Napa Valley AVA
92 Points - Beverage Testing Institute
Before his untimely death at 34 years of age, Mike Seitz operated a vineyard management company for several years, accounting for some 700-plus acres in the Napa County area. He did everything for his customers, from planting through harvesting and including total vineyard management. In the year 2000, Mike and his wife, Kristi, picked two tons of fruit off five different vineyards he was farming in the Stag’s Leap District, Rutherford, Atlas Peak, Howell Mountain and in Yountville. From this array of fabulous fruit and the subsequent release of their first Cabernet Sauvignon two years later, Brookdale Vineyards was born.
The Brookdale name is homage to his family. Mike’s dad worked on an 800-acre horse farm in New Jersey of the same name. Mike and his brothers and sisters all worked on the farm as they were growing up and all were deeply committed to its success. Look closely at the label and you’ll see a tiny horse atop the winery’s logo.
The new winery’s initial release of some 350 cases, opened to rave reviews scoring a solid 91 points out of a perfect 100 by Wine Enthusiast magazine. Winemaker Jeff Morgan, the magazine’s northern California correspondent, said, “Seitz was definitely an up-and-comer who was poised to do exciting things in the wine industry.”
In the early evening of September 23, 2003 Mike Seitz was killed in a farming accident during nighttime harvesting. At the time he died, Seitz had already lived two adult lives. After graduating from Syracuse University in 1992, Seitz moved west to San Francisco to work as a stockbroker. He soon became disillusioned with that way of life and did an about-face by enrolling in the University of Colorado’s agricultural school. Armed with a degree in 1997, Seitz took a job at a large vineyard management company in St. Helena. From there he jumped to work for Regusci Winery in Napa where he learned the skills of a vintner.
Mike and Kristi met on a blind date arranged by winery owner Jim Regusci and the two immediately hit it off. Eighteen months later they married. On March 2nd 2003, Kristi gave birth to their first child, Charlie Stephen and the world seemed the couple’s playground.
“Everything changed that September night that Mike died,” Kristi recalls. “At first I can actually say I had no idea as to what to do, or where to turn. But the fact that he was so well loved provided me with a group of friends that offered their help. This outpouring enabled me to get through this initial stage.”
As far as Brookdale Vineyards was concerned, Kristi Seitz’s initial responsibilities involved the business aspect of the venture where she fulfilled the bookkeeping duties and other office chores. Mike did most of the rest of the work, from arranging production and sales and marketing.
Obviously, all that has changed. “I am a one-woman operation now,” says Kristi. “I handle everything from basic office administration to walking the vineyards and keeping a watchful eye on the progress of the grapes to making sales calls and dealing with the general public and distributors to sell our wine.”
Kristi has carried on her beloved Michael’s dream and Napa insiders are now watching her succeed. “At times when I feel a bit overwhelmed I can look at Mike’s picture on the wall and remember the dream we started together and I find strength. I know he is proud of me and I feel good about continuing our dream,” Kristi explains.
The fact is that Brookdale itself is on extremely firm ground. Mike had developed a marvelous working relationship with winemaker Craig MacLean who joined the operation in 2001 and is familiar with practically every aspect of Brookdale’s operation. “Craig is my breath of fresh air,” Kristi points out, “This is an area of the business which at this time I am happy to give the responsibility to someone else. He’s a wonderful friend and fantastic winemaker.”
“I am quite excited about the future,” Kristi offered. Brookdale’s wine production operation recently moved to a facility housing several other boutique wineries which will enable her to open up the winery’s first tasting room early next year. And this fall she will bottle the winery’s first estate grown Cabernet from a small vineyard she and Mike planted before his death. “It will be a special bottling with a label name specifically in honor of Mike,” she proudly states. Meanwhile, the operation continues to turn out 500 cases of brilliantly made Cabernet Sauvignon each year to resounding praise by wine critics throughout the industry.
We hope you will enjoy this month’s Platinum Series wine club selection from Brookdale Vineyards.