It's common for a marriage in Burgundy to bring together vineyards from two families. But when Diana Snowden, 26, and Jeremy Seysses, 28, tie the knot in July 2005, they will forge a new alliance. Snowden's family owns Snowden Vineyards in Napa Valley; Seysses' family estate is Domaine Dujac in Burgundy.
The couple met in 1998 when they both were working at Robert Mondavi winery. Snowden was an intern there while studying at the University of California, Davis, and Seysses was collecting data to complete his thesis in viticulture at the University of Burgundy.
That year, Seysses invited Snowden to spend the Christmas holidays with his family. "It was our second date and I was terrified," she recalled. After the holiday season, Snowden spent a semester at the University of Chile studying microbiology, French and the sensory evaluation of wine before returning to her studies in California. Seysses moved to London to work with Dujac's importer there.
The couple endured a long-distance relationship over the next two years, until Snowden moved to France in 2001, after completing her studies at U.C., Davis. She worked the 2001 Bordeaux harvest at La Fleur de Boüard in Lalande-de-Pomerol and afterwards moved to Burgundy to be with Seysses. "That winter was difficult, especially coming from California," Snowden said. "I didn't speak French and I didn't have any friends."
But she found an ally in her future mother-in-law, Rosalind Seysses, who is also American. Rosalind had met Jeremy's father, Jacques Seysses, when, while living in Paris and working in an art gallery, she found herself at Domaine Dujac working the 1971 Burgundy harvest. Jacques had started the domaine in 1968, by purchasing the former Domaine Graillet. "Roz was a great help," Snowden said. "She told me stories of being American in Burgundy and has been a big supporter."
In 2002, Snowden worked the harvest at Domaine Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet. She joined the team at Domaine Dujac in 2003, as enologist. Seysses acts as commercial director, overseeing both viticultural and winemaking decisions for the domaine, his négociant firm, Dujac Fils & Père, and Domaine de Triennes in Provence. Domaine Dujac produces about 7,000 cases of Burgundy from 32 acres in 11 appellations, including grands crus Clos de la Roche, Clos St.-Denis, Charmes-Chambertin, Échézeaux and Bonnes-Mares.
The Snowden family owns 160 acres in Rutherford, with 23 acres devoted mainly to Cabernet Sauvignon. Her grandfather Wayne Snowden purchased the land in 1955. The vineyards were replanted in 1982 and for several years the grapes were sold to Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. The first commercial release of Snowden Cabernet Sauvignon was 1993 (92 points, $35). Since its debut, the wine has consistently rated outstanding, or 90 to 94 points, on the Wine Spectator 100-point scale.
According to Snowden, it's a nice union of the two families. "My father's philosophy has been influenced by Burgundy. He wants the wine to express the land first and foremost." Unfortunately, Snowden may not have the opportunity to be involved in her family's winemaking. "I wish I was from Australia and the harvests were staggered," she says. "I don't know if I will ever make wine at Snowden, but I feel very lucky to be working in Burgundy."
But there is plenty to keep her busy at Dujac. "What we are focusing on today is maintaining the integrity of the Dujac style," Snowden explains. "Jacques is a genius at interpreting the vintage. It's very difficult to pass on that skill."
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