Healdsburg wine tasting gem pours polished small-lot Pinot Noirs plus Chardonnay.
Al and Janis McWilliams founded Arista Winery in 2002. Their sons, Mark and Ben, now run this Russian River Valley winery known for its polished small-lot Pinot Noirs. After purchasing Arista from their parents, a key move the brothers made was to hire winemaker Matt Courtney. A protégé of Helen Turley, a well-respected grape-growing and winemaking consultant, Courtney has become a star in his own right for his approach, which emphasizes vigilance in the vineyard and minimal manipulation during the fermenting and aging process. Arista wines, which routinely earn scores in the mid-to-high 90s from influential critics, come from grapes grown on the 36-acre estate’s 10 planted acres (nine to Pinot Noir, one to Chardonnay) and elite Sonoma County and Mendocino County vineyards, Perli, Ritchie, Kanzler, Ferrington, and Toboni among them.
Signature and Terroir Tastings
The winery offers two seated tastings, often outdoors, both accompanied by a board of locally made charcuterie. Pinot and Chardonnay are the focus of the hour-long Signature Tasting, which always includes the flagship Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Hosts touch on the winery’s history and growing and cellar techniques. Single-vineyard and other small-lot wines are poured at the private Taste of Terroir Experience. In fine weather, Taste of Terroir takes place in an outdoor space whose chandelier and iron-and-redwood table Ben crafted.
Arista Winery Tips
All visits to Arista are by appointment. The winery does not allow children or pets and doesn’t waive tasting fees with a purchase. Courtney also makes a fine Riesling. If it’s not part of your tasting, ask if a pour is possible.
With a Japanese garden and a few other well-groomed outdoor spaces, some with views all the way to Mt. St. Helena in the Napa Valley, Arista is a pleasant stop on a sunny afternoon. Picnics are allowed after your tasting if you purchase a bottle, a perfect way to extend your stay.
Why go: appellation and single-vineyard Pinot Noirs; hillside setting; picnic area and landscaped grounds.
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This story originally appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and updated in 2022.