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OUR HISTORY

Sequoia Grove is a family-owned winery founded in 1979 in a 110-year old barn beneath a grove of ancient trees in Rutherford, Napa Valley. It is here where we’ve honed our craft of creating world-class Cabernet Sauvignon and other Napa Valley wines that emphasize elegance, finesse, structure and balance.  Our consistent philosophy of making wines with varietal character that are reflective of the land helped establish Sequoia Grove as one of the premier Cabernet Sauvignon producers in Napa Valley.  Our 24-acre Estate Vineyard and 50-acre Tonella Ranch Vineyard are both located in the heart of Rutherford, where the superb climate and gravelly-loam soils impart distinct flavor in the Bordeaux varieties.

Period   Event
1836 George Yount, the first Euro-American pioneer to pass through Napa, settles near present-day Yountville, and receives the Rancho Caymus land grant spanning the area from present-day Yountville, north to Rutherford.
1851 Yount sells 118 acres of land, including the present-day 24-acre Sequoia Grove Estate, to his son-in-law, Eugene L. Sullivan for $1.
1865 Property to Dennis Downey for $5,000.  Downey keeps just 40 acres to vineyards and replants vineyard with phlloxera resistant vines.
1906 Property purchased by Louis and Louise Kuebeler.  The current-day Tasting Room and House built around 1908.
1978 After being sold twice more, Sequoia Grove’s founder, James Allen and his wife Barbara purchase the 24-acre estate.
1979 Sequoia Grove Vineyards begins operation.  Jim’s brother Steve, plants 10 acres of Chardonnay, 5 of Cabernet Sauvignon and modest amounts of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
1980 Sequoia Grove Vineyards becomes Bonded Winery No. 5,000 and full production begins.
1981 Michael Trujillo appointed Assistant Winemaker
1987 The 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon wins “Best American Cabernet Sauvignon” award in the American Wine Competition. Sequoia Grove builds new winemaking facility with the first subterranean cellar in Napa Valley built below the water table.  Winemaking production moves from original barn to the new cellar.
2002 The Kopf Family purchases Sequoia Grove Vineyards and appoints Michael Trujillo President & Director of Winemaking. 
2003 Molly Hill joins Sequoia Grove as Assistant Winemaker.
2006 Sequoia Grove enters a lease for the coveted 50-acre Tonella Ranch on the eastern side of Rutherford.  Acreage is completely replanted with a variety of rootstocks and Bordeaux cultivars.
2007 Sequoia Grove’s 100-year-old barn is completely renovated into a casual-yet-sophisticated tasting room.
2008 Molly Hill promoted to Winemaker
2010 The inaugural vintage of Sequoia Grove’s top-tier Cabernet blend is released to critical acclaim.
2014 The inaugural vintage of Tonella Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is released.

OUR TEAM

Just as great wines are built to last, so are great teams.  With a combined experience measured in decades, our winery president, winemaker and vineyard manager share not only a commitment to producing truly great wines, but the vision for how to achieve that, from vine to bottle. And while each brings a wealth of knowledge to draw upon, they continue to seek new ways in the vineyard and cellar to achieve the best expression of balance, varietal character and sense of place in each Sequoia Grove wine.

Michael Trujillo

PRESIDENT DIRECTOR OF WINEMAKING


Ask anyone at Sequoia Grove to describe winery President Michael Trujillo, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find one employee who does not use the word “passionate” within the first sentence: “Creative” isn’t far behind.

With more than 30 years of winemaking experience in Napa Valley, Michael Trujillo has continually enhanced the quality of the wines at Sequoia Grove including the expansion of Estate vineyard holdings and creating Cambium, an iconic new wine in the Sequoia Grove portfolio.


Trujillo’s introduction to winemaking occurred in 1982 when, on spring break from his engineering program at Colorado College, he took a road trip to California and dropped by Sequoia Grove to visit family friend Jim Allen, who then offered him a job. Trujillo learned his craft in the vineyards and winery from Jim Allen, as well as from consultants André Tchelistcheff and Tony Soter; “André taught me the importance of balance, and Tony taught me modern techniques and ways to avoid winemaking problems,” Trujillo says.

In 2001, Trujillo became winery President. Under his direction, operations within the winery itself have become more small-lot and artisan-focused. Sequoia Grove has transformed its estate vineyards to rival many of its Rutherford neighbors and upgraded the winery’s outside vineyard sources to include only the finest in the Napa Valley.

Trujillo lives in Angwin with his wife Terri and his daughter Sophia.


Molly Hill

WINEMAKER


Winemaker Molly Hill oversees all winemaking and production operations of the winery as well as helping with grower relations and recommendations in the vineyards. Top-quality winemaking and grape growing, with passion, is her goal every step of the way. For Hill, balance is of utmost importance in making a great wine. “Balance to me means nothing stands out—not alcohol, not tannin, not acid, nor fruit nor barrel.”


Although Hill joined Sequoia Grove at the relatively young age of 24, she came with experience from quite a few wineries, large and small. During her studies in the UC Davis viticulture and enology program, Hill learned the ropes at Beringer Wine Estates and later making Pinot Noir at Domaine Carneros. Upon graduation, she sharpened her skills and winemaking intuition first at Sea Smoke Cellars and then at Viña Isidro in Chile, where Michael Trujillo contacted her with a job offer. She joined Sequoia Grove in 2003 as assistant winemaker and was promoted to winemaker in 2008. Each vintage since has seen more critical acclaim for Sequoia Grove’s wines, and Hill is quick to credit the success to the dedication of her team.

Hill lives with her winemaker husband, Lars, and their children Andreas and Maja. She is a member of Napa Valley Wine Technical Group and the Land Trust of Napa Valley.


Steve Allen

VINEYARD MANAGER


Sequoia Grove founding member Steve Allen has more than 30 years of experience working with Rutherford soil, climate and vines, and is an expert at coaxing the hallmark flavors and characteristics that the appellation is renowned for from both of the winery’s vineyard properties.


Steve came to Rutherford in 1979 at the urging of his brother, Jim Allen, who had bought the future site of Sequoia Grove Vineyards and had a dream of turning it into a wine jewel, like the many estates in Europe he had grown to love. Steve, with his practical experience and artful eye, was the perfect man to call: he received his BA in fine arts from Colorado University, had owned a construction business, completed a two-year electrician’s apprenticeship and worked at Wyatt labs for cancer research, among others.

OUR PHILOSOPHY

Truly great wine must do three things:  showcase pure varietal character, be balanced from beginning to end, and be built to age. To achieve this requires an intimate knowledge of both varietal and vineyard, and how to work through the variations of each growing season. In the cellar, it requires a discerning touch with the winemaking, blending and aging to transform perfectly-ripened grapes into a wine that offers a perfect flavors and mouth feel; a wine that is beautiful upon release, yet able to age gracefully.

Winemaking Philosophy

The Sequoia Grove estate was founded on some of the best Cabernet-growing dirt, Rutherford dust, in one of the world’s most renowned wine regions, Napa Valley. We have since extended that search for each varietal that we produce, looking to the cooler part of Napa Valley in Yountville for our Sauvignon Blanc, the marine-influenced Carneros for our Chardonnay, and the microclimate jewels of the Rutherford Bench, Howell Mountain and Pritchard Hill, along with the alluvial soils of the Mayacamas mountain range in St. Helena for our Cabernet Sauvignon.

Once the site selection has been done, our influence is minimal but our task is great.  We strive to guide the grapes from vine to the bottle in a way that allows the purest fruit expression, to not mask the wine with undue alcohol, oak or secondary flavors, and to maintain a freshness in the wine with balanced levels of acid and tannin. 

“I love Cabernet that tastes like Cabernet,” says head winemaker and President Mike Trujillo. 

The balance of a wine is crucial.  Our theory of balance comes from the legendary winemaker and consultant Andre Tchelistcheff, who practically founded the Rutherford appellation and who consulted at Sequoia Grove with Mike Trujillo. 

“Mike would draw a perfect bell curve for me and say ‘Andre taught me that this is the goal for the sensation of wine in your mouth,’” says winemaking Molly Hill. “Through winemaking and blending, we work to create that balance for every wine we make.”

The last component of our winemaking philosophy is the people.  We support and encourage every employee and each one that touches the wine has a passion for making the best wine possible. 

Viticultural Philosophy

After more than 30 years of farming and studying the soils of Rutherford, viticulturist Steve Allen has a pretty good idea of what it takes to grow great Cabernet Sauvignon. The right combination of soil, site and climate come first and foremost, but it’s what’s done with those resources that elevates simply good Cabernet to world-class Cabernet.
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The Rutherford AVA is known for its temperate climate of warm afternoons, cooler evenings and marine fog. Pair that with its Rutherford Dust, (the Cabernet-loving combination of soils according to Andre Tchelistcheff), and you have ideal growing conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon and its blending varietals.

But even with that, extensive analysis on each site, looking at everything from the types and health of soils to the geography, drainage, sun exposure and more is done. Our two Rutherford vineyards are a perfect example of why this is necessary. The marine sedimentary soils at the estate are different from the more mineral-rich volcanic soils of our Tonella property, and even though they are both within the Rutherford AVA, each imparts vastly different characteristics to the wine.

We divide each site into blocks based on its characteristics, and select rootstocks and clones based on that. But instead of planting each block to a single clone, we divide each block in half again and plant each to a different clone – each with its own irrigation system. This diversifies our crop, allows us to control vine vigor and naturally lessens the risk of pests or disease.

Having the luxury of our own highly experienced vineyard team walking and working the vineyards every day is also a huge element in our plan. Many have worked for us for more than a decade and know the vineyards, and their vines, soils, and surrounding environment, like the backs of their hands—and therefore know how to keep everything in balance.

After three decades, we’ve found that using a simple trellising system and a wider 8 x 5 spacing plan. This means fewer vines per acre, but it gives the vines room to grow, offers the right mix of ample light and canopy shade to avoid sunburn while allowing the fruit to ripen properly, and allows us to monitor the vines and respond to any needs promptly, before they spread.

Keeping our vineyards in balance sometimes involves keeping things out. So when a concern does arise, we prefer to fight fire with fire—or in our case, pests with pests. Instead of relying on pesticide spray, we’ll use predator bugs to resolve a pest issue. This method takes 2-3 weeks, rather than a day, but by keeping chemicals out of the vineyard today, we can help ensure a healthier vineyard and environment tomorrow.