Once again, searching for a fortunately forgotten bottle amongst my precious bottles that I normally keep for special occasions, I found a wooden box, a untouched "coffret", containing 3 bottles of Sequoia Grove from the 2002 vintage: 1 Cabernet Sauvignon, 1 Chardonnay and 1 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; that was offered to me 3 or 4 years ago.
Sequoia Grove vineyards was founded in 1978 by Jim Allen, whose love for European wines inspired him to look for the perfect place, leading him to the Napa Valley.
Surrounded by its purple hued mountains, Sequoia Grove Winery sits on 22 acres right in the heart of the valley floor in an important region referred to as the Rutherford Bench. Here the alluvial soil, rich in minerals, combined with the fog from the bay, mingling with the warm inland temperatures create the ideal location to produce their award winning Cabernet Sauvignon.
Michael Trujillo, their Director of Winemaking and President, has been with Sequoia Grove since its beginnings joining the team in 1982. Winemaker Molly Hill overseeing daily operations and quality control. Together Michael and Molly share the same passion for excellence, and have forged great relationships to acquire the best Napa Valley fruit available. These Bordeaux-style wines show varietal expression, structure and balance with a true sense of place; a fresh approach yielding modern-day liquid treasures.
Sequoia Grove wines are made with 100% Napa Valley fruit from the original Estate vineyard and the newly acquired Tonella Estate Vineyard in Rutherford, as well as from premier Napa Valley Growers throughout Napa County.So after reading a bit of info on the winery website, I "googled" 2002 Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, and found the following notes (taken from the fact sheet):
“This wine has twice the horsepower of any previous Napa Valley Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon; it’s twice as bold and rich with twice the concentration. At the last minute, I blended in 4%-5% Merlot – I’m out to make the best wine possible, not to be boxed in by the idea of a 100% varietal wine. This wine reveals the most dramatic improvement of all the wines we make, and I’m confident there isn’t another Rutherford- based wine of this quality for this price.” - Michael Trujillo
The Fruit: Ideal harvest conditions in 2002 produced grapes with full maturity and intense flavors. The Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is made from estate-grown grapes as well as neighboring growers Gary Morisoli, Bill Collins, Beckstoffer, Traina, Garvey and others all within the Rutherford, Oakville and Napa Districts of the Napa Valley (60% Rutherford, 30% Oakville, 10% Napa).
Vinification: All fruit is hand-sorted and crushed to the fermenter where each individual wine is to be fermented. After a gentle pressing, the wines are transferred to 100% American oak barrels – 40% of which is new – where the wines undergo and finish secondary malolactic fermentation. Finally, the wines are blended and further aged in barrels for a minimum of 22 months prior to bottling.
Tasting Notes: Generous aromas of currants and blackberries are offset by impressions of black olive, clove and spice. On the palate, rich, full flavors of ripe dark fruits, black cherries and dark chocolate are supported by fresh acidity and a restrained, elegant tannic structure. With a velvety finish, it is approachable now and will only improve with more time.
I thought: "He, it has been a long time since I wrote something on a Californian wine; let's open it and see how this "twice the horsepower" Sequoia Grove 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon has evolved in the bottle.
2002 Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Rutherford California
Suggested retail price $27-$30
As soon as I opened the slightly-dry-at-the-top cork (strange because these bottles have been laying down for quite some time in their box...), "volutes" of liquorice, old prune scents with a slightly musty touch, evolved in the environing air. I let it breathe for a little while. In the glass, its color is quite deep and intense, red garnet with dark orange-brick reflects in the rime. It also seems to have quite a few sediments (no filtration? bad storage?...). I even put it close to the light to witness minuscule rounded floating red sediments, almost like if the wine was pigmented with multiple red dots swimming around.
After a few minutes in the glass, the same profound and expressive old prune, dark wild berries, liquorice, forest floor, cider wood (or sequoia in this case may be), spicy, earthy aromas came out warmly from the glass with a slight touch of alcohol. To use a metaphor, it was almost like walking in the red wood forest by a warm Indian fall afternoon, breathing the different scent intermingled with dark fruit, earth, mushroom and almost smoky notes in the air.
Boosting 14.2% of alcohol, this wine attack is clean and inviting yet ultra-ripe, creamy and woody with very dark, jammy fruit, earth and spice. The mid-palate is really generous, fairly balanced at first and expanding nicely for the first half, with even more ripe dark fruit, almost scorched fruit, dark chocolate (Michael was right on this one too), more earth, spice and toasted oak. The second half that leads toward the finish is somewhat less attractive, slightly rough and a bit angular, fortunately the acidity is persistent and balances it, although at some point the wine seems to have a down curve before the finish. Despite the gorgeous and lingering ripe dark fruit and chocolate flavors, the woody finish possesses some dry tannins with some alcohol, which brings, (IMO), some bitterness (or even sourness if you ask my wife) in the back palate. The tannins seems quite young still and may need a few more years to integrate. One thing is sure, this wine still has some good ageing potential due to its tannins.
Overall, the wine is not bad, very ripe, fairly juicy and fairly balanced, but not as harmonious or integrated as I thought it will be after a few years in the bottle. It is a big fruit bomb, with a lot of chocolate, toasted oak and alcohol, fortunately with some decent acidity to lighten and balance it and somewhat round some of the angles.
Although I buy some of these wines for my customers at the store and I still appreciate some of the featuring aromas and flavors in this one, it is not necessary my style, no offense to the winemaker or the winery, but the alcohol in the finish is a bit of a put-off for me.
You see when I taste them and sometime, if rarely, buy them, I must comprehend and appreciate them for what they are but I don't enjoy them for myself, that is one of the dilemma of a wine-buyer like me (because even if I need to be open minded to any wines and any styles to offer a wide array of wines from all around the world to my customers, from the driest, earthiest, leanest and acidic to the ripest, woodiest, more alcoholic juice out there; I still prefer my wine to be more harmonious, balanced, fresher and juicier with more minerality, integrated tannins and less alcohol).
Big Cabernet lovers should enjoy this wine very much. I'll suggest to open it at least an hour before you drink it, because it seems to round up and get slightly more open and easy to drink after now about 30 minutes of opening. It will need something substantial like a grilled steak.
Don't get me wrong, If I was living in Napa Valley, enjoying the warm weather sitting outside with a glass of this wine, breathing the fumes of a juicy steak or burger grilling next to me with a few friends and family around, I'm sure that it will change my point of view and my way of drinking this wine.
May be, I'm too impatient and should let it breathe a little longer, or may be, I'm not used to this type of wine anymore. The Rioja, Ribera del Duero and some Bordeaux wines that I drink from time to time, may have this type of body and strength, or even the alcohol, but I need to admit that too much ripeness and heaviness in the glass get me tired very quickly and I can't enjoy the wine as much as I would love to.
Moreover, as a good wine lover, I like to finish my bottle and try different wines within the same meal, any wine above 14-14.5% of alcohol will get me on my knees quick and make me sleepy, but any wine below 14% will surely enhance my mood and my meal and my conversation, and I will have no problem to sip it and appreciate it and of course finish the bottle.
LeDom du Vin
Info taken from the winery website at www.sequoiagrove.com and from a fact sheet at http://www.sequoiagrove.com/sequoiagrove/servlet/streamfile%3Ffile_record_id%3D1006&ei=MXIdS53BC9WZlAesu9HyCQ&sa=X&oi=nshc&resnum=1&ct=result&cd=2&ved=0CA8QzgQoAQ&usg=AFQjCNHmrSHHuKuvkrJ_M3O8r-cOitU7dQ
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