The 20 year partnership between Jess Jackson, Barbara Banke and Pierre Seillon has seen them become ambassadors of the region. Seillan’s micro-cru philosophy saw him plant 36 different Merlot blocks throughout Sonoma in 1999, these days he takes 120–140 samples from three Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc) grown on different soils throughout Sonoma. The final cuvee of La Muse (a Merlot-dominant blend) in flavour and structure profile is just not possible in St Emilion.
According to Seillan, the huge potential he recognised in the terroir of Sonoma was about more than just the variety of soil profiles. It was important how the topsoil and roots affected the flavours and structure of the grapes that grow there. Exploring the vineyards, the first thing Seillan did was pick and smell the grass growing in the top soil and the fallen leaves from the nearby trees. This told him everything he needed to know about the potential of the vineyard site. From smelling the grass, he could gauge the intensity level of the topsoil which would reflect the flavour intensity produced by the grapes. From smelling the fallen leaves from nearby trees, he understood the intensity that could be found in the roots of potential vines planted in the same soil. This intensity would reflect the structure profile of the wines produced. So different were his findings, in comparison to analysis of the grasses and leaves grown in Bordeaux, that he realised his winemaking must be modified to match the intensity of Sonoma fruit and the more silky, elegant tannins they produce.
While the three styles of Vérité are based on the Left and Right Bank blends of Bordeaux, Seillan insists they are no copies. The variety of terroir in Sonoma allows for much more varietal expression. Also the Pacific Ocean has a huge effect, regulating the temperature every day and providing a strong breeze in the vineyards – something not replicated in Bordeaux. Equally, the steep slopes in Sonoma (some at a 35% gradient) are very different to the relatively flat landscape of Bordeaux. The result is detailed, elegant and profound wines, marked much more by the distinct terroir of Sonoma.