Aaron Romano, MaryAnn Worobiec, Augustus Weed
Wine Spectator Issue: November 15, 2017
Pursuing a plusher style on Mount Veeder
“As with many other mountain appellations, Mount Veeder, on the west side of Napa Valley, has a reputation for producing rugged, tannic wines. Yet Julie Arbuckle, owner of Anthem Winery, is turning the topography to her advantage, making mountain-grown Cabernets that show more refinement and finesse.
Her tiny estate, located on a ridgetop about 400 feet above the valley floor, overlooks the city of Napa in one direction and stares up at the steep, redwood-cloaked backside of the Mayacamas Mountains in the other. The site also benefits from the cooling breezes from San Pablo Bay. The growing season is longer here, but Anthem winemaker Jeff Ames explains that because the vineyard sits on a knoll, it receives additional sunlight hours, allowing for plusher wines.
A former federal prosecutor, Arbuckle, 44, has partnered with Ames and vineyard manager John Truchard to develop the site, which was only a single acre of Merlot when she purchased the property in 2006. They’ve since planted an additional 6 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
“I must have interviewed 100 different winemakers on the phone,” says Arbuckle. “But the first to call was Jeff, and he set the bar really high.” The team fell into place with Truchard, who, in a stroke of luck, was the son-in-law of Arbuckle’s realtor. “She bought a better property than I think she realized at the time,” says Ames, whose other projects include his own Rudius label, as well as winemaking duties at Boich Family, which also owns vineyards on Mount Veeder, and Tor.
The 2014 Mount Veeder (90 points, $110) is perfumed and charming, with a vivid core of fruit and an assertive tannic grip. The other Cabernet Anthem produces, from St. Helena’s Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard, offers an engaging contrast, with the 2014 bottling (94, $110) showing richness to the loamy earth qualities associated with vineyards on the valley floor. In addition, Arbuckle purchased adjoining acreage to her estate. She has already been approved to plant another 3 acres of vines and to build a winery and tasting room.
Arbuckle chose the name Anthem to honor the dedication of her winemaking team. A topographic map wraps around the Anthem bottle, showing the contours of the estate. The back label is detailed and precise as it identifies the factors and decisions that went into the winemaking, including vineyard composition, harvest dates and barrel regimens. The idea is to help customers better connect to what they’re drinking.”