The idea for Sebastiani Vineyards started when Samuele Sebastiani, a stonemason by trade, emigrated from the Tuscany region of Italy to California. Sebastiani mined the Sonoma hills for cobblestones that were used in the construction of San Francisco’s streets. He saved his money and bought land in Sonoma County to start his winery in 1904.
Sebastiani Winery & Vineyards is located just blocks from Sonoma’s historic downtown plaza. In the beginning, the winery made wine for the people of Sonoma and its restaurants. When Prohibition hit, this winery continued to operate, making sacramental and medicinal wines. The joke was how many people became religious in this period.
With over a century of winemaking in Sonoma County, the winery focuses on crafting premium wines. Their current winemaker, Mark Lyon, has been at Sebastiani for over 40 years. Under his direction, Sebastiani has been making quality wines from sub-appellations—regions within an AVA that possess distinct microclimates or terrains that give grapes grown there recognizable characteristics—like Alexander Valley, Carneros, Russian River and individual lots in Sonoma County like their Cherryblock vineyards. In 2008, Bill Foley purchased Sebastiani and began taking steps to enhance wine quality. Foley and Lyon worked together to buy new winemaking equipment and barrels, lower their yields, and purchase additional vineyards to guarantee superior fruit. If you are around the city of Sonoma, stop at their tasting room; the winery is not far from the square.
The winemaker notes that the 2013 Sonoma County Cabernet is dark ruby in color with enchanting aromatics ranging from blackberry to mild cassis that interplay with hints of coconut and mild leafiness. The flavors are bold and ripe, including black fruits on first attack followed by layers of coconut and a vanilla finish due to oak barrel aging. This medium-bodied wine is richer and more structured than the 2012. This Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with broiled or grilled steak, pasta in tomato sauce, and broiled or grilled lamb chops. It retails for $24.99.
The 2013 Sonoma County Chardonnay has a rich gold color with beautiful aromas of lemon curd, modest yellow apple and caramelized vanilla, according to the winemaker. It’s a medium bodied wine that rests nicely on the palate, exudes flavors of bright apple and butterscotch, and finishes with round notes of toasted oak from the barrel fermentation. The winemaker also calls it “a nice wine that is perfectly balanced between bright citrus fruits and oak flavors.” This Chardonnay complements chicken roasted with herbs, lobster with drawn butter, oysters on the half shell, pasta with cream sauce, broiled or grilled salmon, scallops, mussels, and shrimp in garlic butter. It retails for $19.99.
For the 2012 Sebastiani Gravel Bed Red, the winemaker notes intense aromas of dried olives and blackberries, with underlying hints of mineral and espresso. Powerful, dusty Cab flavors with concentrated fruit flavors make this a very dark wine, with lots of fruit on the nose and the palate, but also very present tannins. With fruit sourced from the iconic Cherryblock vineyard, this fantastic blend is sure to become one of your new favorites. The winemaker strongly recommends “staying ahead of the curve and securing a case or two, before the rest of the world catches on.” This blend pairs well with hearty cheeses, broiled or grilled lamb chops, pasta in tomato sauce, pizza or steaks. It retails for $35.99.
Sebastiani wines can be found at Acme Fresh Markets, Papa Joe’s, The Wine Reserve of Medina, Mustard Seed Market, Riverside Wine & Imports, Heinen’s, Buehler’s Fresh Foods, Regency and other fine wine retailers in the Greater Akron area.
Wine Wisdom: When assessing the quality of a bottle of wine, in a majority of cases, the most important consideration is the wine’s place of origin—also known as its appellation. Examples range from the very broad—“California,” as an example—to the very specific—“Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley,” as an example.