cabernet: Fellom Ranch, from the esteemed Montebello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and Montecillo, from high above the Sonoma Valley.
The casual demeanor of these two friends belies their calculated decision-making and vastly connected community network of likeminded winemaking peers. The importance they place on family and friends is contagious as well. They’ve been known to throw some pretty decent open house parties, and their harvest lunches don’t suck either. (Actually, the “lunch plan” was sometimes the absolute most important task of the harvest day.) They understand the value of eating well, and of taking a break with your hard-toiling co-workers–to reflect and contemplate, to share insights and humor, to uplift the soul!