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Seamus Wines – An Unfolding Wine Story

Let’s start with a question.  What do you get when you mix the following things together?

– A father with a career worth of experience in corporate financial operations, negotiation and generally being the most sensible person in the room at any meeting.
– A son with a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University, an early interest in brewing beer and contacts at some of the best vineyards in California.
– Savannah, Georgia.
– San Francisco, California.
– A traditional Gaelic name.
– A desire to make great wine.

If you read the title of this blog it comes as no surprise that the answer to the question is: Seamus Wines!  We first ran into Seamus, and it’s father and son team of Jim Foley Sr. and Jim Foley Jr., at the 2014 Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival.  We were impressed with their wines, and equally with their passion.  It’s very clear this duo takes this very seriously.  We talked at length with them in Newport, as well as during follow on conversations over the past few months.  Actually they’re the kind of people you’d want to hang out with over a few beers, or a glass of wine, which is something we hope to do the next time we get to Savannah.

Seamus (pronounced Shay-mus) Wines produces a range of varietals, as well as a red blend, from fruit sourced from some of the best vineyards in the great wine grape areas of California.  Napa, Sonoma and Monterrey provide the ingredients for their small batch production.  Varietals include Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as their blended California Cuvée.  The Cuvée is interesting and delicious.  You don’t find many people producing a Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon blend.  In fact, I can’t remember trying another one.     We had the 2011 Cuvée, which was 60% Grenache, and it was excellent, but more on the wines later.

Jim Sr. spent his career as an accountant and contract negotiator, working with some of the biggest names in the power and energy business.  He frequently spent his time translating between the engineers and the

Jim Sr. hand numbering bottles

Jim Sr. hand numbering bottles

financial people, something I am fairly familiar with and not always an easy thing to do.  Jim Sr. called himself a “numerical engineer” which is a pretty apt description, but getting people on opposite sides of a negotiation table to agree is more the work of a magician at times.  Yet those skills should work very well as he guides the business side of Seamus Wines.  He’s learning the in and outs of the wine trade along the way, and their progress is certainly impressive to date.

The wine making part of this equation is Jim Foley Jr.  He graduated from

Jim Jr. - the winemaker

Jim Jr. – the winemaker

Johnson & Wales with a degree in culinary arts, but ended up out on the west coast with a college buddy starting up restaurants.  Some twists and turns eventually led Jim Jr. to an internship at CrushPad, a custom facility (and one of the first) where small producers could make their wine without the start up expense of standing up their own production facility.  He also spent some time brewing beer, and it was during this time that Jim Jr. met many of the area vineyard owners, cementing relationships that today allow him to get into these prime parcels and grab small batches of premium fruit.

If Seamus was producing 50,000 cases a year they might have a much tougher time getting this quality level of fruit, but with their relatively modest size they don’t get in the way of the vineyard’s larger clients.  While unlikely to ever get anywhere near that 50,000 case level, they did double production in 2014 to 42 barrels, and will be over 1000 cases total for this harvest.  The wines are fermented and resting happily in their oak or stainless homes.  Jim Jr. says he is very happy with the early results, so we all have some good things to look forward to.

At Newport we sampled the following:

2013 Sauvignon Blanc – this wine was very, very smooth.  A cold and slow fermentation produces a label 13 SBdifferent style than your typical Sauvignon Blanc.  Tropical fruit dominates, and there are no hard edges or green notes anywhere to be found.  Excellent stuff, and it made our Top White Wines list from the Newport event (you can read about that here).

2011 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir – this was all about the clean and razor sharp fruit that was front and center and pretty much everywhere else too.  Yummy.

2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – this was sourced from a 20 acre vineyard in Sonoma.  It’s dark label reserve cabred, with dark fruits, impressive depth and excellent length.  Very much a quality wine.  Not cheap, but fairly typically priced for a small producer California Reserve.

2011 California Cuvée Red Wine – as mentioned previously, this is 60% Grenache and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It presents spice and red fruits, with the SEAMUSW WT105112CFspice lingering nicely.  The tannins are well integrated and a very satisfying finish rounds out the experience.  This is quite good indeed.

It looks like those are still available except for the Pinot.  Also available from Seamus now are a 2011 and 2012 Chardonnay as well as the 2013 Pearl Pinot Gris.  Everything we’ve tried to date we have like a lot.

We’re definitely fans of Seamus wines.  Others are jumping on the bandwagon, as they’ve added new market areas in the past year and are now in six states.  We just saw a Facebook notice that they’re at a store in New Jersey, so it does seem to be spreading!  You can always order directly as well, at least if you live in a civilized state that allows direct shipment.  On the west coast you can visit their tasting room in San Francisco.

This past year has seen Seamus support Wine and Food Festivals in Crested Butte and Savannah, with an invitation to the Sarasota Chef’s Tour also on the table.  Jim Jr’s experience with food and restaurants makes pairing his wine with great food a natural thing to do.  I would expect more events, more excellent wines and ever greater reach for the boys from Seamus.  This is only the beginning.

You can buy Seamus wines in Rhode Island, although you might have to have your local wine shop order them.  You can visit Seamus on their website at www.seamuswines.com.  We’ll definitely be keeping tabs on the new offerings from the Jims and reporting on the results.  If you’re in Savannah we recommend dinner at the Sapphire Grill (which we love) and a bottle of Seamus!

A votre sante!

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