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, the brothers’ key move was to hire winemaker Matt Courtney. A protégé of Helen Turley, a well-respected grape-growing and winemaking consultant, Courtney became a star in his own right for his approach, emphasizing 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, and Toboni among them.
Signature and Terroir Tastings
The winery offers tastings that range from the introductory Explorer Tasting of one Chardonnay and two Pinot Noirs to the Estate Experience. Focusing on the top-tier wines, the latter includes a tour of the grounds. The flagship Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is featured at the hour-long Signature Tasting, with a charcuterie board accompanying the flight. Consider a Private Tasting for a more involved, 90-minute to two-hour presentation.
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.
With a Japanese garden and other well-groomed outdoor spaces, some with distant views of Mt. St. Helena, Arista is a pleasant stop on a sunny afternoon. Guests can bring picnics if arranged with the winery ahead of time.
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 most recently updated in 2023.