Seavey Vineyard is located along Conn Valley Road in the eastern hills of Napa Valley – about 15 minutes from the Valley floor. A drive out here is a refreshing change of pace from the vineyard covered flatlands of the valley floor. Although located a short distance from the valley floor a visit here seems world’s apart from the hustle and bustle of Highway 29. Rolling hills, narrow roads, and plenty of oaks grace the hillsides. This historical property was originally a cattle ranch however records indicate grapes were planted on some of the hillsides as early as the 1870’s. The stone dairy barn (still in existence) was built in 1881.
William & Mary Seavey purchased this property in 1979. The estate was originally founded by the Franco-Swiss Farming Company in 1881 which closed down when Phylloxera destroyed their grape vines and the Volstead Act went into effect (Prohibition). At the time of their purchase this was a horse and cattle ranch; they soon planted the slopes with grapes and initially sold their fruit to Raymond Vineyards. They have never purchased grapes; all their wine is made from estate grown grapes. Their vineyards are separated into 20+ individual blocks.
Today the property encompasses about 200 acres of which 40 acres are planted to vine. Their hillside vineyards produce low yields of rich concentrated fruit. A small block of Chardonnay grows in a cooler lower part of their property. Besides grapes they also raise cattle which are used to graze the hillsides (they also feed the cattle cuttings from the vineyards). Solar power was installed in 2003; this was one of the first Napa winery solar systems.
Mary passed away in 2008 and William died in 2016 – daughter Dorie returned from a career as an economist on the East Coast and now overseas the winery operations. Her brother Arthur Seavey (an owner of Monterey Abalone Company – based in Monterey California) is also involved.
Their first commercial vintage was released in 1990 a year after they renovated the stone dairy barn into a working winery. Today this stone building is the centerpiece of the property and is where your tasting will be given. A normal tour includes a walk through of the property, sometimes with Dorie and a visit to the winery building and their “cave”. This cave serves as their barrel aging room. It is referred to as a cut and cover and is quite unique for the Napa Valley (we have only seen a handful of these). Rather then boring into a hillside which can be costly – they excavated out soil, installed large and thick semi cylindrical pieces of concrete, then covered the tops of these with earth. This effectively creates a storage environment with moderate temperatures that remain fairly constant throughout the year.
These massive concrete structures each weighs approximately 95,000 pounds – these pieces made it over the historical Conn Creek bridge on the property (the original foundations are still in place from 1881) and you will note the 90,000 pound weight limit sign which is now posted. Because the vineyards surround the winery they are able to bring freshly picked grapes in for production usually within a short time after they are harvested. All their red grapes are hand sorted and then de-stemmed and are always fermented in small tanks.
Winemaker Jim Duane has a plethora of International wine making experience – locally he has worked at Robert Mondavi Winery and at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. He has been winemaker at Seavey since the 2011 vintage. Noted consulting winemaker Philippe Melka has been with Seavey since 1995 (one of his two initial wine-making jobs in the Napa Valley was here – along with Lail Vineyards).
As of the time of this review, Seavey focuses on all Estate grown fruit including two Cabernet Sauvignons, a Merlot and a very limited production Chardonnay (often in the 200-250 case range). During our first visit to the property, we tried the 2006 Chardonnay; this is a very nice wine that doesn’t undergo malolactic fermentation and is produced in limited quantities due to the small amounts of vines growing on the property. In addition this year saw even lower production amounts because of rain around harvest so large amounts of fruit were left hanging or were hand sorted out due to quality issues. This is a weighty Chardonnay with good “grip” as well as flavors of pineapple and other tropical notes.
The 2014 Chardonnay shows aromas of lemon lime on the bouquet with various floral notes as it opens including honeysuckle. A pleasing softness is felt on the palate, somewhat creamy but not buttery or influenced by oak. Very balanced with a noticeable crispness on the finish along with some minerality notes. Entirely barrel fermented and then aged for 9 additional months, also in barrel.
Their 2005 Merlot is very soft and drinkable now (it includes Cabernet Sauvignon and a small amount of Petit Verdot). Their older Cabernet Sauvignons are still big wines which really come into their own after at least 7 to 10 years. Seavey has the luxury of holding back a certain percentage of each vintage; from time to time they release these older vintages for purchase.
Age has been nice to the 2008 Caravina Cabernet Sauvignon – it shows bright and lively fruit aromatics including blackberry and blueberry. Seductive flavors. Texture like velvet – superbly balanced with silky tannins that linger delicately anchored by persistent flavor. Interesting to note the 2013 vintage is nothing like the 2008 vintage at the time of our tasting. The 2008 vintage features dark fruit and dark aromas which are savory and slightly smoky. Meaty tannins persist and are noticeably more muscular then the older 2008 vintage.
The 2012 Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon is made with fruit from the oldest vines on the property (30+ years old). Shows both a mix of lively fruit and a balance of barrel influence. Somewhat floral. Very rich mid palate – layered featuring mostly darker fruit flavors. Good texture on the finish with long lasting somewhat chewy tannins. Lots of life!
Visitors (by appointment) can choose from one of two tasting experiences; the Vintage Tasting & Tour which includes their current releases plus a library wine and the Library Tasting & Tour featuring six library wines (some dating back into the 1990s – which is certainly rare to be able to taste wines 20+ years old at any tasting offered by a winery in the Napa Valley).
Seavey Wines (mostly their Caravina) are selectively distributed domestically including in Texas. They also have some International distribution in Switzerland. For more information and or to join their wine club, visit: www.seaveyvineyard.com