Brookdale Vineyards is a well-established and small Napa Valley producer; they are under the radar due to their very limited production and historical lack of a tasting room. Brookdale is originally rooted in Brookdale Vineyard Management Company, founded by viticulturist Mike Seitz (1968-2003) in 2000. Tragically he died in a forklift related farming accident at a vineyard in the southern part of Napa Valley. His wife and owner of Brookdale, Kristi Seitz Banducci (who we originally met with) has dedicated all vintages of Brookdale to his memory. Mike would have been 50 years old in 2018.
The Heritage of the Name
Former Brookdale Farm, New Jersey
Brookdale is named after Brookdale Farm, a former prominent thoroughbred breeding and training farm near Lincroft, New Jersey about 90 a minute drive south of New York City (depending on traffic) where Mike’s uncle Fred Seitz was raised. Brookdale Farm was founded by David Dunham Withers in 1872. Withers became wealthy through his cotton business in New Orleans and later pursed shipping opportunities and his passion for horses. At its peak, Brookdale employed some 100 people on its 800+ acres. A previous farm, Thomas Lloyd Farm was established here in the 1780s. Brookdale produced some well-known racing horses including its most famous filly, Regret who won the Kentucky Derby in 1915.
Upon Wither’s death in 1893, the farm was purchased by William Payne Thompson and his wife Mary Evelyn Moffett Thompson; it remained within the Thompson family until Geraldine Morgan Thompson (known as the First Lady of New Jersey and married one of the Thompson sons) donated a sizable portion of the property to Monmouth County following her death in 1967. Part of the former 800-acre Brookdale Farm is now home to the 667-acre Monmouth County Thompson State Park along with, Brookdale Community College, Lincroft Elementary School, Marlu Farm, and the Monmouth Museum. All are within very short drives of each other.
Thompson Park is well worth visiting; the handsome Thompson Mansion (visitor center) was rebuilt after it burned down in 2006. Several rooms on the first floor contain a very informative museum about the history of Brookdale. A number of other old buildings still survive including the impressive Brookdale Training Stable. The original one-mile Brookdale Farm Training Track is now a path used by visitors for walking or jogging. In 2020, the Brookdale Farm Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Brookdale Community College was founded in 1967 and opened for its first classes in 1969; today approximately 10,000 students attend each year. Its home to a Center for World War II Studies, the Brookdale Performing Arts Center and the Monmouth Museum (located on campus since 1974, focusing on art, history and science exhibitions). The 5.4-MWdc solar panel covered extensive parking lots on campus offer an impressive visual.
And another Seitz in the area, Daniel Seitz died in 2008 and upon his death, donated Portland Place (property including a restored 18th century house overlooking the Navesink River) to the Monmouth County Park System. Today this historic farm is open to the public with limited visiting hours. Portland Place is on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.
Brookdale Community College
Brookdale Farm, Kentucky
But the name also refers to the existing Seitz family-owned Brookdale Farm, located about 30 minutes from downtown Lexington, Kentucky about one mile outside of the small historic town of Versailles. Fred founded this thoroughbred horse breeding farm in 1983. When one thinks of Kentucky several things come to mind, Bourbon, the Kentucky Derby and horses. This is definitely horse country; one clearly notices their presence immediately upon exiting the Lexington Airport towards the car rental facility – passing several statues of horses and jockeys.
One might also refer to this land as horse fence country, as the landscape near Versailles is dominated by breeding and horse farms. And just down the road from Brookdale Farm is another well-known horse farm, Stonestreet Farm, owned by another winery with Napa Valley connections – Jackson Family Wines (Barbara Banke).
While Brookdale Farm used to primarily serve as a breeding farm, today it is mainly used for boarding and the sales of horses, although the Seitz family still breeds horses here. The family attends all major Kentucky based auctions as well as travels to New York and to Europe and Australia for various horse sale events. Over the decades the farm has sold more than 300 stakes winners. We have visited the farm but have not yet taken a tour.
In homage to the original Brookdale Farm in New Jersey and the Brookdale Farm in Kentucky, an image of small horse appears on the label of every Brookdale wine bottle.
Brookdale Farm, Versailles Kentucky
Brookdale produces about 500 cases each year of a Cabernet Sauvignon. This was their only wine for a number of years but more recently they have introduced a Sauvignon Blanc which is usually sourced from neighboring Sonoma County. In addition to sourcing grapes from select vineyards, Brookdale also owns the Three Daisies Vineyard – originally developed by Mike in 2001. This vineyard is planted entirely to Cabernet Sauvignon; the grapes are hand-picked by friends and family every harvest.
The 2018 Brookdale Sauvignon Blanc was sourced from the Russian River Valley in neighboring Sonoma County. The wine is pale yellow in color. Using the Kelly-Moore paint chart for yellow hues, this wine’s color would most closely resemble that of the Provincial Garden. Immediately offers beautiful aromatics with notes of fresh cut grass (not overtly green), orange blossom, gooseberry, a lime zest and slightly under ripe white pineapple. Soft and supple, the wine glides in an ethereal manner across the palate with its pleasing texture. It shows plenty of flavor including red apple and mandarin. It offers a pleasing sweet/tart balance with good acidity. Like the Brookdale Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine drinks very well by itself; it is a crowd-pleaser, especially served chilled on warm summer days. Throw in a pool + friends for optimum enjoyment.
Brookdale’s Cabernet Sauvignon is generally made so that it is not extremely high in alcohol and is well balanced; as a result not one aspect of the wine dominates. Regardless of vintage and alcohol variation, this wine always offers excellent acidity which makes it ideal for pairing with food.
The 2014 Brookdale Cabernet Sauvignon is dark crimson in the glass; it offers a rich aromatic expression dominated by fruit. This bouquet reminds us of a warm blackberry cobbler. It also shows aromas of ripe black cherry and black licorice which are complemented by touches of toasted cedar, mocha and the smell of a recently opened bar of milk chocolate. The palate is soft and rounded on the entry with good concentration. Firm but not muscular tannins anchor a long finish filled both darker fruits and to a lesser extent, darker spices. This wine drinks very well by itself.
The 2003 Brookdale Cabernet Sauvignon is a dark wine with a full bouquet and flavors that hint of dried violets and juicy ripe black cherries. This vintage received some very good ratings by wine writers and in addition, placed high in select wine competitions.
Soda Canyon Store
Until late 2022, Kristi co-owned (with her sister and a friend) Soda Canyon Store at the corner of Soda Canyon Road and the Silverado Trail. They sold this store to father and son Elliott and Ron Taylor. This store was built in 1946 and originally served as a gas station; it suffered severe fire damage in 2000, from an internal fire but soon after was completely renovated. Several parking spots are located on the south side of the store with more parking on the north side. After the sale in late 2022, the store closed temporarily but reopened in mid April 2023.
Choose from wine, deli items, snacks and other Napa souvenirs. Their breakfast burritos are delicious as are their bagels. Tables are located inside the store, in the front, on the Silverado Trail side of the building and for often a more private area, behind the store in a shaded grassy area next to a very seasonal small creek.
This is the only store north of Napa along the Silverado Trail until one reaches the town of Calistoga about 18 miles north of here. And unlike a number of delis in the valley which cater more towards tourists, Soda Canyon Store is often frequented by locals including vineyard workers and vintners. Refreshingly, the store is nearly always locked into XM Channel 58 or 59 playing old country music classics like Don Williams, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and other icons of the industry.
Kristi, her husband Brian Banducci and a family friend Bill Francis own SafeRide Wine Tours, a Napa Valley based tour operator established in 2016. Both Brian and Bill are former police officers; their tour business focuses on bringing clients to small family owned and operated wineries.
For a short while Brookdale wines were available for tasting at Silenus Vintners, a collective tasting room located just south of Yountville (but are no longer offered for tastings here). However, Brookdale’s wines are available for purchase at the Soda Canyon Store and also at Cellar Collections in the city of Napa. Sometimes when the wines are indicated as sold out on the website, they are still available at the Soda Canyon Store.
Sometimes very limited production select library wine vintages may be available for sale through the website. Private tastings of current releases can be arranged with Kristi. For more information, to join their mailing list or to purchase wine, visit: www.brookdalewine.com