Not all corporate takeovers have unhappy endings. Even so, when the Kobrand Corporation bought Sequoia Grove in 2001, fans of Napa Valley Cabernet were concerned. The fear was that the winery might take the same road as many other wineries---an unrelenting path toward escalating production and prices, along with vanishing quality.
Fortunately, it didn’t happen. Sequoia Grove had been founded by Jim Allen in 1978, and nurtured by him over several decades into one of the gems of the Napa Valley, known for crafting high-quality wine that consumers could drink without taking a second mortgage on their house. The heart of the operation is 24 acres in the Rutherford Bench, surrounded by some of Napa’s last surviving redwoods. Allen retired after the Kobrand acquisition, and was succeeded by Michael Trujillo, who had served as his protégé since 1982. Remarkably enough, they still turn out excellent wine from estate vineyards at prices that are eminently reasonable (compared to some of their neighbors).
The 2011 Sequoia Grove Chardonnay ($25) has a vivid nose highlighted by crisp acidity and vibrant notes of lemon and green apple. The palate imprint is spicy, and the acidity is just as prominent as it appears on the nose; the well-defined and luscious citrus flavors fill the mouth and linger on the finish, accented by white pepper notes. This is a lean and graceful wine that pairs well with shellfish of all sorts, and provides a nice counterpoint to fish dishes in cream or butter sauces.
Mouthwatering aromas of dark berries roar out of a glass of 2010 Sequoia Grove Cabernet ($35), along with scents of anise, mocha and fresh herbs. In the mouth, the wine delivers all the fruit and herbal complexity promised on the nose, along with a full-bodied texture and youthful, slightly chewy tannins. The long finish is marked by a reduction of black cherry and cassis. Fresh, poised and a pleasure to drink, the wine is a perfect match with grilled meats, game dishes, stews, and red meats in earthy sauces.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to amazon.com