Sequoia Grove 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.
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.
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 produces the best result. 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.