Arista Winery Arouses Respect for Russian River Pinot Noir and Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer

The last SSU Wine Sense Club tasting of the semester featured pinot noirs from enchanting Arista Winery in the Russian River Valley.  Approximately 30 Millennials showed up to taste through several different Arista pinot noirs, ranging from the classic 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($42) with appealing raspberry fruit and silky body to the massive and complex Longbow Pinot Noir with dark berry fruit, earth and tobacco and the Mononi Single Vineyard Pinot Noir with brambly fruit and spice. 

When we took a vote at the end of the tasting on favorites, it was split evenly around the room with some people preferring the lighter and more feminine style of the classic Russian River, and others preferring the bigger, more opulent single vineyards with more time in oak. 

Equally enchanting is Arista’s dry 2008 Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer ($24) with a heady nose of honeysuckle and apricot, but a refreshing bone dry finish on the palate, along with some alcoholic heat from the 14.2% finish.  I actually first encountered this wine 2 years ago at a lunch at Willi’s Seafood Bar in Healdsburg where it was sold by the glass.  I was so entranced with the wine that I decided to visit the winery.  Of course, the day I arrived, they had just sold out of the Gewürztraminer.  It is rare to find this style, and Arista provides one of the best examples. 

Mark McWilliams, General Manager of Arista, led the tasting and explained that the name “Arista” came from the Latin root meaning “best of its kind.”  He also said that they winery tried to support “heritage” vineyards – or old, historic vineyards in the Russian River – by working with local growers to develop long term grape purchasing contracts.  This creates a win-win situation in that the historic vineyards are preserved, the grape growers can earn a sustainable living, and Arista Winery and its consumers can enjoy beautiful Russian River pinots. 

For more information on Arista Winery, see