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Arbios Cellars - Napa Valley

91 Points - Wine News magazine

Bill Arbios was well into realizing his childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian when he suddenly realized his love for animals and many people’s lackluster attitude toward animal neglect would someday provide him with a backyard full of unwanted cats and dogs.

The good news was he was still a student at the University of California Davis, which just happened to include one of the finest oenology schools in the entire world.

Seeing many similarities in the veterinary/oenology curriculums, Bill decided to embrace the creative and complex aspects of winemaking. After graduating from Davis in 1973, he immediately launched his career in the wine business. For the next twenty-plus years, Bill held a number of winemaking and consulting positions with top Northern California wineries including Chateau Souverain, William Wheeler, Lyeth and the recently heralded Jarvis Vineyards in Napa Valley.

Along the way, Bill Arbios managed to spearhead some interesting facets. While at Lyeth in 1981, he pioneered the first Bordeaux-style blended wines in Sonoma County, forerunners for the excellent ‘Meritage’ wines produced by a number of wineries today. While at Jarvis more than a decade later, he aided in the design and implementation of Jarvis’ state-of-the-art underground winery.

But in 1993, at the age of 39, Bill decided it was time to plant some roots of his own and later that year offered the first Arbios Winery release to the general public.

“At the time I considered myself a sort of vagabond vintner,” Arbios recently explained with a smile. “I had actually worked for so many people and seen so many things happen in the wine industry that I thought I could finally do it for myself. While I always considered winemaking an artistic pursuit, I was aware that not everyone shared my own particular goals. I was also a bit tired of chasing wine writer’s scores that either made the wine or broke it.”

Arbios Cellars’ first release was whopping 250 cases that were fortunately greeted with critical acclaim. Arbios now produces around 3,000 cases each year but has realistic goals for the future.

“I don’t intend to ever make more than 5,000 cases,” Arbios steadfastly added, “I’ve seen wineries and vineyards come and go. The way we are set up now, it’s just my wife Susan and me. I know what I can do to affect the quality of my wines and control their consistency. For me, bigger isn’t better.”

Solid words from a fifth generation Californian with vast experience in the wine business.

Arbios grew up in Paradise, you heard right, a small town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains not far from Chico. His decision to enter UC Davis was a long time dream as was his more recent decision to locate his winery in Sonoma County that he has come to love and respect.

“When I first came to Sonoma in 1973, the entire area was wide open. In fact it was heavily planted in prunes. The entire Alexander Valley was one giant prune field and the big fair event was the annual prune festival,” Arbios added. “During my career I had a lot of experience with Sonoma terroir and I‘ve come to really appreciate the subtleties that exist within Sonoma County’s borders.”

Arbios’ efforts along with a number of similar high profile wineries has helped create a much higher quality profile for Sonoma wines in general. Bill Arbios aptly sums it up when he says, “Wine is a lot about place and its ability to express something really unique.”

Arbios Cellars’ wines are produced at a production facility in Graton to Bill and Susan Arbios’ exacting standards. At present Bill Arbios is content to wait to build a new winery for his business.

“I hope to one day have a new winery,” he confessed. “But I want to do it right and that involves waiting for the right time. I have seen and worked for wineries and owners who put the winery first and failed to have enough money left to have adequate inventory to operate and enough cash to properly market their products. I simply want to cover all my contingencies when I do decide to build and in our case, that involves waiting.”

Bill spends about 20% of his time on the road marketing Arbios Winery products that can now be found in selected accounts in some twenty-eight markets and Canada.

Arbios is a throwback to many old time vintners who actually love their profession and are in the wine business for the correct reasons.

In our minds he is already quite successful.

Dear Platinum Series Members:

My wife, Susan and I are delighted to have our 1999 Arbios Cabernet Sauvignon featured as one of this month’s Platinum selections. We are a small, family-owned operation. I make the wine and handle the distribution while Susan picks up all of the other pieces and keeps us on track. We are working together to make our dream come true and are pleased to introduce our wines to you in this way.

I began making wine over 30 years ago—after I realized that I was not cut out to be a veterinarian. (I would have had a house full of strays!) Since my days at UC Davis, I have been the winemaker at a number of Sonoma and Napa wineries, but always longed to have my own label. Ten years ago, I launched ‘Arbios” with 125 cases of wine from a single hilltop vineyard—the highest and northernmost vineyard in the Alexander Valley. We are still producing our Cabernet from the same vineyard, but in 1999 we produced 2,500 cases. I do as little as possible to the fruit to allow its bright balance and incredible depth of character to shine. I believe this helps to evoke a real sense of place or terroir in our wines.

We hope you will enjoy our wine with friends and family. We feel the wine drinks beautifully now, but will age from 10 to 20 years more.

Cheers! Bill Arbios - Winemaker