I was a late bloomer when it comes to wine. I remember two wine moments in my life: staying at a hotel in Beaune as a summer abroad French student, where I had the best Pinot Noir in my life, and then in 2008, when a friend shared with me a 2005 Anderson’s Conn Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The latter moment is what propelled me into my wine and travel lifestyle.
Many movies have been made about defining wine moments. One of those movies is Bottle Shock, which I never watched until 2013. The Hollywood infused movie tells the story of how Napa Valley wines made their mark in the world during the Judgment of Paris blind wine tasting competition. At that time, Napa Valley was a farming community who hadn’t yet realized its potential in the world wine market. Although glamorized, the movie gives us a glimpse of the simpler, family-based lifestyle of that era.
In modern day, it can be challenging to find small, family-owned wineries in Napa Valley, as they are off the main roads of Saint Helena Highway (CA 29) and Silverado Trail. Much of the press often features larger, corporate wineries, and Napa Valley can be perceived from the outside as a very snobby place. However, the Napa Valley wineries of yore do still exist if you look hard enough. Two such wineries are Seavey Vineyard and Amizetta Estate Winery, two of the wineries located off of Conn Valley Road.
Seavey Vineyard, which I have had the good fortune to visit twice, is as about as relaxed and unpretentious as you can find. The vineyard itself dates back to the early 1870s, when 143 acres were purchased by Charles Volper. In 1881, he built a stone dairy barn, which still exists today as the winery production area and tasting room. William and Mary Seavey purchased the property in 1979, replanted the vineyards, and produced grapes to sell to other wineries until 1990, when they produced their own Seavey Vineyard branded Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. In 1994, they released their first Merlot, and in 1999, released their second Cabernet Sauvignon called Caravina. When you arrive at Seavey, you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, except for their state-of-the-art solar energy, wine production, and wine order processing systems. William (Bill) Seavey still lives on the property and the five Seavey children have continued the family’s legacy of producing world-class, age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot. When you visit, you will often be greeted by Dorie or Art Seavey, who manage sales and marketing at the winery. Tastings and tours at the winery are by appointment only Monday through Saturday. The tasting fee is $45 per person and one tasting fee is waived per three-bottle purchase. The winery also has a vintage wine club (two shipments per year) as well as a library wine club (three shipments per year).
If you continue down Conn Valley Road past Seavey, turn onto Greenfield Road, and go all the way to the top, and by all the way to the top, I mean ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP, you will discover perhaps Napa Valley’s best kept secret, Amizetta Estate Winery. As you enter the gated property, do not stop at the small house on the left, as family still lives there, but continue to the VERY TOP, where you will discover Amizetta’s sloping vineyards, tasting room, production area, and barrel cave, as well as the most amazing view in Napa Valley, which overlooks Lake Hennessey. Like Seavey, Amizetta has a long history, founded in 1979 by Spencer and Amizetta McFadden Clark, both with Texas ranching and farming experience. Their sons, Perry (President), Edward (Winemaker), and Spencer Jr. (Vineyard Manager and Tour Guide), have taken the helm of the day-to-day operations of the winery, and are creating exceptional, Napa Valley wines made to be consumed sooner rather than later. The winery produces grapes and wines for other wineries, as well as award-winning wines under their own label, including Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, a Bordeaux-style red blend called Complexity, and also a Merlot, which was already sold out when I visited. The winery has wine clubs as well, a Reserve Wine Club (two cases per year) and a Case Club (one case per year). Our tour of the winery included a visit to the patio and gardens overlooking Lake Hennessey, the production area, and their beautiful barrel cave. Tastings and tours at Amizetta are also by appointment only and are $50 per person. They also accept helicopter tours.
During my visits to both wineries, I was especially delighted by the farming lifestyle, charmed by the warmth of family and friendship, and seduced by the gorgeous wines. I had one foot in the Napa Valley of the past, yet the other foot was stepping towards the future of Napa Valley, as both families take their wineries to the next levels of superior winemaking. Both are not to be missed and can be visited together in one day. I’d love to assist you in creating your wine moments at Seavey Vineyard and Amizetta Estate Winery.