Conn Valley estate’s winemaking team strives to stay “true to this place.”
A late-2023 tasting at Seavey Vineyard was among the year’s Napa Valley best, for the wines by Jim Duane – Philippe Melka, the winemaker in the early days, still consults – but also the workaday farm setting and winning hospitality. Duane, whose Inside Winemaking podcast is an invaluable resource, had just received high critical praise for a wine and was in a jolly mood for 10 a.m. Seavey Vineyard, 40 acres planted on a 200-acre estate, is in Conn Valley south of Howell Mountain.
Will Seavey, whose parents purchased the estate in 1979, dropped by the tasting between farm chores (a geriatrician by trade, he lives on the property) and recalled contributing over the years during summers and at harvest. Seavey and our host emphasized the family’s dedication to sustainable practices, which include composting, significant solar power generation, and vermiculture – breeding red worms to enhance the vineyard’s nutrients and soil structure.
Sense of History, Place
Grape growing here dates back to the 1870s, when the Franco-Swiss Winery owned this parcel and a few adjacent ones. The current vines – Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a little Malbec and Cabernet Franc – are all from the Seavey era.
“My dad always used to say that he liked the fact that ‘there’s a there there,'” Will Seavey said, “meaning that it’s an estate vineyard and the wine reflects the history and the land and is true to this place. We’ve never purchased grapes from anyone else.” As he spoke, I was sipping a 2018 Merlot (100%), thinking this is like no other Napa Valley Merlot I’ve tasted – lean and mildly fruity with a singular minerality.
The same held for the Cabernets, the 2016 Caravina (with 11% Petit Verdot, no longer grown, and 3% Merlot) and three 100% Cabs, all benefiting from an earthy elegance. The tannins on the 2018 were softer than those in other Napa Valley Cabernets from this vintage (more like a 2019), the 2014 stood out for the vibrancy of its fruit, and the 2004 captivated with its perky tannins and dusky flavors.
Founders Bill and Mary Seavey withheld 25% of each vintage from sale, creating an extensive library providing an extra incentive for lovers of older wines to check out this St. Helena winery. All tastings are by appointment.
Why go: singular site; easy-going hospitality; older wines.