Monday, April 26, 2010

The Wines of Sequoia Grove in Napa Valley, US

Picture: Michael K. Trujillo and Christian G.E.Schiller

Michael K. Trujillo, President and Director of Winemaking of Sequoia Grove from Napa Valley came to the East Coast and I had the opportunity to taste his wines at Evo Bistro in McLean.

American Wine

America has produced wine for over 300 years. The US is the fourth largest wine producing country in the world following France, Italy, and Spain. The US is the home of several native species of grape, such as the Vitis labrusca, but it was the introduction of the European Vitis vinifera that led to the growth of the American wine industry. Today, all 50 States make wine, although not all States grow their own fruit, with California, Washington State, Oregon, New York State and Virginia being the top wine producers.


Nearly three-quarters the size of France, California accounts for nearly 90 percent of the American wine production. If California were a separate country, it would be the world's fourth-largest wine producer.

The first wineries were established by the Franciscan missioneries in the South of California. The missionaries used the Mission grape from Latin America, which was a grape of very modest quality.

The Gold Rush in the mid-19th century brought waves of new settlers to California, increasing the demand for wine. The wine industry moved to the northern parts of California and took hold in the Sonoma and Napa regions. The late 19th century saw the advent of the phylloxera epidemic which had already ravaged European vineyards. Fortunately the remedy of grafting resistant American rootstock was well known and the Californian wine industry was able to survive. At the turn of the 20th century, nearly 800 wineries existed in California and worldwide recognition seemed imminent, when Prohibition hit the industry in 1920. By the time that Prohibition was repealed in 1933 under President Franklin Roosevelt, only 140 wineries were still operating in California.

Then came the post World War II wine boom.Wine became again a symbol of culture and status. By 1972, wine consumption was about 8 liters per person, which was three times the figure before Prohibition. Californian re-entered the international stage at the 1976 Judgment of Paris wine competition when Californian wines beat out French wines in both red and white wine categories. Today there are more than 1,200 wineries in the State, ranging from small boutique wineries to large corporations. In general, by German or French standards, American wineries are large.

Napa Valley

Napa Valley is widely considered to be the top wine region in America and one of the best in the world. By the end of the 19th century there were already more than 140 wineries in the area. Of those original wineries several still exist in the valley today including Charles Krug Winery, Chateau Montelena and Beringer. In 1965, Napa Valley icon Robert Mondavi broke away from his family's Charles Krug Estate to found his own. This was the first new large scale winery to be established in the valley since Prohibition. In addition to large scale wineries, Napa Valley's boutique wineries produce some of the world's best wines. Today Napa Valley features more than 300 wineries.

Sequoia Grove

Sequoia Grove is situated in one of the most highly valued parts of the Napa Valley. The winery’s famous neighbors include Opus One and Beaulieu Vineyard. Contemporary winemaking on this historic piece of land dates to 1980, when the winery was bonded. In 1978, Jim Allen bought the property and began planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Chardonnay; he released his first wine in 1981.

Allen has retired and the winery is now fully in the hands of Michael Trujillo, who had worked at his side practically since the beginning. Michael Trujillo now answers to the Kopf family of New York and Connecticut, who also own part of Domaine Carneros, the St. Francis Winery (Sonoma County), and Louis Jadot in Burgundy.

Sequoia Grove produces around 35,000 cases of wine per year, with about 25,000 of those being Cabernet Sauvignon. Depending on the variety, fermentation is carried out in oak, stainless steel, or a combination of both. Total oak cooperage of 60,000 gallons is comprised of small and large French and some American oak (which is used only to age Cabernet Sauvignon). All wines are bottle-aged at least one year, with the estate reserve bottling held longer prior to release.

Michael K. Trujillo

Michael K. Trujillo first started his career in agriculture in the ranch country and farmland of Southern Colorado, where he grew up. In 1982 he took an entry level job with the winery he is now president of and rose steadily though the ranks until reaching the position as winemaker and then, beginning with the 2002 vintage, president as well.

What Michael Poured

Sequoia Crove, 2007, Chardonnay, Carneros, $27

The grapes come from the Carneros District in Napa Valley. Mike explained that they buy fruit from the Beckstoffer vineyards, the Haire vineyards and Ghisletta Vineyard. Grapes were harvested between September 14 and 26 with an average Brix of 24.5; Acidity: 6.7 g/L Alcohol: 14.2%%

Tasting notes: pale, straw-colored appearance in the glass, the nose is delicate and steely, with notes of wet stone, honeysuckle, apricot, and almond, a full bodied wine, ripe pear flavors come through on the palate, which is light and fresh with a hint of marzipan and minerality that dominates the lingering finish, this Burgundian-style Chardonnay is an excellent example of a good balance of French restraint with California sunshine.

Sequoia Crove, 2006, Cabernet Sauvignon, $32

Vineyard notes: 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 % Merlot. Grapes come from vineyards managed by our well-regarded growers in the Napa Valley from the northern St. Helena appellation all the way southeast to the Atlas Peak hills. Some are also from our own estate vineyards in Rutherford. - Brix at harvest: between 23 and 26.8 - Harvest date: September 25- November 1, 2005

Winemakers notes: Winemaking practices: - Hand-sorted fruit - 1-2 day cold soak - Inoculated with an assortment of French yeast strains - Small batch fermentations - Pumpovers 2-3 times per day - Malolactic fermentation in barrels - Racked four times before bottling

Tasting notes: Deep red in color in the glass, attack of blackberry notes with underlying layers of cedar and black pepper on the nose, a full-bodied and well-balanced wine with rich flavors and fine-grained tannins, good acid and tannin structures

Evo Bistro

Evo Bistro is both my down-the-road Wine Bar in Mclean, Virginia, and my favorite Restaurant and Bistro in the Washington DC area. It combines an unpretentious French-Mediterranean atmosphere with top wines from around the world, both the old and the new world, and French, Moroccan and Spanish tapas.

Picture: Evo Bistro's Michelle behind the bar

Sequoia Grove, Napa Valley, California

Evo Bistro, McLean, Virginia

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