When the Seghesio family sold its namesake winery in 2011, it was a shock. Rumors of winery sales are often rampant in the California wine community, but few of us saw that one coming.
I had no idea what to expect back then, but five years on, things are finally playing out. Winemaker Ted Seghesio remains on board at the winery and continues to make great wine, particularly Zinfandel.
His cousin and former partner Pete Seghesio set off on his own a few years back, and has slowly put his plans into place. A non-compete agreement limited what wines Seghesio could produce. His first wine was a Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast under the Journeyman label; the 2013 vintage received 93 points.
Now that the non-compete has expired, Seghesio, 52, is returning to his true love: Zinfandel. The historic San Lorenzo vineyard was not included in the sale of the winery. Seghesio inherited that 40-acre vineyard from his mother, Rachel Ann Passalacqua Seghesio. The vineyard has been part of the Passalacqua family heritage since 1896, a few years after it was planted.
Seghesio recently released two wines: San Lorenzo Zinfandel Alexander Valley Rock Garden 2014 ($48) and San Lorenzo The Pearl Old Vine Alexander Valley 2015 ($70.) Both are outstanding examples of California Zin.
The Pearl comes from the oldest vines planted near the Russian River, north of Healdsburg. Those vines are mentioned in an 1896 deed that Seghesio has framed in his house. His great-grandfather was a cook in the California gold fields and paid 10 gold coins for the land.
The 7-acre plot is 70 percent Zinfandel, with the rest a mix of obscure reds like Petite Sirah, Carignane, Grand Noir and Negrette. The 2014 combines structure, personality and polish.
Rock Garden is harvested from the steepest section of the vineyard, planted about 20 years ago. It takes its name from the large cobblestones that pepper the soil. The vines were planted with budwood from the Pearl section, so there are similarities, yet Rock Garden has a firmer backbone and more distinctive minerality.
Cousin Ted and former family winery continue to get the rest of the San Lorenzo crop, although Seghesio admits he now keeps the best for himself. "If there's a 'super Sonoma,' it's vineyards like this," Seghesio says.
Seghesio does much of the farming and winemaking with the aid of his sons, Joe, 17, and Will, age 14, and wife, Cathy, keeps them on their toes. He has some high-powered help from vineyard manager Ulises Valdez and consulting winemaker Erin Green. It's all done in the small winery the family built in the cellar of their house.
For Seghesio, keeping his children involved in growing and winemaking is key. "It's important to keep the tradition alive," he says. "This has been my dream."