The Cabernet Tasting you Will Never Forget

VinoVisit Sequoia Grove Cabernet Challenge
Sequoia Grove is a family-owned winery founded in 1979 in a 110-year old barn beneath a grove of Sequoia trees in Rutherford, Napa Valley. The winery is rich with tradition. Widely known for great wines, their “A Taste for Cabernet” experience is one of the most well rounded Cabernet immersions you will find anywhere. Additionally, Sequoia Grove has released a brand new experience for small groups called “Cabernet Culinary Challenge” that I had the chance to experience. The new experience showcases their Cabernet tasting and adds a one-of-a-kind food pairing experience to it at the end.  VinoVisit Sequoia Grove Cabernet Challenge.jpg 2 The immersive “A Taste For Cabernet” tasting teaches you about the wide range of Cabernets that Sequoia Grove makes, and is bookable on The “Cabernet Culinary Challenge” playfully tests your food and wine pairing knowledge and is only available to be booked over the phone because it normally requires a larger party of 8 people and has many moving parts. You can find all the details for booking the culinary challenge at the end of the blog. Let’s begin! 

Experience 1: A Taste For Cabernet

This is an educational experience that teaches you what tastes work well with Cabernet Sauvignon and which ones are utter disasters. We were all gathered around a table in a private room, elegantly lit by the sun. In front of each of us were 5 glasses of wine filled with different types of Cabernet. In the middle of the glasses, there was a plate with a pinch of sea salt, two grapes and a piece of lemon. I was filled with excitement! VinoVisit Sequoia Grove Cabernet Challenge Dean, our host, explained the difference between the five Cabernets according to their unique combination of soils, topography, microclimates and more. He showed us maps and photos from each site while presenting soil samples in a jar to illustrate the difference in color and minerals present that effect the flavor profile of the grape. We had the opportunity to compare and contrast the diversity of styles, side by side. It was a great way to learn. VinoVisit Sequoia Grove Cabernet Challenge.jpg3
He showed us maps and photos from each site while presenting soil samples in a jar to illustrate the difference in color and minerals present that effect the flavor profile of the grape.
The first Cabernet we tasted was a Lamoreaux Vineyard 2009. The smell was fruity and it tasted like raspberry. It was light in the mouth and ended on a velvety warm note. The second one was a Christian Vineyard 2012, more tannic with a hint of baked cherry. Third, we sipped a Tonella Vineyard 2010, it was light with a dust note, that was described as “Rutherford Dust”, which adds to the earthy aftertaste and softens the fruit. The fourth was a Stagecoach Vineyard 2011. It was strong, earthy and masculine with a well-rounded long finish. Finally, we ended with the top-tier Cambium 2011. It had soft spice, elegant fruit, a balanced palate feel, and powerful tannic structure with a bouquet hinting of tobacco and cherry notes.  VinoVisit Sequoia Grove Cabernet Challenge.jpg4
Each wine was a masterful. I felt like I got to intimately know each of the vineyards represented. Of the Cabernet tastings I have done to date, this one stands head and shoulders above the rest. 
After tasting the five Cabernets, it was time for a little pairing lesson with the Stagecoach Vineyard. Cabernet is meant to be enjoyed with food. Dean explained that to make a good match, it is important to taste what we love in the Cabernet after we eat something with it. We used 3 different flavors to understand the wine: for sweet (grape), sour (lemon) and saltiness (sea salt). One of them would break the taste of the wine, and we had to guess which one while tasting. The goal was to find the balanced association which would enhance the wine flavors. I won’t tell you the answer; you will have to figure it out by experiencing it!  

Book Your “A Taste For Cabernet” Tasting At Sequoia Grove Now!

$50 Per Person

1:15 Hour Duration

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Experience 2: The Cabernet Culinary Challenge

This experience covers most of the educational elements of “A Taste For Cabernet” but adds a hands-on experience. Dean divided us into three teams of four persons. Each team had a large gorgeous platter filled with around twenty different toppings and a bowl of crostini (baguette slices brushed with oil, salt & pepper and baked). Our challenge was to create the best crostini to pair with the Stagecoach Cabernet. Each team would submit their perfect crostini, after trying as many combinations as possible. It was hard work, but someone had to do it. I was really excited, but I knew it would be hard to be impartial as I wanted to taste everything on the platter it looked so delish! For instance, there was hummus, prosciutto, dry jack cheese, truffle mousse pate, capers, lemon wedges, cured dried salmon and much more. We had to combine those ingredients and prepare samples for the judges. There would be one winning team, so the competition began. I love challenges, food and creativity so I took the experience pretty seriously. Plus, as a French person, I don’t joke about food. VinoVisit Sequoia Grove Cabernet Challenge.jpg6
Everyone’s senses in the room were highly aroused. The combination of the food, the wine, and the task at hand had created electricity in the air. Now it was time for the competition…
Our pairing lesson helped us understand what flavors paired the best with Cabernet, and those which didn’t. We tasted the mouthwatering ingredients one by one on the delicious crostinis between two sips of Cab. What a torture! (wink) After tasting every topping, we ended up with a consensus for our perfect crostini: we spread out a thin layer of Avocado puree on the crostini, added a slice of Prosciutto and topped it with some sliced Kalamata Olives. No matter the outcome, we loved our creation. We made three of them for the judges, and waited for the other teams to finish. VinoVisit Sequoia Grove Cabernet Challenge.jpg7
We spread out a thin layer of Avocado puree on the crostini, added a slice of Prosciutto and topped it with some sliced Kalamata Olives. No matter the outcome, we loved our creation….
The suspense was real. To my dismay, our team didn’t win as the competition was tough. The winning team well deserved their victory thanks to their creativity. They made a combination of Avocado puree, Spicy Brown Mustard, Truffle Mousse Pate, Vella Reserve Dry Jack Cheese, and Capers. After this fun competition, we all sat in the patio to enjoy some great salads made from local fresh ingredients. To my surprise, the event made us hungry and those fresh healthy salads perfectly fit our needs. sequoia This experience was refreshingly unique and I loved every minute. I learned so much about wine and food pairing. This event is a wonderful way to bring people together. If you want to have a blast with your friends or your colleagues, I strongly recommend this experience! The Cabernet Culinary Challenge is a great event for corporations/groups that are looking for an interactive team building activity. If you are a wine enthusiast, a gourmet and you like challenge, this event is for you! Here is some useful info for booking the Sequoia Grove Cabernet Culinary Challenge:
  • Cost: $100 per person
  • Add a salad lunch for an additional $25
  • Location: 8338 St Helena Highway, Rutherford, CA 94573
  • Total Duration: 2.5 hours
  • Best to book in the morning
  • Minimum of 8 guests – Maximum of 25 (larger groups are possible depending on the date)
  • Indoor seating up to 14 – Larger groups may be hosted on the outdoor patio
  • Reservations contact: Dean Busquaert – phone: 707-494-0905 – email:
  • Call 2-3 days before your expected tasting date
Louise Veron – Marketing and Social Media Coordinator at Originally from Bordeaux (France), I moved to the Napa Valley to work for last February. I just finished my trilingual Master’s degree in Wine Tourism and International Marketing and graduated with honors. As a real food and wine lover, I’m enjoying exploring the area and relating my discoveries from a very French point of view.

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