For a brief moment, the sun was shining and all seemed right with the world. For our next winetasting adventure, we made our way up Highway 29, past the town of Yountville, past Mustards, past the famous Oakville Grocery and finally made a right at 8338 St. Helena Highway (aka Highway 29), which is the location of Sequoia Grove Winery.
The winery: We pulled off Highway 29, went down a short driveway to the east and parked in the visitors parking lot, which sits directly in front of the tasting room. Sequoia Grove was founded by the Allen family in 1980 and released its first wine in 1981 (although we were shown a bottle of the winery’s 1979 Chardonnay, which we suppose was not released to the general public).
Today, the winery prides itself on producing (and selling) its Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, each of which have recently produced vintages that have been well-received by the so-called critics. Most likely, you’ll be able to find either one at your local wine store or BevMo. All told, Sequoia Grove produces around 35,000 cases of wine per year, with about 24,000 – 25,000 of those being Cabernet Sauvignon.
The tasting room: The tasting room is flanked on either side by giant redwood trees, which is where the name of the winery came from. Off to the right before you enter the tasting room, there are several picnic tables nestled under more giant redwood trees and along a patch of green grass–this is an area that’d be ideal for sipping wine on warmer, sunnier days. As it currently stands, the tasting room is in the final stages of a major renovation, which if you didn’t previously know it, you’d never have been able to tell when we were there. Upon entering, you’re facing the small tasting room bar, which has a number of Sequoia Grove wines in all shapes and sizes prominently displayed on the wall behind it.
Off to the right are various shelves and tables with merchandise for sale, including books, wine and other items. Further off to the right, a new room was in the final stages of construction and we were told this would be the events room–a place where vertical tastings, wine club member events, etc. would be held. The room is due to be completed in late February. The current tasting room is wood paneled and between the glass front doors, the new room off to the right and a window high above the tasting bar, there is plenty of light. The high, vaulted ceiling made the room feel a lot larger than it was.
The staff: Upon entering we were greeted by two friendly, smiling staffers who were behind the tasting room bar popping open several bottles for use during the day. After milling about the tasting room for a bit, we moseyed on up to the bar where we met Jessie, who would help us out throughout our time at the winery. Jessie was quite personable (perhaps, as we found out later, it was because he had sold a pig the day before…long story, you’ll have to ask him yourself) and knew his stuff when it came to the winery, the wines and winemaking techniques and the Napa Valley in general (all this despite the fact he’s only lived in the valley for some three years). All told, we saw a total of three staffers on-site, which was more than enough during our morning tasting.
The wines: For $15 per person you get a four flight winetasting of current vintages chosen by the winery. On this day, we started with the 2005 Carneros Napa Valley Chardonnay, which retails for $20 per 750 ml bottle. On the nose we got hints of peach and pear and the wine, which did not undergo malolactic fermentation, was light and non-buttery, which is just the way we like our chardonnay.
After the Chardonnay we moved on to the 2004 Stagecoach Syrah, which runs $25 per 750 ml bottle. This wine, which is a single vintage harvest from the Atlas Peak AVA in the eastern part of the valley, showed a dark, red-inky color in the glass and gave off hints of cherry. Only sold at the winery (and apparently at BarBersQ restaurant in Napa), the ’04 Syrah had very subtle hints of black tea and pepper (although nothing like the 2005 Monticello Vineyards Estate Grown Syrah we recently tasted) on the palate, where it hung for a well-balanced finish. The winery’s first Syrah was produced in 2002 (also sourced from Stagecoach) and we were told they wound up purchasing so many grapes and producing so many cases of the ’02 Syrah that it eventually made its way to Trader Joe’s, but you’ll not find the ’04 there, that’s for sure.
Up next was the 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for $34 per 750 ml bottle. Aged in 100% American Oak, the ’04 Cab was showing strong aromas of cherry and blackberry on the nose, both of which we love. Dark in the glass, it was an intense wine on the palate, one that touched every taste-bud and combined the dark red fruit flavors quite well with hints of black pepper and spice. We found this to be our favorite wine of the day, done in the classic big Napa Cab style that we’ve come to love.
Our final tasting of the day was the 2004 Rutherford Bench Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which runs $60 per 750 ml bottle. Made up of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and a mixture of other classic Bordeaux-style fruit, we got hints of cranberry and blackberry on the palate. What was most impressive about this wine was the extremely long finish, which seemed to go on forever and brought out the black pepper flavors for us. The term ‘Rutherford Bench’ refers to the vineyard land that starts at the base of the Mayacamas (the mountain range outlining the western side of the valley) and slopes down to the east all the way to the Napa River.
As an extra added bonus, as we were finishing up our tasting one of the winemakers, Molly, came in with a glass of white wine in hand. After asking each of the staffers to give it a smell and guess what type of wine it was, we were asked to do the same. We got strong hints of orange, pear and peach and after some back and forth, we learned that we were smelling a yet-to-be-bottled sauvignon blanc that Sequoia Grove had been working on. Apparently there will only be about 200 cases of this wine made and it’s due to be bottled sometime in February. We just might have to stop back in to try it if/when it’s available!
The Cork Board rating: 4 corks (out of 5 possible). Inviting grounds, a newly re-done, yet still under construction tasting room, relaxed and informative staff and a variety of strong wines made this winetasting experience one we’d absolutely recommend to anyone. An added bonus–if you’re a Napa County resident (or can find one to drag along with you), the winery participates in the Napa Neighbor Program, meaning you taste for free and get 15% off any wine purchase.
Have you visited Sequoia Grove lately? Leave us a comment and tell us what you thought of the experience. Also, be sure to check out our previous winetasting reviews.
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