Fine-Tuning a Sonoma Standout at Arista
The McWilliams brothers, with winemaker Matt Courtney, have sharpened the focus at this Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay star
Arista Winery was set up for success from the start thanks to the old real-estate rubric of “location, location, location.” The 36-acre Sonoma estate is just to the west of West Side Road, in the heart of the Russian River Valley AVA. DuMol is on one side, Williams Selyem on the other. David Ramey is also a neighbor.
The site had never been farmed before the McWilliams family bought it in 2004; Ulises Valdez oversaw planting the following year. Brothers Mark and Ben McWilliams took over the estate in 2012 after purchasing it from their parents. Today, with 10 acres under vine, the estate contributes 20 percent of Arista’s production, with the rest coming from purchased fruit via a roster of who’s who vineyards in the area, including Kanzler, UV and Joseph Swan.
But despite the grounding in serious Russian River Valley terroir, Arista’s early path veered in other directions. Production had reached 15,000 cases and included Pinot Noir from as far north as Oregon and as far south as Santa Cruz, along with Zinfandel and other bottlings. At the end of 2012, after making the purchase with his brother, Mark chose a new direction, making arguably the most ramification-laden decision a vintner can make, all in the hopes of achieving the success that the location afforded. He hired a new winemaker.