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One of the wonderful perks of being a wine writer and educator is the opportunity to meet some of the greatest winemakers in the world. Recently, I sat down with winemaker Tony Arcudi over a slow, enjoyable lunch talking about his journey and, of course, his amazing wines. I walked away with not only his story but with a respectful regard of an individual dedicated to the love of winemaking.

Arcudi didn't grow up in the vineyards of Napa Valley -- quite the opposite, literally, outside Boston. His passion for food and wine began in his teens, but it would be nearly 20 years -- after a career in the Navy as a missile navigation engineer and as a product manager for IBM -- before he made the "once in a lifetime" decision to pack up his car and head to California to follow his dream of wine.

This change in life plans would pay off as Arcudi would begin the path of a world-class wine career.

In California, Arcudi enrolled in the enology program at University of California, Davis, after completing prerequisite courses at Napa Valley College. After graduating from UC Davis, he trained in France and then returned to Napa Valley. While working as assistant winemaker at Nickel and Nickel in Oakville, he had a chance encounter with renowned winemaker Heidi Barrett, which put him on an unstoppable path. They worked together, learned together and have been making wine together ever since.

Today he has his own label, Arcudi Wines, and his first release was 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Black Sears Vineyard Howell Mountain. Black Sears Vineyards is the highest on Howell Mountain. This elevation and the cool fog line makes for the ideal conditions for growing cabernet sauvignon grapes. The vineyard is dry farmed as well as organic and biodynamic.

The label for his wine is simple yet expressive. The back features a sword of Caravaggio and the words, "Nec Spe, Nec Metu." Latin for no hope, no fear. This expression was his mantra as he made that life-changing jump to his dream with nothing to lose as he forged his new path in the vineyards of Napa Valley.

Arcudi wines rank among the best I have tasted. Considering Arcudi's limited production -- just 200 cases a year -- we are fortunate to have these wines available in our market. Arcudi wines, like their maker, are reserved and exceptionally complex and meant to continue to express charming character over time.

THE SPLURGE

2013 Arcudi Wines Black Sears Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $160 retail)

Lorri Hambuchen is a member of London's Institute of Wines and Spirits. Contact her at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, Ark. 72203, or email:

uncorked@thewinecenter.com

Food on 03/14/2018

Print Headline: Wines embody dream, personality of vintner

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