When Jess Jackson asked vigneron Pierre Seillan to make a wine as good as Château Pétrus, the famed Frenchman smiled and replied, “Why not make one that’s better?”
From just about any other winemaker, this kind of response would have been considered arrogance bordering on delusion, but for a man of Seillan’s impressive career – with more than 50 vintages under his belt – it was more a statement of intent.
As the head of a US winemaking giant, Jackson naturally wanted the wine to be grown on US soil, but with the character of a Pomerol great. Sonoma County provided just the right combination of vineyards to begin working on this masterpiece. Appellations including Bennett Valley, Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill and Knights Valley combine to make Sonoma one of the most diverse winegrowing regions on earth.
Thanks to the might of the Pacific, the weather flows from west to east, helping foster microclimates that are warm enough for fully ripening red bordeaux varieties, but cool enough to retain the natural acidity needed to make age-worthy wines.
The combination of old-world techniques with new-world terroir can often lead to heady results. The first vintage of Vérité La Muse in 1998 was the embodiment of this – ruby-red seduction in a glass.
But this merlot-dominant wine was not the only result of Seillan’s first efforts. As part of his creative process, he had been working with a large number of what he coined “micro crus” – no fewer than 50 vineyard blocks across four different appellations.
While his initial brief had been to take on the merlot-dominant wines of Pomerol, he discovered that he had enough quality cabernet sauvignon to take the fight to the top crus of the Medoc and Pauillac, too. Vérité La Joie was the result – a powerful, rich and complex concoction full of forest fruits.
Fast forward a couple of years, and a third Vérité was launched – Le Desir – to celebrate the new millennium. This time, the balances tipped towards cabernet franc – and the likes of Cheval Blanc et al were now in Seillan’s sights.
The trinity of wines have since racked up 15 Robert Parker centuries – that’s more 100-pointers than any other Californian bordeaux variety in history. Not bad for a label that’s only been around for two decades.
Vérité is now official supplier to Guards Polo Club, including the royal box, club house and official marquees. (Finally, a good reason to go to the polo.) But more importantly, it has – in a remarkably short period of time – entered the wine hall of fame, already heralded as a modern great.
To misquote Keats, beauty is truth, Vérité is beauty.