What is 'hospitality'?
As we travel and have the opportunity to converse with leaders in the food and beverage industry, I've been reflecting on the term 'hospitality' daily. We have experienced an unmeasureable amount of kindness throughout our journey and repeating the phrase: “Thank You”, to our hosts never seems to accurately decribe our gratitude. At a point, I find that I almost feel guilty to be treated so kindly. I did not accomplish anything extrodinary to deserve to be treated so wonderfully, yet we've been treated as if we were family members. Our gracious hosts take time away from their busy careers to talk, educate and dine with us. It is a special, SPECIAL thing.
To me hospitality is genuine kindeness. It is thoughtful and appreciative. It is selfless and patient. It is taking the time to do something for someone else, not out of obligation, but rather; because you know that however small or large of a gesture, it will impact someone else's life in a positive way.
Yesterday we visited Sequoia Grove. I anticipated that our visit would be a casual learning experience. A standard tour, tasting and lunch. A little conversation and information, and we would be on our merry way. What we recieved was so much more. We left the winery with heavy hearts, wishing that we could spend more time with the staff and felt completely overwhelmed by their generosity.
The beauty of the property is only outmatched by the caliber of the Sequoia Grove staff. The moment we arrived, I knew we were in for a treat. We were warmly greeted at 10am by smiling faces, coffee and pastries. The tasting room was stunningly beautiful, and heavily influenced by the 150-year old barn that resided on the property. Sequoia trees and fig trees surround the 22-acres.
Steve Allen, the Vineyard Manager at Sequoia Grove, drove us to the Tonella Vineyard on the west side of the Silverado Trail in Rutherford. In 2006 Sequoia Grove aquired this 50-acre property and re-planted three quarters of it in Mayy of 2008. Steve explained that for 2-years he strips the new plantings of fruit and in the 3rd year they are ready for production. He spoke to us about planting, harvesting and maintaining vines. We learned that Steve plants grass about every other row because grass plantings have both positive and negative effects on the vineyard. Grass holds 7-times more water than bare ground and winemakers can move equiptment around on grass without significant damage to the vineyard. Grass also competes with the vines for nutrients so too much can be a bad thing.
We learned from Mike Trujullo, President of Sequoia Grove, that their Cabernet Sauvignon wines have a unique “Rutherford” style–they source 60% of their grapes from the Rutherford AVA. Sequoia Grove does producesome single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, however; blending grapes from multiple sites establishes balance in the finished wine. We conducted a tasting and blending seminar with Mike and Winemaker, Molly Hill to better understand their process. We tasted 4 very different Cabernet Sauvignons from their Stagecoach Vineyards (Atlas Peak AVA), Lamoreaux Vineyard (Oak Knoll), Gary Morisoli Vineyard (Rutherford) and Sequoia Grove Vineyard (Rutherford). We found that each site had a personality–wonderful aroma and tannin structure from Squoia Grove; acidity and dark fruits from Stagecoach, red fruit and acidity from Gary Morisoli and Tannin from Lamoreaux. After tasting, we poured a portion of each into an empty glass for what we thought would be a “perfect blend”.
Molly took us out into the vineyard to collect Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to test sugar levels and see what might be ready to pick. She explained the process that she and Assistant Winemaker, Noelle, go through to determine production. We also had the opportunity to learn about varying leaf and seed shapes, colors and characteristics that define each varietal. I'm probably going to have to buy a textbook from UC Davis when I get home from this trip. Her knowledge was contagious and incredible.
Noelle ran tests, sending our samples through a centerfuge to clarify and then into an OenoFoss to analyize the grape must. We determind that the Merlot was going to be ready to pick within the next few days. We tasted a few very sweet, fermenting tank samples including a Sauvignon Blanc at 24 brix. It was like drinking pure passionfruit nectar.
It was a privilege learning from Molly all afternoon. She took us outside the barrel room for lunch and to our suprise, the team had a special treat set up for us. Apptizers and a taste of their Rose made from Syrah. We throughly enjoyed the Tuna Poke with Pickled Onion on Wonton Crisps, Goat Cheese Cookies with Seared Mushrooms and Caesar Salad Bites. I'm fairly certain I could have made a meal out of this, but there was more to come.
The table was set in their beautiful courtyard among Sequoia trees. We were stunned to find individual menus printed just for this meal and gorgeous place settings. It had already been such an honor meeting and learning from their team, if anything we felt that WE owed them lunch!
The Chef Tohm (Caterer and Olive Oil Producer at Dry Creek Farm), prepared a menu that completely blew me away. All of his ingredients were local and fresh. The time he spent preparing this meal must have been extensive. It was phenominal to taste is food–a fancy lunch at that! on the menu:
Full Table Farm Heirloom Tomatoes, Di Stefano Burrata, Basil, Dry Creek Farm Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Glaze and Model Bakery Pain Levain.
Pairing: 2011 Sequoia Grove Chardonnay
Roasted Niman Ranch Beef Tenderloin
Italian Salsa Verde, Farro, Big Ranch Farm Sweet Corn, Summer Squash and Roasted Jimmy Nardello Peppers.
Pairing: 2009 Cambium
Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk Triple Cream, Bellwether Farms San Andreas Sheep's Milk, Redwood Hill Farm Crotin Goat's Milk, Fresh Sequoia Grove Mission Fig and Marshall's Farm Honeycomb
Paiting: Sequoia 2010 Grove Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Vanilla Panna Cotta
Berra Ranch Peaches, Elephant Heart Plums, Lemon Verbena
Assortment of Cookies: Rosemary-Olive Oil, Gingersnap, Chocolate Chip
Pairing: 2007 Sequoia Grove Dessert Wine
Chef explained each course and the producers that helped make our meal memorable. I love seeing and hearing about the relationship between farmers, purveyors and the chef!
And then they let us pick their fig tree.
I will never forget Sequoia Grove's hospitality and generosity. It was an unbelievable day and I will surely be loyal to their wines for a long, long time….starting with the 2009 Cambium I sent home to my parents. I can't wait to cook a meal worthy of that wine!