Over fifty years ago, patriarch Donald Long began to acquire land on Pritchard Hill in the eastern mountains above Rutherford and Oakville. Today it is one of the most coveted vineyard areas in the Napa Valley with the most recent owners ranging from cult Ovid to the venerable Continuum owned by Margrit, Tim and Marsha Mondavi. Current generation owner David Long has been making wine at namesake David Arthur Vineyards for over 25 years now and in 2008 hired Nile Zacherle as winemaker to ensure the crafting of the highest quality cabernet sauvignon blends worthy of this ‘climat’.
One of the ways they are accomplishing this is by putting Zacherle in charge of the vineyards as well as winemaking, experience he honed while at Barnett Vineyards in Spring Mountain district. Soon after he arrived at David Arthur Vineyards in July 2008, Zacherle began converting the vineyards to organic practices such as using compost and cover crops for fertility and applying stylet oil, elemental sulfur and biological fungicides such as Sonata to manage mildew. They recently purchased an undervine tiller to manage weeds vs. using herbicides. Zacherle has importantly been fine-tuning the canopy management in order to achieve the best balance in the fruit.
The terroir is exceptional, with high 1,000 foot plus elevations moderating heat and the well-draining slopes providing the moderate stress ideal for tannin ripeness in the reds. But what distinguishes the eastern mountains from the western mountains according to Zacherle, whose experience at Barnett makes him intimately familiar with the two climates, the biggest difference is the sun exposure. Pritchard Hill at the top of the eastern mountain not only receives the morning sun but also the long afternoon sun, which is important in cool vintages. In addition, the area receives good ventilation which contributes to concentration in the grapes as well as limiting mildew risk.
The contribution of the terroir is evident in the glass, with the 2007 David Arthur Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($95) showing purity of fruit and freshness wrapped in elegance. Zacherle was responsible for blending the current release 07’s with the 08’s representing his first vineyard to bottle wine.
David Arthur Vineyards is open by appointment only.