The new generation of family-owned Arista winery have taken this Sonoma young-blood to the big leagues in just a few years, appointing one of the region’s top winemaking talents and focusing on the ‘Grand Crus’ of the Sonoma Coast. This is modern Californian Pinot Noir & Chardonnay at its best.
Arista Winery was founded in 2002 by Al and Janis McWilliams with a mission to grow and produce small production, site driven Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley. They purchased the 14.5 hectare Estate in 2004 on the famed Westside Road near the town of Healdsburg. Nestled between iconic producers Williams Selyem Winery and Rochioli Winery, the McWilliams family partnered with legendary Vineyard Manager Ulises Valdez to plant the estate in 2006.
In 2012 Al and Janis sold the business to their sons, Mark and Ben McWilliams. The brothers grew up working for their parents at the winery and assumed control when Al McWilliams retired at the end of the 2012 vintage. With the shared vision of continuing to elevate the quality of the wine and the winery’s visibility as a world-class producer, Mark and Ben hired Winemaker Matt Courtney (previously winemaker at Marcassin Winery for 10 years) at the start of 2013. Joining Matt at Arista was his Assistant Winemaker from Marcassin, Gordon Miller and Cellar Master Corey Stewart. Under the guidance of Matt and his team, Arista Winery has consistently produced some of the most highly rated, highly sought-after Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from California since 2013.
Mark and Ben’s biggest and most rewarding decision was to significantly reduce the number of growers they worked with, to focus on a small number of the very best to give them greater control.
In addition to the Estate Vineyard, they work with the Valdez Family’s U.V. Lucky Well and U.V. El Diablo Vineyards; the legendary Kent Ritchie and his eponymous Ritchie Vineyard; Mark and Kim Dempster and their historic Banfield Vineyard in the Green Valley; the famous Ferrington Vineyard in Anderson Valley and Perli Vineyard in Mendocino County are the only sites they work with outside of Sonoma, which is a serious endorsement!
Winemaker Matt Courtney graduated from U.C. Davis in 2005, right when wine industry icons Helen Turley and John Wetlaufer were looking for a new Assistant Winemaker for their personal label, Marcassin. Matt got the job, and over the next eight years, he worked closely with Helen and John in both the vineyard and winery. During his tenure at Marcassin, Matt played a tremendous role in crafting some of the most highly sought after and highly acclaimed Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the new world. After spending eight years honing his craft Matt knew the time was right for him to step out and take full control of the production process.
The perfect opportunity came in 2013 when Matt was offered the position of winemaker at Arista Winery in the Russian River Valley. Excited by the prospect of working with the winery’s two premier estate vineyards as well as their select group of growers, Matt enthusiastically accepted the offer.
Using time tested, traditional winemaking methods, all of Arista’s wines are natively fermented (primary and malolactic) and all wines are bottled without fining or filtration. This artisanal approach to making wine is labour intensive and hands-on. No corners are cut. Skill and patience are rewarded with wines that are site driven and reflect the unique terroirs from which they come.