If you have never heard of or visited the Amapola Creek winery, it would be hard to find blame.

After all, the Glen Ellen winery produces only 4,000 cases a year, is almost impossible to find retail-wise, sits only three tastings a day, and you need to pass through a series of gates to get to the property.

However, after reading this story if you don’t do everything possible to get your hands on some Amapola Creek wine, then the fault is 100 percent yours.

Located on London Road, near the iconic “Pool Mart” sign on Highway 12 just past Agua Caliente, Amapola Creek is yet another child of Richard Arrowood, the iconic winemaker of over 50 years in Sonoma County. From 1974 through 1990, Arrowood was the winemaker at Chateau St. Jean where he created some of the first vineyard-designate Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon produced in Sonoma County.

Richard, along with his wife Alis, founded Arrowood Winery with a 1985 vintage. Each year the small-lot varietals became better known, elevating Arrowood from elite to legendary status.

In 2010 he sold Arrowood to the Robert Mondavi family and focused strictly on making wine for his estate winery – Amapola Creek.

The result – simply amazing!

Amapola Creek was recently purchased by B. Wise Vineyards, but Arrowood has agreed to continue as winemaker for one more year – a win-win for both. And if you know B. Wise Vineyards, they will do every thing to keep the quality supreme after Arrowood retires. Something that hasn’t been the case at the original Arrowood Winery.

What makes Amapola Creek wines so great?

Part of the genius of Arrowood’s winemaking skills is knowing when to harvest the grapes. With 56 micro-climates in the Sonoma Valley, time of harvesting can be the difference maker.

Arrowood prefers to pick his grapes early than most in the area. The early harvest provides for the optimal sugar and acid levels in the grapes.

Expertly guided through our tasting experience by Daniel Caresio, the Assistant Manager of National Sales for both Amapola Creek and B. Wise, we were able to go through the five wine tasting experience.

We started with the 2018 Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley. The grapes come from the Jos. Belli Vineyards in the Russian River Valley. Not normally a Chardonnay guy, I enjoyed the wine and found it refreshing on a warm day. The other three in my group loved the wine.

Next, we rolled into the 2016 Cuvee Alis, a Rhone-blend from the Sonoma Valley. Cuvee means blend, and Alis is Richard’s wife’s name.

A Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre (GSM) blend, which is the Cuvee Alis, has become one of my favorites. There is a touch of Petite Sirah and Viognier added to the blend in this case.

This is an Estate wine and one that is a go to when wanting that nice and relaxing wine. There were only 452 cases of this wine produced that was released in April of 2020. Some now occupy space in my cellar.

Next up was a cool experience – tasting the 2016 Nuns Canyon Zinfandel and 2016 Monte Rosso Vineyard Zinfandel side by side.

The Nuns Canyon comes from a Hamel Family Vineyard and has strong forward nose, bringing out the big California Zin style.

The Monte Rosso Vineyard is arguably the most famous vineyard in the Sonoma Valley, having been first planted in the 1860’s.

Upon tasting the wine, you get the full force that you would expect from 130-year-old Zinfandel vines. It was easily my choice between the two Zins.

The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Sonoma Valley was next. Admittedly, the Sonoma Valley is not known for its Cabernet’s much the way its Napa Valley cousin is known, but don’t sleep on this one. Coming from the Amapola Creek Estate that borders the Monte Rosso vineyards, the wine stands toe-to-toe with many Napa Cabs and at a more pleasing $100 a bottle.

Give some time for the wine to air and you will be rewarded with a bigger, bolder, wine.

We ended our tasting with a surprise, and it was the star of the show – the 2012 Estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon.

If the nose brought me close to tears, then the first taste sealed the deal.

According to Caresio, 2012 was a monster year for Cab and the Estate grown Cab is his “corner wine.” You open it and want to be left alone in the corner for 30 minutes.

The wine is in the Library Collection at Amapola Creek and has a limited availability, but if you can get your hands on a bottle, the $125 price is a steal. vineyards

Amapola Creek is a must visit for serious oenophiles, well worth taking the time to secure one of the tasting appointments. It has been one of just a handful of wineries that has shaped my appreciation of wine and wine making.

By Dennis Miller