WHAT: Though it is not among the most famous wineries in Napa Valley, Sequoia Grove makes some powerful cabernets grown in the famous Rutherford Dust. The winery’s chardonnay, grown in cooler parts of the valley, is every bit as good.
The winery sits among one of the last stands of majestic Sequoia trees in Napa Valley, in a remodeled 100-year-old barn. It is a beautiful setting for making and tasting wines.
The chardonnay is made in a bright, clean style that goes well with food. Oak aging gives it a rich, full flavor.
It is a light, golden yellow in the glass with a toasted nut and pear aroma. The first sip gives some interesting flavors, with a nice balance between delicate and rich. There are layers of lemon and green apple, with a hint of almond.
The flavors change with the food. The spicy soup I ate with the wine brought out the smooth mellow flavors with a pronounced citrus flavor. When the wine was tasted with chicken pot pie, fresh crispness dominated, with a bit of minerality.
Most of the grapes are grown in the Carneros region, where long, cool growing seasons allow slow, even ripening of fruit. This enhances the flavors. The grapes are harvested at night into shallow bins. They are then hand sorted and whole-cluster pressed.
White Burgundy yeast strains are added to the juice, which then is placed in stainless steel tanks for cool fermentation. It was quickly transferred to French oak barrels (30 percent new) where it spent 10 months aging sur lies. The barrels were stirred periodically to gain maximum flavor extraction from the lees.
Sequoia Grove never goes through malolactic fermentation, which helps preserve the crisp acidity and mineral notes.
The 2013 was the second of three great harvests in California, each one seeming to outdo the previous one. Moderate temperatures throughout the year allowed the winemakers to let grapes ripen slowly. There were no rain or heat spikes.
“We’ve never followed the pack with our chardonnay,” said Michael Trujillo, president and director of winemaking. “It’s a wine with great varietal expression, crisp and clean; more Burgundian in style. I have a sense people are really thirsty for this style of wine.”
WINERY: The property for Sequoia Grove dates back to Spanish ownership, but the wine history really started in 1978 when Jim Allen bought 22 acres in Rutherford that included an old barn. The barn now houses the winery and tasting room.
Allen planted cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet Franc and other Bordeaux varietals. When the first wines were produced in 1980 they were an immediate hit. They became known for their complexity and Old World style.
Kobrand became a marketing and distribution partner and then bought the winery in 2002.
In 2001, Trujillo became winery president. Under his direction, operations within the winery itself have become more small-lot and artisan-focused.
Besides chardonnay, Sequoia Grove produces Gewurtztraminer, malbec, merlot, syrah, syrah rosé, petite syrah, a dessert wine, and several single-vineyard cabernet sauvignons at different price points.
Kobrand also represents Benziger, Cakebread and Domaine Carneros.
Sequoia Grove wines are made with 100 percent Napa Valley fruit from the original estate vineyard and the newly acquired Tonella Estate Vineyard in Rutherford, as well as from premier Napa Valley growers throughout Napa County.
GOES WITH: My wife, Teri, and I had this wine on a night when we didn’t feel like cooking. I had some leftover chicken tortilla soup and she had a chicken pot pie. We let the wine carry the meal. This is such a good food wine that it paired well with both dishes.
The soup is made with chicken, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and some red pepper. In the bowl I add shredded queso cheese and tortilla chips. It needed a full-bodied wine that wouldn’t be overpowered by the vegetable and spice combination.
For the pot pie, a subtle blend of flavors is called for in the wine, so it doesn’t overpower the food. The Sequoia Grove chardonnay was excellent with both dishes.
This food-friendly wine will go well with most dishes, from appetizers to soups to main courses. We drank it slightly chilled. As it warmed up we tasted the full range of flavors. The winery says this wine should age for at least five years.