AWG Correspondent

Tom Riley

Sequoia Grove Photos

Sequoia Grove Review

Regions: Napa Valley AVA, Rutherford AVA, California

Reviewed: July 25, 2015 by Tom Riley
Published: September 16, 2015

You can’t be familiar with the better producers in the Napa Valley and not know the name Sequoia Grove. But there’s knowing, and then there’s knowing.

It wasn’t until recently, when I came across a few bits of Napa Valley history that described the winery’s 19th century roots, that I decided I wanted to know more about Sequoia Grove.

The present-day winery and its 24-acre estate vineyard was part of the original Rancho Caymus land grant given in 1836 to George Yount, the area’s first Euro-American pioneer. The grant stretched from present-day Yountville north into what is today Rutherford. Over the years the property changed hands, until it was purchased in 1978 by James and Barbara Allen. When they opened Sequoia Grove Vineyards the following year, they did so in a barn that was already 70 years old. Built in 1908, the original structure was renovated in 2007 and now operates as the tasting room. Twenty years earlier, all winemaking activity had been moved to a new facility, which included Napa’s first cellar built below the valley’s water table.

But the real story of Sequoia Grove is not found in property titles, land deeds, or architectural blue prints. The story of Sequoia Grove, as it should be, is in the wine. A few weeks ago I headed up Highway 29 to get the full picture.

Situated at the end of a long driveway just off the valley’s busy main artery in the heart of Rutherford, the winery is nestled in a grove of the namesake giants. The massive trees offer cooling shade from the endless sunshine that fills a Napa summer day. That same shade, I learned, makes the winery’s Patio Tasting an especially popular item. Once inside the open, well-lighted tasting room, it’s hard to believe you’re standing in a structure built when Theodore Roosevelt was president.

When we arrived for our visit, my friends and I were excited to experience that great Napa rarity – an empty tasting room. We were outnumbered by staff members, at least two to one. No complaints on our end.

The menu listed five wines, three cabernet sauvignons, a Bordeaux blend, and a chardonnay. We started with the 2013 Napa Valley chardonnay ($28), made from grapes sourced from three different vineyards in Carneros at the cool, southern end of the valley. Balanced, aromatic, with a delightful array of flavors buoyed by bright, refreshing acid, it was a great start to our visit. Next up was the 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($38), which at 29K cases and distributed nationally is the winery’s most popular label. Still quite youthful, the wine offers aromas of black cherries and spice, and a bit of coffee and vanilla. On the palate it is complex, with delicious layers of red cherry and blackberries, flowing into a long and lingering finish. It is difficult to find more than a few Napa cabs at this price that produce in such a notable way. Next up was the 2012 Napa Valley Syrah ($40), with fruit coming mainly from the esteemed Stagecoach Vineyard on Atlas Peak. A sleek, dark, mouthwatering wine brimming with blueberries, vanilla, and an intriguing spiciness. One of the best Napa syrahs I’ve had in some time.

Now it was time to ramp things, starting with the 2011 Tonella Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($90). Sequoia Grove entered into a lease in 2006 for this sought-after parcel, and has, since then, completely replanted its 50 acres to a wide range of rootstocks and varieties. The wine has a classic Napa profile, with aromas and flavors that just get bigger, rounder, and deeper as it opens. Great juicy mouth-feel with the structure and concentration to age many years. Our last wine was Sequoia Grove’s top-of-the-line Cambium ($140), named in honor of the sturdy bark layer that lines and gives life to the winery’s namesake. This is a brilliant, notable wine, with deep aromas of red and black fruits, cedar, and herbs, offering youthful flavors of dried berries, a dusty minerality, and lush layers of mocha and vanilla, ending in a long, resonant finish. A memorable note to end our visit on.

Sequoia Grove has never been comfortable with “just enough.” Since being awarded “Best American Cabernet Sauvignon” in 1985 in the American Wine Competition, it has continually sought to improve in all areas. In 2002 the Kopf Family (Kobrand) purchased the winery from the Allens and promoted winemaker Michael Trujillo to president and director of winemaking. In 2006 they obtained the Tonella Vineyard, following that with the appointment in 2008 of Molly Hill as winemaker. Their release two years later of the Cambium label only added to their growing and well-deserved acclaim.

Address & Contact Information: 8338 St. Helena Highway Rutherford, California 94558. Telephone: 707-944-2945, email:, website: Tasting Hours: 10:30-5:00.

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