- Rating: 100 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: $0
- Accepts Reservations: No
- Reservation Required: No, this isn't a winery
Napa, CA 94559
This tasting wasn’t supposed to happen. During a previous trip to Napa, my group and I happened to have the opportunity to try a bottle of Arcudi while at Fantesca because there wasn’t enough of their 2015 Spring Mountain Cabernet to serve for the tasting. We found out Tony also produces Fantesca’s Pinot Noir and immediately signed up for his mailing list because both wines were delicious. Soon after our first order, Tony reached out to personally thank us for the support and offered to host a visit whenever we were next in town. I am sorry, but not sorry, to my friends because as soon as I found out he was recently hired as the consulting winemaker at Kapcsandy, I used any excuse to come to town and take him up on the offer, even if it was by myself… Let’s just say, we need to make a second trip.
But things did not start well. Like a kid on Christmas Eve, I could not fall asleep in my Palo Alto hotel the night before. I think I got 4 hours of sleep before picking up my rental car early at 7AM and arriving outside his house at 8:30AM. And then I failed to nap for 90 minutes inside the car. I’m surprised Tony let me in when I finally decided to knock on his door - I must have looked like a tired, wired, stressed, mess. But let me in he did. He sat me at his table, poured some wine, thanked me again for my patronage and then asked “What would you like to know?”
I’m not going to deep dive on Tony’s life as I’m sure there are other resources that capture his history in more detail. Actually, the real reason is because my attention was equally divided between the amazing wine in front of me and the amazing story I was listening to. The wine was an absolute home run that lives up to and even surpasses its price tag. You can read the tasting notes below, but just note that I met a wine ambassador from Black Sears Vineyard (where Tony gets the fruit for Arcudi wines) at the Howell Mountain Festival in Napa later that year and even he admitted that it was the best wine made from that vineyard. That is really saying something…
But I loved Tony’s story too. He grew up in the Boston area (I went there for college); he enlisted in the Navy and became a missile navigation engineer (my father was an Army Ordnance Officer in Korea); he was a product manager in the tech sector (basically my current job); he loves Bruno Giacosa wines (also my favorite Italian wine); he worked at Maison M. Chapoutier (I loved visiting them in Hermitage); he works with Heidi Barrett (one of my all-time favorite winemakers); and he now consults at Kapcsandy (probably my favorite US winery). I was speechless. He did tell me of all the trials and tribulations it took to get to this point, but I wasn’t listening. All that mattered at that moment was how can I get into this world?
I could not settle down at all through the tasting, which is why my tasting note on the wine seems less descript / more hand-wave-y than normal. Maybe when I setup a vertical tasting of his wines, I’ll revist the tasting notes and fill in some vintages. Til then, this will have to suffice:
- 2015 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($150)
- Pretty purple flowers, cocoa, and crushed, candied black fruit on the nose. Although the palate has high tannin, high acid, and high alcohol, the wine already feels rounded and approachable at its young age. I cannot understate the amazing texture - it feels weighty and elegant simultaneously, similar to Kapcsandy Cabernets. The flavors are not as opulent as Cabernets from the valley floor, but it still has intense richness that unfolds over time. I know it can age for 20+ years, but it’s so attractive right now, not unlike Heidi Barrett wines. Bravo!
Gone are the days where a winemaker works at winery they don’t own for their entire career. Similar to free agency in sports, it’s important to note who the winemaker is as well as the estate a wine comes from. Because variations between vintages may not just be influenced by the weather, but the qualities of the winemaker and their “style”. Judging by the wines I’ve had so far, I know Tony Arcudi is someone I want to follow from now on, no matter who he’s making wine for.
If you get the chance to have one of his wines, cheers to you! If you are lucky enough to meet the man in person, an extra cheers for you. I hope to visit him again soon and try his new Pritchard Hill release! Cheers!!
Rating: 100 out of 100