St. Helena/Napa Valley
S. E. Chase Cellars pays homage to Sarah Esther Chase Bourn, a woman who, like the wine which bears her name, demonstrated incredible strength of character, an indelible personality, and a take-notice presence.
The wife a wealthy businesswoman, Sarah Esther Chase discovered the Napa Valley while visiting the area's spas in the late 1800's. But it was a tragedy that compelled her to create a home in the valley. After the loss of a young son, Sarah persuaded her husband William Bourn to purchase the Madrona Estate, as it was known, on the southwestern edge of St. Helena.
With a strong will and determination Sarah turned the property into a working ranch. In addition to the vineyard that already existed, Sarah added chickens, olive trees, wheat, corn and even a silk worm farm to her holdings.
A colorful figure in the community, who was noted as much for her travels to Europe with her daughters as her goings-on at Madrona, Sarah's legacy became the vineyard that first attracted her to the property.
Upon the death of her husband the estate management of the estate was turned over to her son William Bourn II, who was as industrious as his mother. William perpetuated Sarah's impact on the area by selling the family grapes to Napa Valley's first winemaker, Charles Krug. It was the start of what would become a long-standing family tradition.
Not content to only sell grapes, William wanted to produce wine and create a place to do so for himself and his neighbors. The answer was to build a co-op for wine production and storage. In 1888 he built Greystone Cellars, the historic and formidable stone building at the northern end of St. Helena.
In 1894 when phyloxera wiped out much of Napa Valley's vineyards, including Sarah's, William sold Greystone to the Christian Brothers. Today it is home to the venerable Culinary Institute of America.
Less than ten-years after the vineyard went fallow William's sister, Maude and her husband William Alston Hayne planted the eponymously named vineyard with zinfandel, and other varietals. Today the Zinfandel vines still thrive. The head-pruned Zinfandel vines are dry-farmed in the sandy-gravelly soil that produces Napa Valley's most exuberant and robust zinfandel grapes.
In 1998, Sarah's great-great grandson, Andy Simpson and his wife Pam Simpson harvested grapes from a twelve-acre parcel within the Hayne Vineyard and created their first vintage of S. E. Chase Family Cellars Zinfandel. Using a garage built next to the property's original white cottage as a winery, the couple held their first crush in September 2002.
S.E. Chase Family Cellars Zinfandel vibrantly expresses the rich history of the Hayne Vineyard and the passion of the Chase family that has tenderly cared for the grapes grown in one of the world's premier vineyards for more than a century.