Home » A Father’s Day Story At Vérité Winery In Sonoma County

A Father’s Day Story At Vérité Winery In Sonoma County

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The wish of most fathers is that their children will be happy in life and in their chosen professions. However, in some cases, a child may elect to follow in their father’s footsteps. That is what happened at Vérité Wineryin Sonoma County with father/daughter winemaking team,Pierre and Hélène Seillan.

Together, they not only craft some of the most delicious and highly rated cabernet based wines in Sonoma County, but also some of the most expensive, with average bottle prices of $480 and up. The wines are produced in small quantities, allocated, and much desired by collectors, due to their ability to age well and consistent critic scores in the 98 to 100 point range.

“Officially, my first paid job at Vérité was doing a harvest in 2008,” reported 37-year old Hélène Seillan, in an email interview. “But I grew up in the wine industry with my father making wine every year, and I was there with him on the crush pad watching him and helping out.”

A Winemaking Story that Begins in France

Pierre and Hélène Seillan were both born in France, but in Pierre’s case he worked as a winemaker in Gascony, Bordeaux and the Loire for many years before meeting Jess Jackson in 1997. At the time Jess had already built a wine empire with Kendall-Jackson as a flagship wine, along with a host of many other wineries he purchased through the years. (In 2006, he was named by Forbes as one of the richest men in the world. He passed in 2011.)

But Jess Jackson had a dream to create a wine in Sonoma County that would be just as good as the best wines in the world. When Pierre visited Sonoma County, he also saw the potential, and so the two established Vérité, which means ‘the truth’ in French.

“There are 40 different micro-crus, or soils here,” said Pierre, when I visited Vérité Winery recently. “Each soil gives a different energy to the wine. For example, the chalk gives truffle notes, the red soils give red fruit and mineral, and the clay soils give glycerol and structure.”

Pierre described how every year he works with Hélène to oversee the harvest and fermentation, and then together they assemble the blend. “We often taste 50 to 70 different samples, and it takes us days to assemble the final blend for each of our three wines. It is like creating an impressionistic painting. There are so many different elements that come together in harmony.”

But according to Hélène there is not always perfect harmony in the father/daughter relationship. “We are both passionate people and we both can have strong opinions, as many do in any kind of relationship, but we always end up agreeing in the end,” she stated.

Pierre and Hélène Seillan Checking the Grape Vines During Winter Pruning Season at Vérité Winery in … [+] Sonoma County

Vérité

Crafting Vérité’s Trio of Wines: La Joie, La Muse and Le Desir

The first vintage of Vérité’s was 1998, and in that year Pierre created two wines: La Joie, a cabernet-sauvignon dominant wine, which means ‘the joy’ in French, and La Muse, a merlot-dominant wine, which means ‘the inspiration.’

“With these two wines I am trying to make the best in the world,” Pierre stated. Therefore, he seeks inspiration from the first grows of the Left Bank of Bordeaux for La Joie, and for La Muse, he focuses on top Right Bank producers. “With La Muse, I am trying to make it better than Petrus.”

Given his training in Bordeaux (he still owns the family winery in St. Emilion), Pierre focuses on blending the traditional grapes of the region: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, petit verdot, and cabernet franc. But these are all sourced from estate vineyards located in the Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill, Knights Valley and the Bennet Valley appellations (AVAs) of Sonoma County.

It wasn’t until the year 2000 that Pierre decided to introduce a third wine called Le Desir (‘the desire’ in French). “We were finding such beautiful cabernet franc grapes in our vineyards, that we decided to produce a cabernet franc blend. Besides, I worked in the Loire Valley for a while, and I greatly enjoy cabernet franc.”

It appears that the critics do also, because Le Desir has received five perfect 100-point scores from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate since its inception. But La Joie and La Muse have also received much praise, garnering twelve 100-point scores between them from the Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast and Jeb Dunnuck.

With such long-term success, there is always the question as to whether or not the next generation will change the style of these highly collectable wines. But Hélène says no.

“Absolutely no, I’m not going to change anything. I will continue to do what we both do today with Vérité and try to ensure that style remains the same for the three cuveés while respecting the vintage,” she responded.

“Besides,” she continued, “I don’t think my father will ever retire, and I don’t want him to. We make a great team….and he has so much more to give.”

The Three Highly-Collectible Wines Crafted at Vérité Winery in Sonoma County: La Muse, La Joie, and … [+] Le Desir

Vérité

Advice from Hélène on Working With Your Dad

When asked what advice she would offer to other children who decided to work with their father, she responded: “To the young people working with their parents, I’d say to try to swallow your pride. Hear them out; they have way more experience than you.”

But she admits that it took her awhile to come to that conclusion. “I have always been sure about my way of thinking, but now I love hearing his opinion. However I had to grow into that. It did take some time.”

For both Hélène and Pierre, Father’s Day takes onan even more special tone, because their work together has brought them closer. “I feel very lucky to be able to work with my dad so closely,” stated Hélène. “Our relationship continues to grow year after year. It has become stronger and stronger as we both share our passion, experiences and knowledge.”

And for Pierre, there is an equal amount of adoration, respect, and pride in his daughter’s achievements. “She has accomplished so much,” reported Pierre. “Originally my wife and I were not sure which career path she would choose. She was thinking of going to art school or culinary school, but after working a harvest in Bordeaux, she fell in love with the job. Now I am the most fortunate of Dads to work with her year after year.”

Vérité Winery in Sonoma County, California

Vérité

Tasting the Wines of Vérité

So what do these three legendary and highly collectible wines from Sonoma County taste like? I have to admit that on a blind taste test, I would believe I was tasting some of the very top wines of Bordeaux, but with a different depth and soul. All three are incredibly complex, with multiple layers of flavor, fragrance, fruit, earth and toasty oak. They also evolve to become even more complex as they age.

In fact, for Pierre and Hélène, they believe it is imperative for anyone who makes an appointment to visit Vérité, to have the opportunity to taste the most recent vintage as well as one library wine of an older vintage.

“I believe you don’t get the true bouquet of a wine until it is about ten years old,” stated Pierre.

And he was right, because in my tasting we tried the 2019 and the 2004 La Muse side by side, and though they both had the velvety structure of a merlot-based wine, with rich plum, berries, spice, mocha, and a hint of black coffee, the 2004 was more fragrant. In fact it had developed a rose petal note with a hint of truffles, and complex dark fruit and spice that glided across the palate with a seamless elegance and very long complex finish.

Vérité offers three tasting options, by appointment only, at their French styled chateau that sits on a hilltop about a 20 minute drive north of Healdsburg. The tasting includes a tour of the magnificent barrel chai and wine cellar, as well as three current selections of La Joie, La Muse, and Le Desir, and one library wine.

Given that each bottle of wine cost $480 or more, the tastings are not inexpensive. The Estate Tasting is $200 per person and includes French-inspired accoutrements for 1.5 hours. The Library Comparison Tasting is $350 per person and includes six different vintages along with accoutrements for 2 hours.

The most deluxe tasting is the Library Wine & Food Pairing, which includes six vintage wines paired with a three-course seasonal meal prepared by the in-house chef. It is $450 per person and lasts 2.5 hours. All three tasting options begin with a welcome glass of vintage champagne or similar.

The Wine Barrel Cellar at Vérité Winery in Sonoma County, California

Vérité

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