In Sonoma County, a French father-daughter team crafts some of the most collectible California wines.


If you could dream up the ideal talent and terroir for making extraordinary red wines, you’d likely start with an experienced Frenchman or a Frenchwoman, for that matter. There would be a touch of Italy on the resume, and despite deep roots in France, you’d extend access to some of the best-growing sites in Sonoma County, including the stretch of the Mayacamas Mountain range all the way toward Napa.

Which is to say, you would dream up something very close to Vérité, a winery that, for the past 25 years, has been producing some of the most exquisite blends in the New World. Established in 1998, when Pierre Seillan was lured to the West Coast after four decades at his family estate in Gascony, in top Bordeaux fields, Vérité focuses on three different cuvées—boldly named La Muse (“inspiration”), La Joie (“joy”), and Le Désir (which needs no translation). These are the products of Seillan’s micro-cru concept—an intense focus on the subtle variations of soil composition, sun angle, microclimate and elevation, along with numerous other elements combine to produce grapes of singular identity. Each micro-cru is harvested and fermented separately, then aged in custom-toasted French oak barrels, resulting in literally hundreds of unique components to deploy in the blends.

What could possibly improve the flavor? Seillan believes his daughter, Hélène, who is now working by his side, is certain to add vibrancy:“I spent my childhood in both France and California, surrounded by family and friends for whom winemaking was as much a passion as it was a profession,” she says. “I had an early interest in art and the culinary world, but after working my first harvest in Bordeaux in 2006, I knew I would follow in my father’s footsteps.” She means that quite literally, having studied Viticulture and Oenology at the Institut Rural de Vayres in Bordeaux, splitting her time between Sonoma County and Saint-Émilion before moving full-time to help lead winemaking at Vérité.

The makers leverage more than 50 micro-crus fruits across four appellations. Hélène describes the diverse results as a deliciously complex challenge. “The size of each micro-cru is defined not by us but solely by nature,” she says.

Vérité produces wines with a balance of power of finesse found only in the greatest of the world’s bottlings. La Muse is a profound, Merlot-based blend out of eastern Sonoma reminiscent of the great Pomerols of Bordeaux’s Right Bank. La Joie, primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, grown along the steep hillsides and volcanic benches of the Mayacamas Mountains, is as commanding as any Bordeaux titan—and overlaid with a New World exuberance. Cabernet Franc, a grape currently enjoying a global renaissance, leads the way in Le Désir. The pronounced minerality of the varietal, mingled with robust and aromatic fruit, makes for an astonishing wine, encouraging a slow and luxurious pace in its drinking.

Of course, the best action is to book a ticket to Sonoma, where the winery’s new tasting room is ready with vintages more suitable for drinking now. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the two masters working their magic. “I love spending time with my father in the vineyards,” says Hélène, “He has an incredible instinct, and I really enjoy learning from him. We walk the vineyard blocks and observe Mother Nature.” A perfect fusion, indeed.


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