Below is the article that just appeared in the LocalFlavor magazine of a tribute to JimAllen: A Jim Allen Tribute
Santa Fe lost one of its bigger-than-life wine figures on Sunday, March 5, with the passing of Jim Allen,
founder of Sequoia Grove Winery.
Jim came to Santa Fe in the early '70's as a Sociology Professor at College of Santa Fe. He built his
home atop a hill on Camino San Acacio and planted a small vineyard on the slope below it, mostly to hybrids like
Baco Noir. He started making wines from those grapes in the early '70's. The wines were...not very good.
About that time, he helped found the New Mexico Vine & Wine Society, along with John Balagna, John Lilley,
Bruce Noel (Los Luceros Cellars), Len Rosignana (Santa Fe Vineyards), Richard Jones, and myself.
It was a group of mostly home winemakers who met once a month for potluck lunches, fueled by endless bottles
of home-made wine and spirited camaraderie. These pioneers pushed the New Mexico wine industry to where
it is now.
About that time, Jim heard of my Los Alamos wine tasting group and started attending weekly.
As he was exposed to wines from around the World, he became totally smitten by the subject. He realized that
New Mexico was not the ideal venue to pursue his winemaking dreams...he had far greater ambitions.
In the late '70's, Jim announced to me his intention of quitting his day job and buying a vineyard in
the Napa Valley. I put it bluntly to him. "Jim, that's the stupidist idea I've ever heard"!! Jim was not to
be deterred by common sense in the pursuit of his dream. He purchased a 24-acre Cabernet vineyard across
Highway 29 from Robert Mondavi in 1978, brought in his brother to be the viticulturist, hired the legendary Beaulieu
winemaker, Andre Tchelistcheff, as his consultant, and...as they say...the rest is history. This history is recounted
on Jim's website (www.JamesAllenWinemaker.com
) and the Sequoia Grove site (www.SequoiaGrove.com
I made my first visit to Jim's new venture in the Spring of 1980. He and Barbara lived in the house there,
built in 1908, sheltered in a huge grove of old sequoias. Brother Steve lived in a tiny camper trailer out back.
As we walked the vineyard, Jim's excitement was palpable. He was so enamored by the overhead wind machines for
frost protection that he couldn't resist firing one up for me. The roar and the gale-force winds were impressive.
Within the hour, Jim got several calls at home from neighboring vineyards wanting to know what he knew about the
weather that they didn't know.
In 1981, he appointed a family friend from Colorado, Mike Trujillo, as his assistant winemaker. Mike was one of
the first Hispanic winemakers in the Napa Valley. Mike continues as Director of Winemaking at Sequoia Grove and
hired current winemaker, Molly Hill, in 2003. Together, they have taken Sequoia Grove to even greater heights.
The accolades that accrued to Jim and Sequoia Grove for their Cabs over the years are well documented. Jim was
an early supporter of the Santa Fe Wine&Chile Fiesta and made frequent guest appearances here. The Sequoia
Grove pouring table was always mobbed by long-time friends welcoming him back. There are plans to have a tribute
to Jim at this Fall's SFW&CF.
Jim sold Sequoia Grove to Kobrand Corporation in 2002, but continued to represent the winery at events around
the World until his retirement in 2004. Alas, failing health forced Jim's return to Santa Fe to be near his
Living in his original house off San Acacio, I, and other friends, would visit Jim on weekend afternoons to share
our wine and apps, and talk about a vast range of subjects. Oftentimes, Jim would insist on retrieving one of his
old Sequoia Grove Cabernets from his stash. Invariably, it would be met with "ohhhs" and "ahhhhs".
These afternoon soirees continued up into February. Many of the World's problems were addressed and solved
around Jim's dining table. Jim was not "just a winemaker". He had a keen intellect and an appreciation for
National and World affairs. The mischevious twinkle in his eye betrayed his Irish background.
The success of Sequoia Grove always brought me a great deal of pride, knowing that Jim had the forsight and
wisdom to ignore my original advice. With his determination and perseverance, even the most "stupid" of ideas can be
driven to success. Jim showed me that.
He will be greatly missed by me, his family, and a myriad of wine friends around the World.