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Sonoma’s Vérité opens new winery

Vérité was founded in 1998 by Jess Jackson of Jackson Family Wines and vigneron Pierre Seillan, with the aim of producing wines that combined the winemaking craft of Bordeaux with fruit from Sonoma’s premier sites. Recently, the estate unveiled its next chapter with the opening of its new winery and hospitality centre outside of Healdsburg, California.

Today, working alongside Seillan, second-generation Chris Jackson and assistant winemaker Hélène Seillan (daughter of Pierre) continue the vision of the estate, and the new winery is part of the evolution.

Like the wines, design elements pull from both France and the surrounding natural area. Nicolas Seillan (son of Pierre and brother of Hélène) is credited as the architectural creative for the project. He counts the Abbaye de Moissac in southern France as inspiration, particularly its concept of symmetry and use of cloisters.

‘This [winery] feels like it’s been here a lot longer than it has, and I think a hundred years from now, it’s going to look and feel very much the same way,’ said Jackson. The aim is to make Vérité a multi-generational wine brand. ‘Creating something that’s an architectural destination that can withstand the test of time, with that type of iconicism and that type of timelessness to it, is important.’

Design elements of the winery aim for both warmth and elegance. The stonework of both the building’s exterior as well as interior flooring is a design nod to the mineral qualities of Chalk Hill soils. At the same, the wooden beams used in the foyer’s ceiling are an ode to the surrounding forests.

The chai, the centrepiece of the winery, indeed feels like the courtyard of a European abbey – albeit enclosed – with balconies encircling the upper level. Barrels were just installed at the end of March, the final piece of the project.

Nearby, three separate cellars will store future vintages of Vérité’s signature cuvées: La Joie, Le Désir and La Muse. ‘We open and taste library wines quite often so we can advise our collectors how different vintages are evolving and showing in the current moment,’ said Hélène Seillan.

‘Library wines are an important part of our hospitality programme and our collector programme, so having a full library onsite and visually showcasing it is really important. We have a long-term vision for Vérité, so when the next generation is here making the Vérité wines, we’ll have a space to showcase and enjoy vintages going back to the beginning,’ Seillan added.

With the new building, Vérité increased its capacity for hosting guests with several tasting parlours on both the upper and lower levels. Large windows on the ground floor look out into the vineyards while infusing the front room tasting spaces with natural light. Further back, a large table on the mezzanine level overlooks the chai.

Downstairs spaces, designed to host collector events, include a dining area that can seat up to 18 guests as well as a nook intended for smaller parties.

The new building contains a large kitchen and Vérité is able to offer a culinary component to its tastings, something the winery couldn’t do before. Options range from small bites served with a flight of the current vintage to a three-course wine-and-food pairing option. The team plans to host more dinner and large-scale events as well.

Along with growing their hospitality programme, the expanded space means Jackson and the Seillans can experiment with new wines. Currently, three stainless steel eggs sit in the back of the barrel room, each containing a single variety from a single cru. Jackson and the Seillans plan to release these wines through their direct-to-consumer channel in Spring 2024 and if successful, may grow the portfolio of these mono-varietal, vineyard bottlings in the future.

Jackson wants the physical space to reflect their winemaking philosophies; timeless is an oft-used expression when speaking about the brand.

‘Everything we do in wine is thought of with decades of consideration as to where it’s going to be [20, 30, 50 years from now]. It’s more forward-thinking and multi-generational thinking, in the Old World sense,’ he said.

However, he wants the ideas of ingenuity and creativity – two markers often associated with New World winemaking – to also be expressed. ‘Vérité is also very American in the sense that, in France, we would never see apex micro crus blended together,’ he continues. ‘They’re all separate. But in Sonoma County, that’s exactly what we’re doing, by blending top sites from throughout Chalk Hill, Knights Valley, Alexander Valley and beyond. So it’s got that creativity of expression and liberty of expression at the heart of it.’

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