I recently sat down with Michael Trujillo, the longtime winemaker at Sequoia Grove, a Napa Valley winery best known for their excellent Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon and spectacular Bordeaux blend, Cambium. Even though their Chardonnay represents only about 4500 cases of Sequoia Grove's 35,000-case-per-year output, it is not just an afterthought. In his 30-plus years at the winery, including his current roles as president and director of winemaking, Trujillo reckons he has probably made wine with grapes from every square mile of the Napa Valley.
The particular fruit which Trujillo chose for his 2012 comes mostly from the Carneros region of Napa. The long, cool growing season of this neighborhood allows for slow-ripening grapes, so the wine is very consistent from year to year. Trujillo pointed out that since the chardonnay grapes are harvested earlier than cabernet, "Mother Nature doesn't have as much time to mess with them." Aged 10 months in French oak without any malolactic fermentation, Sequoia Grove Chardonnay is made with an Old World Burgundian flair.
Not overoaked like some other California chards, this particular version maintains a clean, crisp acidity with notes of apples and pears and just a little bit of nuttiness. I would compare it to another of my favorite Napa chardonnays, from their neighbors at Grgich Hills. It's still a little youthful and will mature nicely in the bottle for at least another six months, but it already exhibits Chablis characteristics like minerality and is a lovely expression of both the varietal and the sense of place where it was grown.
At around $25 per bottle, I think this is a real bargain for such a nuanced wine, and Trujillo agreed when I suggested it would be a fantastic pairing with seafood like scallops or delicate fish dishes. (That he concurred made be feel pretty good, because sometimes it's just a shot in the dark pairing complex wines with foods.) Trujillo also suggested that Sequoia Grove Chardonnay would be an excellent accompaniment with a
just-picked spring lettuce and fresh herb salad, or with a mature, delicate brie cheese. Sounds like a good plan to me.
The new release should be available at most larger wine stores, so you might consider picking up a bottle, and feel free to report back here with your impressions.