A Little Wild
Stacked on steep terraces amid soaring conifers and native oaks, our estate vineyard is more rugged than most, even a little wild, which is just fine with us. Nestled amid some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon-growing properties in the region, Arborum is perched on the east-facing slopes of Spring Mountain in the Mayacamas Range just north of St. Helena. Andy Erickson, our winemaker, calls this “a real sweet spot of the Napa Valley.”
This east-facing mountain side is a “real sweet spot” of the Napa Valley.
Andy Erickson Winemaker
Our 20 acres were once part of a larger holding, first planted to grapes and olives by John (JC) and Hannah Weinberger in the late 1870s. We purchased the land in 2013 and immediately put together a plan to manage the forest and to cultivate an estate vineyard, preserving habitat and history in equal measure. Clearing the dense underbrush, we discovered a grove of Mission olive trees, most well over a century old and so tall they felt like part of the forest itself. We restored the original spring that fed the property, one of many that give Spring Mountain its name. Then we situated three vineyard blocks on the steep hillside where the rocky soil and north-northeast exposure are ideal for organically farming a complex, concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon. Each character-rich block, named for the people and events that shaped this place, is hand-tended vine by vine.
The property’s old hunting lodge is now our home, hidden among the trees and vines. The forest creates a respite from the busyness of the world, and it enhances the distinctive terroir of our Cabernet vineyard. The history, both natural and human-created, is evident everywhere, and we love being part of the latest chapter in that ongoing story. In fact, our estate vineyard’s name—Hidden Key—was inspired by one of the first remnants of the past our family discovered here.
Acts of Passion
A recent immigrant from Bavaria, John (JC) Weinberger first settled in St. Helena in 1870. He became a prominent citizen of the valley, helping to organize the Bank of St. Helena and serving as its director. After he and Hannah Rabbe married in 1871, they purchased 240 acres of land north of town, a parcel that stretched from the valley floor up the wooded flanks of Spring Mountain. Terracing the steep hillsides, they planted olives and grapes and built a successful winemaking business. But in 1882, tragedy struck.
Lured to the train station by a telegram announcing the arrival of a visiting friend, JC was met instead by William Gau, a former employee. Gau had become enamored of JC’s daughter Minnie, but her lack of reciprocation and her father’s disapproval sent Gau into a vengeful rage. He shot and killed JC, then turned the gun on himself.
Suddenly widowed at 42, Hannah took command. She stepped in as director of the bank, oversaw the Weinberger orchards and vineyards, and helmed the winemaking operations, becoming the first female winemaker in the Napa Valley and expanding production five-fold. In 1889 she won a silver medal in the Paris World’s Fair, the only female California vintner to do so. Hannah’s business thrived until 1920, when Prohibition began. She died in 1931 at the age of 90, having never remarried.
That early era is honored through our farming approach (no machines used in the vineyard), meticulous winemaking, and painstaking restoration of the 19th-century olive grove. Our names for the vineyard blocks and olive grove commemorate our property’s history.
Turn the Key
Arborum is a vision decades in the making. After buying our first home north of St. Helena in 1999, we imagined one day turning our passion for wine into an avocation—growing our own grapes, making world-class wines, and then using the results of this endeavor to help create opportunity for others.
That dream crystallized when we discovered this appellation’s “sweet spot.” The high ridgeline fringed with pines and the oak-dotted slopes felt magical to us. And from a winemaking perspective, its hillside terroir, surrounded by renowned vineyards and winemakers, was an extraordinary find for producing Cabernet Sauvignon.
The authenticity and natural beauty of this place struck a deep chord for us as a home, too. The house had a quiet, rustic style that deferred to and reflected the forest, with lots of room for our children to adventure in wild places.
We’ve put down roots, literally and figuratively, and take pride in producing artisanal wines that will bring joy to people’s lives. Driven by our belief that our wine is a gift brought forth from the land through the dedication of our team, we’re deeply grateful to be able to give back to our local community and to environmental causes through Arborum.
Waking a Forest
Beyond our passion for making great wine, the true heart of Arborum is the desire to help make the world a better place. Our family’s personal motto, “in the acorn sleeps a forest,” is displayed on every bottle of Arborum wine, reminding us that even the smallest acts of kindness can plant seeds that sprout and spread. And we believe the best place to start is with the community and the natural world that surrounds us. That’s why we actively support nonprofit organizations that enhance educational opportunities, environmental preservation, and the betterment of life in the Napa Valley and beyond. We invite you to learn more about these organizations and the vital work they do. Cheers!