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The first vintage was the difficult 1998 vintage, and although there were troubles to get the grapes fully ripe, Pierre managed to produce two remarkably fine wines in that year. These wines still holds together, on the nose they behave like fine clarets from Bordeaux, and they even taste pretty well today, although they start to dry out a bit.
To make these fine wines, Pierre gets to select some of the finest lots, of even rows, of vines in the best of the Jackson family’s vineyards in predominately Sonoma. The Merlot grapes are mostly sourced from the outstanding 44.50 hectare Jackson Park Vineyard, situated at 165-186 meters of altitude on gently rolling slopes in the mountain above Benett Valley in Sonoma. It was planted exclusively to Merlot of Clone 181 taken from Château Petrus in Pomerol. To Pierre, that clone was essential to plant to be able to “compete” with the wine from Château Petrus.
Another very important vineyard source is the Alexander Mountain Estate in the eastern part of Alexander Valley, close to the home of the Jackson family. It’s an amazing vineyard, a patchwork of almost 200 smaller vineyard blocks stretching from 210 to 720 meters of altitude, planted to various varieties (Verité uses mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from here) in poor volcanic soils. Speaking about soils, Pierre Seillan just love the vide variation of soil types in Sonoma – which of course was one of the reasons for him to accept to work here with Jess Jackson.
“We have more different soils here than they have in total in France”, he says.
Pierre also buys grapes from Kellogg Estate at 150 to 280 meters altitude in poor volcanic soils in Knights Valley, where Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot of exceptional quality is grown.
The idea behind Verité is not to produce wines of true terroir from each mountain vineyard, but to create blends of the highest quality, inspired but the blends of Bordeaux. Although I find these wines to be, or at least mature into something very Bordeaux like, there’s one distinctive difference; I find more structure and energy (that’s due to the mineral qualities of these soils) in the Verité wines than in the bordelaise ones.
Three wines are made. La Muse is the Pomerol in the lineup, based on 82-92 percent Merlot depending on the vintage, with the balance of Cabernet Franc and just a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon. La Joie is the Pauillac blend, built on 64-75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and therefore a bit more structured, whereas the Le Désir is the Saint Emilion in the trio, a lovely wine where Merlot and Cabernet Franc make up around 80-85 percent of the blend, most often in relatively equal parts.
All wines are crafted in more or less the same way, vinified in small lots and then transferred into brand new French oak barrels to spend 14-16 months including the time for malolactic fermentation. They are all bottled without fining or filtration.