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Arista Winery Appoints Matt Courtney as Winemaker

5 December, 2012

Healdsburg, CA, December 5, 2012 – The McWilliams family, owners of Arista Winery on Westside Road in the Russian River appellation, are pleased to announce the appointment of Matt Courtney as winemaker, starting officially January 1st.  Most recently of Marcassin Wine Company where he had an eight-year tenure, Courtney brings to Arista Winery a philosophy and approach towards winemaking and winegrowing that is in perfect alignment with the vision the family has held since the inception which is to craft elegant, age-worthy wines at the highest level of quality. After a successful launch of Arista in 2004 working closely with former consulting winemaker Leslie Sisneros, the McWilliams family felt the next logical step in the evolution of their property and goals was to appoint a full-time winemaker. Courtney fit the bill with his deep experience crafting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines for the highly sought after wines of Marcassin.

Arista’s vineyard holdings include their 36-acre estate, located on prime benchland on Westside Road, with four distinct vineyards, which have been planted to heritage and Dijon clones of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In addition, in 2012 they acquired the historic Martinelli Road vineyard in the Russian River AVA, which is planted to 130 old Zinfandel, 20+ year Pinot Noir and 30+ year Chardonnay.  When queried about his new endeavor, Courtney stated, “The opportunity to work with heritage vineyards in two locations in the Russian River, a wonderful warm and hard working family such as the McWilliams and in the future, to build a first class winery onsite, was the ideal next evolution in my career.” The winery also works with a phenomenal group of non-estate vineyards including Bucher, Ferrington, Bacigalupi, Toboni, Mononi and Ritchie, working closely with their long time vineyard manager, Ulises Valdez.

The son of a naval aviator, Courtney moved to the Bay Area when he was 10 years old and studied philosophy at the University of California Berkeley, where he met his wife on the ski team. A move to Jackson Hole for the serious skiing couple proved to be a pivotal time in Courtney’s appreciation of fine wine as he worked in restaurants and deepened his education and understanding of Burgundian wines, travelling extensively in France and meeting its leading producers. Upon completing his degree in viticulture and enology at UC Davis in 2004, he joined Marcassin and learned every aspect of winemaking over the next eight years.

Arista’s co-owner, Mark McWilliams, stated on behalf of the family, “My family and I have held a vision for our winery to achieve the highest level of quality and site expression in our wines.  As we look to our next evolutionary step, Matt’s experience and talent dovetailed perfectly as we aim to build a winery onsite as well as deepen our knowledge of the great vineyard properties we have.”  Courtney’s appointment begins officially on January 1st as he wraps up his current duties at Marcassin.

Arista Winery was founded in 2002 by Al and Janis McWilliams, who bought the 36 acre property on Westside Road, creating with their sons Mark and Ben, a winery known for crafting world class Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel. Their vision has always been to grow and produce the finest quality wines possible working with a team of highly skilled artisan growers, gardeners and chefs to use the estate as a place to hone and showcase their talents. For more information on the winery and its offerings please visit

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