Michael K. Trujillo of the Sequoia Grove winery in Napa Valley, California, is going against tradition. Most winemakers find a style they like and continue to make it. Trujillo has reformatted his signature cabernet sauvignon wine.
I recently had a chance to meet Michael Trujillo here in Miami on a wine promotional tour. He explained that, through 2006, he produced two versions, Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and a Reserve version.
Beginning in 2007, the two are combined. “It’s richer, more complex, and has more layers. There is more going on,” he says.
I like the older 2006 version of Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. My husband, George Leposky (Miami Traveler Examiner), prefers the new 2007 version. We suggest that you call around until you find a wine shop that stocks both vintages, try them, and compare for yourself. The 2006 vintage has a white on black label; the 2007 vintage has a black on white label.
Sequoia Grove’s history
In 1979, Sequoia Grove was a small grape grower in Rutherford, growing mostly cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay grapes. Sequoia Grove’s then-owner, Jim Allen, hired Trujillo in 1982 to help plant the vineyard and build the winery. Trujillo never left. He had been studying engineering in college and applied his knowledge of chemistry and mechanics to the wine industry. He also acquired a winemaking certificate from the University of California, Davis.
Allen retired in 2001 and sold the brand to Kobrand Corporation, a marketing company which had been a partner since the mid-1980s. Today Trujillo is Sequoia Grove’s president and director of winemaking.
Standing out from the crowd
Being a winemaker in Napa Valley means trying to stand out from a crowd. The valley has more than 400 wineries and 626 wine-grape growers, says Terry Hall, communications director for Napa Valley Vintners. “The numbers change year to year,” he says. Napa Valley has 33 different soil series and more than 100 individual soil types, plus a rise in average elevation from sea level to about 100 feet across a distance of 45 miles, and a 10-to-15-degree F. difference in average temperatures.
This cornucopia of growing conditions gives vineyard owners and winemakers an almost infinite variety of creative possibilities. Trujillo blends grapes from 78 acres of vineyards – the 22-acre Sequoia Grove winery estate in Rutherford, and 56 acres from other locations in Atlas Peak, Oak Knoll, Oakville, St. Helena, and the Tonella estate in Rutherford recently acquired by Sequoia Grove – to create the qualities he wants.
In addition to cabernet sauvignon, Sequoia Grove also makes a truly elegant Carneros chardonnay. Unlike so many Napa chardonnays, this one isn’t oaky and buttery. It tantalizes the palate with delicate allusions to apple, citrus, and a little pear. “I believe in varietal expression,” Trujillo says. “I want you to taste the grape.”
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