Many entrepreneurs dream of creating their own wine business. Pierre Seillan, Vigneron of Vérité wines shares the California based, notable brand’s success story, which includes notching up no less than fifteen 100 point scores from Robert Parker Wine Advocate.
Q: Could you tell us about Vérité wines and your winemaker’s philosophy – you describe yourself as a “servant of the soil” – what do you look for in the earth in order to grow vines?
A: Vérité, is one of the esteemed wineries in Jackson Family Wines portfolio, located in Sonoma County, California and produces three reputable Bordeaux-inspired wines – La Muse, La Joie and Le Désir – that represent a meticulously formed union of grape varieties, climate, soil expression and winemaking technique.
The wines of Vérité, French for “truth,” are the result of a combination of old world experience and new world fruit. Each wine is a distinct blend of unique components harvested from small vineyard blocks, culminating in a meticulously formed union of grape varieties, climate, soil, expression and winemaking technique. I refer to this methodology as droit du sol, “right of the soil.”.
I am a vigneron, not a wine maker, which means I am a servant of the soil, working with 100’s of different micro crus. The soil make-up is my inspiration and then I analyse the topography, elevation, vegetation, climate in terms of wind and rainfall each year, levels of heat during the growing season, position to the sun… My understanding and sensitivity of these elements is what makes the difference but as soon as you think you have the knowledge, you have more to learn.
It is the diversity of the micro crus that I have finessed over many years, that allows me of course to create the quality and complexity of the Vérité wines but also the essential style of Vérité. Quality without style doesn’t mean anything. It is the style that is the reference of the quality and the wines can age for 50 years which makes them very collectible.
Q: Vérité wines have received many plaudits around the world including fifteen 100 point scores from Robert Parker Wine Advocate. What is the secret of these wines’ success?
A: The scores are an indication of the wines quality and stature. The secret of success is in the glass! The wines have a signature of impeccable balance and texture; moreover they are drinkable when first released, even though they can also age superbly for decades. Our wines age very well, they have the weight and foundation to age for many years and are deemed to be outstanding investor wines.
Q: What is your current vintage like?
A: Our current vintage is 2016 and the growing season proved, once again, the importance of pruning. By adapting our pruning techniques to each micro-cru, after several years of drought, we worked in concert with Mother Nature to produce grapes that would result in elegant, age-worthy wines in the signature styles of La Muse, La Joie and Le Désir.
While we experienced some heat spikes in July, the temperatures during the summer growing season were moderate with some cooler days in late August. This provided the ideal conditions for slower ripening, resulting in less sugar accumulation and producing good acidity in the grapes.
The harvest took place within a two-week period across all four appellations. This was faster than normal, but necessary in order to preserve the natural acidity in the grapes and to prevent excess sugar, which are important for achieving balanced, elegant wines.
We are very pleased with the 2016 vintage as its sophistication and finesse shine through. These wines will age extremely well.
Q: What was it about Sonoma County that so inspired you?
A: Vérité embodies the timeless traditions of France and the limitless possibilities of California. Sonoma County is one of the most diverse winegrowing regions on earth. Due to the influence of the Pacific Ocean, the climate flows from west to east, rather than from north to south. The eastern inland appellations are warm, dry, and ideal for Bordeaux varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. The microclimates in each appellation are warm enough to fully ripen red Bordeaux varieties, but cool enough to retain the natural acidity needed to make timeless, age-worthy wines.
Q: Climate change is the buzz topic of the moment – how have you had to change how you grow vines in the USA since you first started and what innovations are you looking to introduce in the future to safeguard the vineyards?
A: The creation of a great wine takes a long time, so you need to anticipate long term climate patterns as well. I first anticipated Global Warming by choosing Sonoma for Vérité. Napa would have been the obvious choice for creating a very fine, complex quality wine but I knew it would be too hot for the Bordeleais style I had in mind. I needed a cooler place for growing Cabernet Franc and Merlot, varieties that were not being talked about 20 years ago in the US. I chose mountain sites, away from the East. Again, this was a reaction to the changing, warmer climate. We also preserve the ecosystem by not overplanting, and minimise the use of water through micro filtration, reusage and micro irrigation. We also use wind. We have small blowers in the vineyard which stop the frost from settling – they move the air around instead. It’s very rewarding.
Q: What has been the best glass of wine you have every drunk and why?
A: I love so many wines! I love port, I like champagne. A beautiful armagnac and a sauterne… a fantastic pinot noir and of course, Bordeaux.
I love Vérité, tasting the nutrients of the soil from so many micro crus from years ago… I love it. Especially the cooler vintages such as 2011 and 1998. I like aged wines and so a glass of my first vintage of Vérité, is the best!
Q: What will be your wine of choice on Christmas Day?
A: Probably a magnum of Vérité 2002 La Muse. Or 1998; my first vintage in California. I would finish with a beautiful Armagnac. I don’t smoke but a really, fine Armagnac with a cigar is a perfect way to end a festive lunch. I am fascinated with the blending of a fine cigar, or a very fine perfume… it is the synergy & finesse of blending that creates the style, just like for Vérité.
Visit https://www.veritewines.com for further information.