Napa Valley AVA
Industry insiders consider Seavey Vineyards one of Napa Valley’s best-kept secrets
Bill Seavey had a notion that the old cattle ranch he saw in 1980 would make a great vineyard setting so he decided to take a chance. History was in his favor. In the 1870’s, the site was the location of the Franco-Swiss winery operation that had been one of the leading entities of its time. And, as luck would have it, the property was currently owned by his daughter Dorie’s geometry teacher, thereby giving him the inside edge on purchasing the land.
The estate was comprised of some 200 acres, and contained an old stone building that had formerly served as the winery. Its location in a secluded part of Napa Valley (actually Conn Valley to be precise) was hilly and filled with rocks, a fact that Bill Seavey considered a plus for drainage.
As a lawyer in San Francisco who was fluent in French, Seavey witnessed the parade of French wine people who came to Napa Valley during the late 70’s and early 80’s. His familiarity with French wines and the language made him a perfect legal representative for many Frenchmen.
The first vines for Seavey Vineyard were planted in 1981, predominately to Cabernet Sauvignon along with some Merlot and Chardonnay. The microclimate of Seavey Vineyard mirrored neighboring Napa Valley, save the fact that the days were a little warmer and the nights a little colder.
The vines prospered and eventually produced some excellent fruit. For a few years, Seavey Vineyard sold their fruit to neighboring wineries. However, in 1990, Bill Seavey decided to produce his own wine.
A total of only 450 cases were released that first year and then the story got really interesting.
“We entered the first wine in a competition on the east coast,” recalled Art Seavey. Art is Bill’s son and current general manager at Seavey Vineyard. “When the judges broke for lunch, none other than Robert Parker picked up an open bottle to have with his lunch. It was our initial release Cabernet and he wound up enjoying the wine. He awarded the wine a 95 in his publication and our winery was off to the races.”
Little has changed at Seavey Vineyard in the thirty-plus years since its inception. A total of 40 acres are under vine and the former winery has been restored to its stony greatness. It is easy to imagine the sylvan beauty and setting the early wine pioneers enjoyed.
Production at Seavey Vineyard has increased to just over 2,000 cases, but there is no rush to increase that figure. “We have no time frame for expansion,” added Seavey. “We take what our wonderful estate gives us. We know the fruit will be first class and that’s the really important aspect of our operation.”
That last statement echoes the winemaking strategy of Seavey Vineyard. Their aim is not to intervene with the vineyard’s production but rather to express the terroir that nature has bestowed upon them.
Art Seavey is proud of the fact that Seavey Vineyard has never bought any additional fruit from outside sources and is most specific that there are no plans to do so in the future.
“Seavey Vineyard is a small, hands-on family winery that falls into the boutique category. Our family intends that it remain that way for the foreseeable future.”
In addition to Art Seavey, Bill Seavey remains active in the winery. He oversees the entire operation and lends his expertise in winemaking and grape growing. Daughter Dorie serves as the operation’s chief financial officer. Another son, Will, is active in vineyard management and operations.
Seavey Vineyard has two winemakers, UC Davis graduate Jim Duane (Robert Mondavi Winery and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars) and Frenchman Philippe Melka (Chateau Haut Brion, Chateau Petrus). Melka is the consulting winemaker and has done so since 1995. He provides the classic French touch that Bill Seavey felt was necessary when first attempting to produce his own wines.
Industry insiders consider Seavey Vineyards one of Napa Valley’s best-kept secrets. Even though its wines have scored high for decades and have been featured in numerous industry periodicals throughout the years, the winery’s off the beaten track location has made their existence undiscovered except to those who have literally sought out Seavey’s fabulous wines.
And, there is a third generation of young Seaveys coming along to potentially take over the winery’s fortunes. Art Seavey smiled at such a thought. “Nothing,” he finalized, “would make me happier. Then we could be the complete family winery.”
A Note from Arthur vanBeuren Seavey
Dear Platinum Series Members,
I have always been a lover of Cabernet Sauvignon. One of my greatest pleasures is finding a new Cabernet, from a lesser known producer or region, and enjoying it with family and friends. Sharing that bottle can transport me to a distant vineyard from a time long past. It is for this purpose we made the Caravina Cabernet. It is 100% Estate grown, produced and bottled at Seavey Vineyard and beautifully expresses the terrior of our 200-acre Napa Valley estate. This is a bottle for sharing.
Our land was originally established as a winery and vineyard in the 1870’s by the Franco-Swiss Winery, which produced some of California’s most renowned wines. They enjoyed great prosperity until Prohibition forced them to change focus to raising beef and producing milk. My parents, William and Mary Seavey, re-established the vineyards on the property in 1981, almost 100 years after they were originally planted. While this seems like a long time to us, it was a brief moment for the rocky southern-facing hillside vineyard, which continues to produce a highly concentrated, complex and well structure Cabernet Sauvignon.
A second generation of Seaveys now cares for the land and ensures our wine is made traditionally. Reminders of the legacy we maintain surround us everywhere on the Estate. We receive visiting friends to taste our wines in the original dairy barn built in 1881, vineyard terraces carved into the hillside 100 years ago still support our vineyard, and the boulders which cover our property have just started to notice our presence. I hope you have a sense of our property while tasting the 2009 Caravina Cabernet, and take the opportunity to share it.
It gives me great pleasure to present to you the 2009 Caravina Cabernet. If you find yourself traveling to Napa Valley, please schedule a time to visit with us. It would be a pleasure to share our wine and property with another wine lover.
With best regards and thanks,
Arthur vanBeuren Seavey