Sat 23 Jan 2010
Founded in 1979 by brothers Jim and Steve Allen, Sequoia Grove just slips under our limit (of 1980) for Old School California wineries. Sequoia Grove occupies the site of a 19th Century property in what is now known as the Rutherford Bench. There, it owns its original 24-acre estate vineyard as well as the recently acquired 50-acre Tonella Vineyard, also in Rutherford, as well as property in Carneros. The winery focuses on cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, though it produces cabernet franc, syrah and sauvignon blanc in limited quantities.
There is nothing flashy or flamboyant about wines from Sequoia Grove, which are notable for depth, complexity and reticence. You will notice that through the reviews of the two wines runs the common thread of tannin, because these are indeed tannic, earthy red wines that require considerable aging to become more approachable. Be that the case, one cannot help being impressed by their authenticity and integrity.
Director of winemaking operations at Sequoia Grove, Mike Trujillo, has been with the winery since 1982. Winemaker is Molly Hill. The Sequoia Grove Chardonnay 2007, Carneros, Napa Valley, made my recent “50 Great Wines of 2009.” Here’s the original review.
These wines were received as review samples.
The Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Napa Valley, is 100 percent varietal. Fifty-six percent of the grapes derive from the winery’s estate vineyard, 12 percent from Oakville, and the rest from vineyards as far-flung as St. Helena in the north to Atlas Peak in the southeast. The wine is, in other words, an expression of Napa Valleyness, if such a thing is possible, rather than an embodiment of a more narrow sub-appellation.
The wine ages 18 months in American oak, 45 percent new barrels.
So, what do we have? A classic seductive bouquet of cedar, tobacco and lead pencil that cushions notes of briery black currants and black cherries with a background of walnut shell and dried porcini mushrooms. In the mouth, this is dense with grainy, chewy tannins and earthy, iron-like minerals, a panoply of dried baking spices and dusty potpourri, more walnut shell and dried porcini, underbrush and moss. The wine’s raison d’etre, in other words, seems to be structure — a noble, dignified structure — with glimmers of black fruit flavors patiently poised in the wings; there are intimations of generosity. Try from 2011 through 2015 to ’17. Very Good+ with Excellent Potential. About $34.
The make-up of the Sequoia Grove Rutherford Bench Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Napa Valley, is 80 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent merlot, 8 percent cabernet franc and 1 percent each petit verdot and malbec. The majority of the grapes comes from the winery’s estate vineyard in Rutherford. The oak treatment is different from that of the “regular” cabernet; the Rutherford Bench Reserve sees no American oak but ages 20 months in French oak, 48 percent new barrels.
This is a powerfully earthy, minerally cabernet, intense and concentrated and as deep as the alluvial soil that fans from the western mountains and provides the basis for many of California’s — and the world’s — greatest and most distinctive cabernet sauvignon wines. Sequoia Grove’s Rutherford Bench Reserve ’04 is monumental, a superb example of the balance and integration of acidity, oak and tannin, with tightly furled black currant and blackberry — the latter unusual in a cabernet — lurking in the fathoms. Give it a few minutes in the glass and hints of mocha, some mossy, root-like tea, licorice and black pepper emerge, over a seething element of smoldering potpourri. The finish is aloof, a little austere. The alcohol level is a fairly modest 14.4 percent. Best from 2011 or ’12 through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $75.