Tonight is Friday, July 10th and from 5 pm until 8 pm Ralphs downtown is featuring the wines of Sebastiani, one of California’s noble winemaking families. The Sebastiani Winery is an historic landmark dating back to 1825, when it was planted by Franciscan monks to make sacramental wine. It was purchased by Italian immigrant Samuele Sebastiani in 1904. Upon Samuele’s passing in 1944 his son August, and his wife Sylvia, bought the winery from the estate and began using the family name. It is located in what is today the heart of the town of Sonoma. The family winery thrived and became one of the most popular wineries in the world. August and Silvia Sebastiani were true pioneers in the wine industry in the Sonoma Valley. When speaking to Jim Concannon (eldest son of the founder of Concannon Winery) shortly after we opened the store, I remember his recounting of meeting August as a young child. Mr. Concannon is in the twilight of his years and has visited us at the wine tasting bar in the past. August and Silvia had three children and raised them to work in the family winery, helping and learning as production grew. Don, the youngest son, took a great interest in wine, assisting his father after school and during the summer breaks. When he completed college, Don became very involved in the business of winemaking. With hard work and a little luck, the winery became a household name in California.
A friend and I were invited to visit the town of Sonoma some time ago. While there, we were treated to a delightful experience with one of the Sebastiani Winery docents, Pierre. He met my friend and me at 10 am one morning and, while on a tour, provided us the history of the family winery. Inviting us to join him in the barrel-aging area, Pierre produced a wine thief, a long rubber hose containing a weight at one end used to siphon wine from barrels. Pierre used the thief like a professional well-schooled in his craft, selecting only the best nectar from prisons of oak cask. Deep, red wine began to flow from the barrels into our crystal glasses then quickly into our mouths. I must admit, tasting wines from barrels at ten in the morning has a special way of creating lasting memories. After the extensive tour and a stop in the gift shop, we made our way to the tasting room. Half of the room was reserved for our party of two. Pierre had opened no less than 50 of the vintage bottles produced on the estate throughout the years. What a grand selection of taste and character these wines offered! Thankfully, we had learned to spit at tastings before we got to this extravaganza, recognizing the need for staying remotely sober. As we were leaving, a lovely lady in her late years greeted us and offered a signed copy of her cookbook; I thought she was a celebrity-chef visiting the gift shop from one of the local restaurants. When she introduced herself as Silvia Sebastiani, I was stunned and honored at the same time. Silvia was sweet and kind to us, wishing us a wonderful trip across the Sonoma Valley. As we were leaving the parking lot, I noticed a massive stone house perched on the hill just above the winery and I realized this was the family home where Silvia and August (who passed in 1980) had raised their children. I thought of history and was reminded of the commitment this family has to quality and of the passion for their craft.
Sebastiani is now in the hands of the third and fourth generations of the family and they produce less than 5% of their former output. The new focus, since 2001, is on premium Sonoma County and “winery estate” wines. They enjoy an elevated reputation for producing wines that represent the unique character of Sonoma. Of special note are their two Cabernet Sauvignon-driven Bordeaux blends Cherryblock and Secolo. They also have extensive vineyard holdings in the Alexander Valley and produce a number of excellent single-vineyard varietals. Please join us tonight for a broad selection of Sebastiani Winery offerings paired with gourmet cheeses and bread. Eric Westrum, the winery representative, will be on hand to assure the uninterrupted flow of wine and to answer questions. The price of tonight’s tasting is nine dollars. Hope to see you here for Friday Happy Hour at Ralphs wine tasting bar!
Cheers, Mike the Wine Guy