Sequoia Grove Winery, founded in 1979, is a small charming looking winery with a tasting room located in what is a renovated 150 year old barn just off of Highway 29, one mile north of the Oakville Grocery. The inside of this “barn” has been excellently refurbished creating a warm elegant and intimate tasting environment. You will quickly see how the winery took its name as there are two large Sequoia trees growing right outside the main entrance to the tasting room as well as a small stand of additional trees near the picnic area (100+ year old trees). The winery is located in the Rutherford Appellation and sits on 22 acres.
As you drive in, the vineyard to your right is planted with a variety of Bordeaux blending grapes. Sequoia Grove also sources fruit from select vineyards around Napa Valley. They are mostly known for their Bordeaux style well-balanced wines with lots of complexity. As you walk in the tasting room, next to the door you will see what look like large wooden storage containers. These are called puncheons which are wooden Casks and are made to hold specific quantities of wine. They were imported from France and reassembled on location.
If you enjoy balanced wines with rich layered flavors Sequoia Grove’s Cabernet Sauvignons will not disappoint! This varietal is their specialty and at least one of their Cabernet’s is not blended so you are getting 100% varietal fruit. These wines have also done well in various wine judging contests. At the time of one of our visits, one of their employees had personally visited and tasted at over 100 local wineries (we are going above and beyond this with our current 800+ wineries visited!).
We have always found their staff helpful and friendly. A tour requires advance notice and includes a tasting in their historic Cask room (which by the way was the first underground cellar of its kind in Napa Valley). Also of note, in 2003 one of the huge Sequoia trees was hit by lightning and crashed through part of the tasting room. Fortunately everything was able to be restored.
Sequoia Grove makes wines from a number of vineyards ranging from the southern part of the valley (cooler) to the warmer northern reaches in Calistoga. Their Napa Valley Wines comprise the majority of their total production. Wines that have much smaller production only available at the winery or through their wine clubs are the Vineyard and Winemaker Series.
Several different tasting flights are offered; if you don’t want to taste through a flight – unlike most wineries, you can actually order specific wines by the glass. Very cool!
During an earlier tasting we tried their 2005 Stagecoach Vineyard Syrah (Atlas Peak). We’ve visited this particular vineyard before; its steep and extremely rocky which was quite obvious due to the large piles of rocks strewn around which were removed from the actual vineyards! Grapevines thrive in these types of growing conditions. There are a number of wines they make in very low production and as a result are only available at the winery. This one of those wines; it is inky dark and rich in fruit especially on the mid palate. There are some nice spices towards the finish and a small amount of Merlot is in the blend which adds a softness and smoother mouth feel.
The 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% varietal and is aged in all American Oak. The fruit for this wine comes from several high end vineyards in Oakville and Rutherford, Morisoli, Beckstoffer etc. Compared to the Rutherford Bench Cabernet Sauvignon this is a much bigger wine with larger tannins.
The 2004 aforementioned Rutherford Bench Cabernet Sauvignon is a smooth elegant Bordeaux blend from fruit sourced entirely from their estate property. There is definitely an earthy quality to the aromas with rich fruit layers and a finish that lingers for quite some time. Instead of the almost obligatory Riedel glasses you find at wineries these days at the time of our visit they were using the German made Schott Zwiesel glasses. Ask your wine-host to demonstrate the durability of these glasses by tapping them on the counter and hope they don’t actually break during this demonstration! These glasses have a nice curvature about half way up the glass which really catches the wine well when you swirl.
The 2009 Lamoreaux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was sourced from a vineyard in the Oak Knoll District. Initially it shows notes of sage on the bouquet with influences from the oak again revealing a bit of vanilla. Darker fruit shows on the palate with minerality notes up front as well as dark chocolate undertones. The fine grained somewhat earthy tannins are delicate and linger for quite some time.
The 2012 Christian Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from a tiny 4-acre vineyard in Coombsville. This is a noticeable dark wine in the glass. The bouquet is initially smoky and as it opens reveals an earthiness. After it has had even more time to breath one picks up a noticeable licorice component. The wine is supple and rounded on the entry; it has a juicy component. The tannins are dense and chewy especially on the finish.
The 2012 Tonella Cabernet Sauvignon shows a pretty and a floral perfume driven bouquet with sweet notes of darker cherry. That palate is balanced – with robust grippy tannins. A lingering tartness belies an underlying acidity. Good food wine.
The 2011 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon has the most unique nose of any of the wines we tried. Its full of deep dark aromas – forest floor, a muddiness, tar and mushroom-like with just a few hints of a bell-pepper herbal characteristic that does not carry onto the palate. This is a complex and layered bouquet. The wine is very dark in the glass – shows a richness of flavor with long lasting sizable tannins that coat both the sides and back of the palate.
Their Cambium wine is named after the layer on trees that provide nutrients (a nod to the giant Sequoias on site). The 2011 vintage reveals a perceptible dustiness on the bouquet with notes of blueberry, black currant and dark chocolate. The palate: dusty sweet cherry pie with additional fruit nuances including blueberry and blackberry. Moderate long lasting tannins show on the finish.
A highly unique offering in the Napa Valley is Sequoia Grove’s food and wine educational and competitive sit down tasting – the Cabernet Culinary Challenge. Eight to fourteen people are seated indoors in their private closed door VIP room adjoining the main tasting room (larger groups can participate outdoors – weather permitting). A wine educator will lead the group through the characteristics of a flight of Cabernet Sauvignon wines and what makes them different based on a variety of factors including their source terroir.
And soil samples on site collected from different adjoining blocks within the same vineyards clearly show the dramatic differences in types of soils – sometimes even within close proximity of each other.
After the Cabernet tastings the real fun begins. A wide assortment of various charcuterie, toppings, and seasonal items are presented on large plates along with a batch of Crostinis. The idea is to build a Crostini using a minimum of three items that best pairs with their Stagecoach Cabernet Sauvignon. Hint: balance is key here – some of the items will dramatically change the flavor and structure of the wine – and you have to differentiate between what degrades the flavor and what enhances it. Salty, sweet and sour are some of the key components to be aware of during this competitive challenge.
If you really want to get creative you can name your Crostini. However the name “Stagecoach Starter” is already taken 🙂 – this was the winning entry from our team (see photos). Each member of the winning team receives several small prizes in a gift bag. The food items provide light nibbles. A multi salad lunch sourced from a nearby gourmet deli can be added following the challenge.
This tasting is ideal for small groups or part of corporate events that want to focus on both wine education as well as team building. Allow 2.5 hours.
In late 2017 construction has finished on a much expanded cellar room. We will revisit as time permits.
They offer a number of special events throughout the year including several brunches, release parties, winemaker events and more. Visit: www.sequoiagrove.com
The Three “M’s”: Morisoli, Mike & Molly, names synonymous with Sequoia Grove wines