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Just Over the Hill in Wine Country; Sebastiani

Sonoma County's oldest continuously operating winery, Sebastiani, was founded in 1904 by Tuscan native, Samuele Sebastiani. He was able to keep the winery alive during prohibition, the downfall of many US wineries, by producing sacramental wine for the church. The Sebastiani winery stayed in the family for three generations, and was just recently sold in 2011 to Foley Family Wines. While Sebastiani has been making serious wine for many years, the purchase is further increasing the quality, as Foley has decreased production, decreased yields, and is focusing on single vineyard wines.

Samuele Sebastiani
Linda Foxworth

Sebastiani uses sustainable farming methods such as vineyard ground cover, dry farming, and organic fertilizer. The winery uses four different types of oak, Hungarian, French, American and Russian. Different oak will give a little different flavor to the wine. American oak will give a vanilla flavor to the wine. French oak gives aromas of toasted almond. Hungarian oak will add flavors of chocolate and coffee. Russian oak will add spice. Sebastiani is, also a big believer in using cork. Cork allows the wine to breathe which is very important to an aging wine. A white wine, however, because it does not need to age, is fine with a screw top. The oak and the cork and the lower yields all add to the quality of Sebastiani wines, but the biggest factor in their wine quality is the longer hang time for the grapes. The grapes are allowed to fully mature, giving greater depth of flavor to the wines produced.

The Sauvignon Blanc is crisp with flavors of guava and lemongrass. It is aged 100% in stainless. The Chardonnay is fermented in stainless but aged in American, French and Hungarian oak, giving it a rich caramel and vanilla flavor along with the bright apple fruit. The Pinot Noir is light, but with an earthy anchor. It is red fruit and smoke, spending two to four years in oak. The Zinfandel, Sebastiani's first wine made back in 1904, is aged in both American and Hungarian oak for close to 16 months, giving it a black pepper flavor along with its red fruit. The Cabernet Sauvignon has a soft black cherry flavor with hints of tea and toasty American oak making it a perfect wine to sip beside a winter fire.

Sebastiani is just east of Sonoma town square. They have a beautiful tasting room that is both modern, but with a nod to the rich history of the winery. They offer free tours of the winery. They are located at 389 Fourth Street East in Sonoma. www.sebastiani.com