Seavey Vineyard, St Helena, Napa Valley
Although one can’t be in two places at the same time, winemaker Jim Duane comes pretty darn close. On any given day you can find him working in both the vineyard and the tank room of Seavey. He tells Robb Report, “We are a small estate, so I am the one-man winemaking team.”
He was first attracted to vineyards through a fascination with agriculture. Growing up in Utah he was far from vineyards and wine, but his first project involving fermentation was making beer in high school. He continues, “I was enamored with the fermentation process and quickly realized that winemaking was the perfect combination of my interest in plants and fermentation. During college at Gonzaga University I worked at wineries in eastern Washington and then spent a year working further in New Zealand. I returned to the US and completed a master’s degree in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis before moving to Napa to start my career in 2004.”
While it’s easy to find Jim around the estate, the second generation of the Seavey family is currently operating the business side. Charley, Will, Art, Fred and Dorie Seavey are the siblings who cooperate to run the business. Charley is currently in charge of operations and leads the vineyard, winery, sales, and administrative staff. Fred and Will Seavey live on the property and manage the herds of sheep and cattle. Winemaker Philippe Melka has been Seavey’s technical consultant since he first worked there in the late 90’s.
The Seavey Estate consists of 200 acres of oak forest in which 40 acres are planted with grapevines. Jim tells Robb Report, “Seavey wines come exclusively from the estate of rugged hillside vineyard blocks. We are surrounded almost entirely by oak forest in the eastern hills of St. Helena known as Conn Valley. Aonair is the only contiguous vineyard and Bond’s Melbury Vineyard is to our south. Anderson Conn Valley is situated half a mile up the road.”
Jim produced the first vintage of Seavey in 1990, and in addition to Cabernet Sauvignon the team currently produces rosé, Chardonnay, and Merlot. Generally, Seavey wines are available exclusively from the winery but Jim is happy to offer the 2020 Caravina to 672 Club members. Regarding this release, Jim states, “The 2020 Caravina is a Cabernet Sauvignon, but is enhanced with about 4% Petit Verdot to build structure and aromatic complexity. We are very proud to have produced wine in 2020 and the Caravina is composed of 13 different vineyard blocks from the Seavey Estate, including parcels that normally compose our flagship Seavey Cabernet. We did not produce the flagship Cabernet in 2020 and that allowed us to use some of the best barrels of Cabernet in the Caravina blend. The wine was fermented using native yeasts, aged in French oak barrels for 20 months, and was bottled without filtration. Most of our customers know of Seavey from word of mouth. Often guests have discovered our wine at the Meadowood resort, which is nearby, or tried a bottle at Press restaurant in St Helena.”