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Seillan: Sonoma has more fine wine potential than anywhere else

Sonoma County offers more potential for fine wine creation than any other region in the world, according Frenchman and Vérité winemaker, Pierre Seillan.

Frenchman Pierre Seillan makes wines for Jackson family properties in Sonoma, Tuscany and Saint-Emilion

Introducing in London yesterday the 2014 vintage release of Vérité – a collection of three Sonoma-sourced Bordeaux blends – Seillan expressed his strong belief in the possibilities for creating class-leading results from Sonoma using Pinot Noir, but also, significantly, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and, above all, Cabernet Franc.

Indeed, commenting on the opportunity to produce even greater wines in Sonoma in the future, he said, “After 22 years making wine in Bordeaux I saw the maximum I could do due to French rules, but in Sonoma, after 20 years, there is still more to do, and the rules allow it, I can have a blend from different terroirs; I still haven’t seen the maximum I can do – there is more potential in Sonoma than anywhere else.”

Vérité, a label launched with the 1998 vintage, was conceived in the mid-90s following a meeting between Seillan – then a winemaker in Bordeaux – and the late Jess Jackson of Jackson Family Wines, who wanted to make fine wine from Bordeaux grapes in Sonoma County.

And, over the 16 vintages on the market, from 1998 to the just-released 2014, Verité has gained as many as 13 ‘perfect’ 100-point scores from Robert Parker, making it one of the most highly-awarded wines in California – or indeed the world – and, with a retail price point of around £300, relatively affordable compared to the cult Cabernet blends of Napa – Sonoma’s more famous neighbour.

Looking back, Seillan told attendees at yesterday’s vintage launch that he chose to make wine in Sonoma over and above any other part of the world because it has “complex, exceptional topography,” which he compared in visual terms to the landscape of Tuscany – where he also makes wine for the Jackson family, overseeing the production of the group’s Arcanum label.

He also said that he selected Sonoma because of its specific and complex weather conditions, heavily modified by the Pacific, noting that the combination of the ocean-influence and the mountain topography made Sonoma special.

Indeed, highlighting the rich diversity of soils in Sonoma, he said that there is a greater range of soil types in Sonoma’s hillside vineyards than in all of California, adding, “the only soil type we don’t have is limestone, which you only find in California in Paso Robles.”

Summing up, he stressed, “With the soil diversity in Sonoma, the topography, and because the rules allow me to blend across different terroirs, we have more potential in Sonoma than the rest of the world.”

In terms of the best grapes being used in Sonoma to realise its fine wine potential, Seillan told the drinks business that the region is “starting to make exceptional Pinot Noir, and exceptional Bordeaux blends,” although he added that he felt that there was “room to improve” the quality of Chardonnay in both Sonoma and Napa, because producers are, in his view, “picking too ripe”.

Finally, he drew attention to the quality of Cabernet Franc from Sonoma – a grape with a lesser reputation than other Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Speaking about his wines from Arcanum, which specialises in wines from Bordeaux grapes in Tuscan terroir, he said, “Every year Cabernet Franc is the superstar.”

And, in Saint-Emilion’s Château Lassègue, where he also oversees the winemaking for the Jackson family’s sole French property, he also said that the Cabernet Franc is exceptional.

However, turning to Vérité to highlight Sonoma’s superiority with this variety, he then said, “In Sonoma, the Cabernet Franc is super exceptional.”

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