During a recent trip to Napa, we were lucky enough to visit Tournesol with friends of the owners, Bob and Ann Arns. This meant that we got to meet the couple in their wine cellar, not the tasting room.
The property is tucked away in Napa’s Coombsville appellation. After getting out of the
car and surveying the technicolor vines, we walked from blazing sunshine into the dark, cool interior, which showcased classic cars, the winery’s work area and a dusty cellar filled with Bob & Ann’s personal wine collection.
After this mini-tour (during which we tasted the sauvignon blanc; we were standing so I didn’t take notes, but recall it was very easy to drink), we were seated at a long table to taste more.
We continued with a pinot noir rosé. The weight of the grapes is used to get the juice (versus using a press) and there is minimal skin contact. The result is a full, dry wine with an herbaceous nose and grassy flavors. Someone commented, “It tastes too good to be pink.”
We also tried two vintages of the Proprietor’s Blend. The 2009 blends 81% cabernet sauvignon with 14% malbec and 5% petit verdot. Though earthy, notes of blueberry lighten the feel. It was very smooth on the palate with moderate tannins.
In contrast, the 2008 had a sharper nose and darker fruit flavors. It is 86% cabernet with 7% Malbec, 3% each of cabernet franc and merlot, and 1% petit verdot. The wine was big and round on the palate with a nice savory note.
Last but not least was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Tournesol’s flagship wine. It had a hearty nose with hints of wood. The flavors were equally sumptuous, with notes of chocolate and dark berries.
When it came to establishing their winery, planting cabernet and the other Bordeaux varietals was a no-brainer for Bob and Ann. The couple looked for a spot that offered the right terroir for these grapes – but they also wanted to buy a place they could plant from scratch.
For them, this patch of land was it. Coombsville offered the right elevation (350 feet), soil (“it needed no amendments, it was perfect,” Bob said), and climate (warm temperatures mitigated by fog and limited risk of spring frosts.)
They purchased the property in 1998 and began planting. The first vintage was released in 2004. Production is small – a little over 1,000 cases for all their wines. But Bob and Ann seem to like it that way!