On our recent trip to Napa Valley during harvest we made it a point to visit Seavey Vineyard. I’ve long been a fan of their under the radar age-worthy Cabernet’s and wanted to see their operation and taste their current releases, especially their flagship wine: The Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009.
I left Seavey with delicious estate Cabernet and Merlot to take home and enjoy. But that wasn’t all we took home. We had an intimate one on one experience with Dorie Seavey, the daughter of William Seavey who founded Seavey Vineyard. It isn’t everyday you get to visit and learn all about a winery you love at the hands of the daughter of the original proprietor. While this does happen elsewhere (Kristine Dunn of Dunn Vineyards comes to mind) it doesn’t occur often as consolidations and buyouts make for a slightly more sterile corporate experience in Napa Valley.
After purchasing the winery from Dorie Seavey’s geometry teacher in 1979, William and Mary Seavey consulted Roy Raymond of Raymond Vineyards with replanting the vineyards that were originally planted by Swiss immigrant Charles Volper in the early 1870s. Instead of employing high-technology modern winemaking techniques upon revitalizing the estate, William and Mary Seavey set out to honor old winemaking traditions and to produce world class wines at Seavey Vineyard.
Essentially an old dairy farm, Seavey’s winery is located in a beautiful dairy barn which was originally constructed in 1881. The dairy barn was renovated and restored by the Seavey’s in 1989 to be their winery and tasting room and a second winery adjacent to the stone dairy barn was constructed in 2000 after the success of the first vintages under their own label.
Dorie gave us a tour of the winery and the grounds nearby, explaining some interesting facts about Seavey Vineyard while we enjoyed a glass of Seavey’s 2010 Merlot:
- As much as 70% of Seavey’s wines are sold directly to Wine Club members
- Seavey is one of only a handful of wineries in Napa who uses the whole grape fermentation method and never presses their grapes. Winemaker Jim Duane later explains that Seavey’s wines have enough tannin and structure and that pressing the grapes is not required.
- The estate is approximately 200 acres with 40 of those acres planted to vine.
- Wines are aged in 100% French oak, 50% of which being new.
- Annual production is approximately 2000 cases.
Seavey’s hillside vineyards can be seen in the background
Hoping to see freshly harvested grapes being sorted and processed we quickly made our way to the winery when we saw a truck hauling grapes heading in it’s direction.
Seavey Winemaker Jim Duane explains the even ripening of the 2013 vintage
Grapes being prepared for sorting
Dorie Seavey and Winemaker Jim Duane
After seeing the small but very efficient winery in action, we made our way to this table located just outside of the main tasting room to take in both the wines and the gorgeous weather we were having that day.
During our visit, we tasted the Merlot, the flagship Cabernet Sauvignon and their delicious and more approachable “Caravina” Cabernet, which is like a second wine for the estate. Since I was only taking mental notes of how much I was enjoying the wines, I decided to revisit the Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009 at home where I could better evaluate it:
Appearance: Wonderfully dark and rich without becoming entirely opaque. The thick long legs meet a dark crimson at the rim.
Nose: Sweet and expressive with lavender, kirsch, cherry liquor and molasses.
Taste: Expansive and rich without being over-ripe, it coats the palate with smokey vanilla, dark red fruit, cassis and chocolate covered strawberries at the core. It then finishes with cedar, molasses, violets and essence of lavender. The wine is impeccably balanced with excellent acidity, minerality and finely grained tannins. Each sip reveals another exciting nuance from this well crafted Cabernet Sauvignon.
Region: Napa Valley, CA
Varietal Composition: 95.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4.5% Petite Verdot
Value Rating: 4.5/5 Price: $95
Wow! I had high expectations for this wine considering my admiration for the producer and my experience with their well crafted iterations from previous vintages. Despite those expectations, this wine far exceeded them and was even better that I remembered at the winery. Doesn’t the opposite usually happen?
The Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009 is entirely estate grown and resulted in a mere 630 cases of production. This is top flight Cabernet Sauvignon that is built to last and I recommend picking some up here before they run out. The price has increased slightly to $105 as it is now considered a library wine and will likely only increase in price with time.
A quick search on Wine-Searcher reveals a few retailers still priced in the low $90′s. While this is still a lot of money for a bottle of wine, it is all relative. There are far more expensive cult Napa Cabernet’s who remain shrouded in a veil of mystery. Interested in visiting? Good luck. Interested in tasting? Unless you’re a wealthy collector or a wine journalist: good luck. Interested in buying? You probably need to be on the mailing list, and good luck getting on it.
The Seavey Cabernet is world-class under the radar wine from a family owned boutique winery where you can taste their current releases with a Seavey. It’s off the beaten path and away from the crowds of Highway 29. Robert Parker himself has even described Seavey as potentially being the most underrated producer of Cabernet in Napa Valley!
Dare I posit that instead of celebrating over-hyped and over-priced cult Cabernet’s that we instead celebrate estates like Seavey that spend money on improving wine-making rather than marketing budgets, while they still exist? In my opinion, the Seavey Cabernet Sauvingon Napa Valley 2009 is worth every penny.
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