Swanson Vineyards

S is for Swanson Vineyards

Jenny Matlock

I’m joining Alphabe-Thursday ~ this week’s letter assignment is the letter S.

A stop at Swanson Vineyards for a tasting appointment on some good friends’ recommendations, was the highlight of our recent trip to Napa.

“The Swanson products and philosophy celebrate decadence with a wink — the sublime mixing of the high with the low. We glorify day-to-day living by introducing luxury products that were once considered stuffy and intimidating in a delightful and accessible manner. We encourage you to plop ice cubes in your glass of rosato during the summertime; savor the naughty combination of chocolate bonbons with estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon; or serve American caviar and potato chips with Pinot Grigio — just because you want to.”

– Alexis Swanson Traina, Creative Director, Swanson Vineyards


Vineyards:  100 acres on the valley floor, in the Oakville appellation: on Oakville Cross Road, between Opus One and Silver Oak.

 Wine Style:

Red wines: Fruity, nose forward, beautiful bouquet, complex, dominated by black fruit. Luscious and velvety in mouth feel. Long lingering finish. Drinkable upon release with enough back bone to age 5- 10 years. “Luscious, velvety and yummy.”

White wines: Swanson Vineyards places great emphasis on its wines being superb and integral complements to food and the dining table in general. As the first estate in Oakville to plant and produce Pinot Grigio, we possess a style that is decidedly purist, offering deference to the native brilliance of the grape as opposed to overwrought winemaking techniques in the cellar.


26,000 cases: Swanson Vineyards grows and produces Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Grigio as well as small lots of distinctive wines on its Oakville estate.

Cases Produced Per Year:
Merlot 14,000
Pinot Grigio 8,000
Alexis 2,000
Salon Selections 2,000


“Elizabeth Swanson, born of a Cuban mother and fifth-generation New Orleans father, grew up in the Crescent City. She is the heart and soul of Swanson Vineyards, the dreammaker, tastemaker, opinion-maker, keeper of the most special fairy dust, and head of housekeeping services.  She is known for her warm and marvelous style of entertaining and her artistic sense of design.  She also loves to garden, tap dance and attend to her private zoo, which includes 12 chickens, 6 goats, 4 cats, 2 dogs and two Sicilian burros. Keep your eye out for Elizabeth–as she comes and goes like a flash in her pastel-colored garden boots.”

“The decision to produce Merlot was the first pivotal move that enabled us to establish a distinct identity as an innovator. It was this distinction that allowed us to continue on an unconventional path, producing lesser-known varietals such as Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, and a Rosato of Syrah.  Today, with 100 vineyard acres in the Oakville appellation, Swanson is committed to outstanding and sustainable vineyard practices that nurture Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio and other small lots of distinctive varietals.”




” On July 1, 2000, Swanson Vineyards debuted the country’s first luxury wine Salon, a spectacular and completely original Parisian-inspired jewel box nestled amid a grove of sycamores in the hamlet of Rutherford, California.”


“The House of Swanson is decidedly Old World in tone yet deliciously postmodern in texture. Inspired by the great literary, political and culinary salons at the epicenter of 18th-century Paris.”

Elizabeth and Clarke Swanson became friends with Ira Yeager after meeting him at a dinner party. A permanent collection of 22 paintings from his 18th century Wine Vendor series resides in the wine salon. “In a lot of his paintings, he promises a simple joy, a happy ending. In his simplicity, there is such huge sophistication.”

 This table is beautiful, covered with glasses for our Harvey Tasting~ there is a little chocolate Bonbon on top of shell that awaits us for our Cabernet pairing. . . Made from creamy cacao melded with Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon, they are dipped in luscious Belgian dark chocolate and sprinkled with a delicate curry powder made of Chinese star anise, cumin, cloves and a touch of pink peppercorn.

You can barely make out the inlaid agate and geodes in this burl wood Morrocan table~ I wish this photo below was larger. The table was set with our stemware when we arrived, so this particular photo is not one that I took. The table is as stunning as our tasting experience was delightful.

 Ira Yeager

 I love Swanson’s philosophy:

“The allure of wine may be complex, but the philosophy of the Salon is straightforward: there are innumerable ways in which people relate to wine—and all are celebrated. Wine can be as complicated and nuanced as it is simple and refreshing. All palates and open minds are welcomed equally.”

  Inspired by the animal print napkins at the tasting, and with a nod to the agates and geodes in the tasting table, I set a tray~ for our tasting menu.

 The agate votive holder on the tray is similar in color to the geodes inlaid in the table.

 For our Chardonnay pairing~ a potato chip with a bit of creme fraiche and Mississippi cavier :-)

Leopard Tray~ Raymond Waites

Flatware~ Murval

Salad & Dinner plates, Gold & Blue~ Oneida Culanaria

Animal Print Wine Glass~ Roscher & Co.

Leopard Charger~ Centrum

Thanks to my hostesses to this week’s parties I’m linking to:

 Jenny Matlock’s Aphabe-Thursday for Alphabet Fun

 Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday

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  28 comments for “Swanson Vineyards

  1. May 26, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Beautiful winer! Great tablescape! Love the animal print wine glass – I have some leopard plates and bowls – what you have here would look nice with mine. Those napkins are so cool, too. Love it!

  2. May 26, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Thanks for taking us along on this visit to the winery. Love your tablescape with that great wine glass.

  3. May 26, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    What a beautiful place…It was fun to see Swanson Vineyards through your post. I would have loved to have seen a photo of Elizabeth Swanson… did you get to see her while you were there?

    Everything looked lovely.
    Blessings & Aloha!

  4. May 26, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    Wonderful post! I enjoyed the “tour”, and the tablescapes are gorgeous.

  5. May 27, 2010 at 1:41 am

    I really enjoyed my visit to Swansons Vineyards this morning, the topiary lady is wonderful.
    I especially like the Ira Yeagar art in wine salon and your tablescape is just gorgeous.

  6. May 27, 2010 at 3:11 am

    so obvious you simply hated this simply stunning place. How sophisticated to blog about it

  7. PJ
    May 27, 2010 at 4:49 am

    Holy Toledo, what a post! How very picturesque! And it looks like my kind of of place. Loved this.

  8. JDaniel4's Mom
    May 27, 2010 at 6:08 am

    Your photos are amazing. I love all the vibrant colors.

  9. May 27, 2010 at 6:21 am

    It’s fun to visit places like Swanson’s vineyards where there is so much to see!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Best wishes,

    Anna’s S-words

  10. May 27, 2010 at 6:52 am

    Wow! Everything is so gorgeous. Geodes in the table! I love it. The paintings are so interesting, so fresh and simple. What a neat place.

  11. mub
    May 27, 2010 at 7:33 am

    I’m not a drinker but it still looks like a really neat place to visit! You took some gorgeous photos- I really love the one that looks up at the yellow roses above the window =)

  12. May 27, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I fell in love with the vine man!

  13. May 27, 2010 at 9:45 am

    that was great fun, such whimsy!

  14. May 27, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Wow. What a stupendous stop on our little journey through Alphabe-Thursday’s Letter “S”!

    This winery was magnificent. All the little vignettes and the rich texture of the grounds and the impressionist-feeling woman draped in ivy. Just charming, charming!

    Your table was so eclectic and interesting and I really adored your mix of texture and color on this tablescape!

    I felt like I was there with you…and although I don’t drink wine you make me totally wish I did!


  15. May 27, 2010 at 11:24 am

    That was such a beautiful tour of Swansons. I envy you that you went LOL. I’ve always wanted to go to a vineyard but haven’t. We have a lot of them in Ohio where you can go to taste wine. I might just have to try it sometime but I don’t know if the ambiance would be as beautiful as Swansons ;-)

  16. May 27, 2010 at 11:26 am

    beautiful pics – my fave is the lady with the umbrella :D

  17. May 27, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Your photos are simply stunning. I just love that vine covered statue of the lady! I’ve visited many wineries, but not this one. You did such a nice job of advertising for them, that I’m now dreaming of another trip to CA and Swanson vineyards!

  18. May 27, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Wow! What a gorgeous place!

  19. jo
    May 27, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    what what beautiful pictures … it looks like a wonderful place to visit. I love the old soft blue doors against the terra cotta

  20. May 27, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    This place looks wonderful! I have only been to Napa once and it was only for a day trip. I can see that I need to go back and find this gorgeous winery! Thanks for letting me know about it.

    Best wishes,

  21. May 27, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    I have long enjoyed Swanson wines but have never visited the winery. There are just so many now in Napa, Sonoma, Calistoga, St. Helena, and neighboring areas. I can’t believe how the Valley has
    changed since I moved to San Francisco 33 years ago. I still love going up, prefereably in the
    early spring and late fall, when it is not so crowded with tourists. It is even nice in the winter.

    Thanks for the lovely presentation.

    My poetry book – Life’s Journey by Carmen Henesy – is out on Amazon!! Finally, at the age of 65, I did it!
    ( These are poems about the things that have been important to me in my journey through life, some humorous, some sad, some that may have meaning to you as well )

  22. May 27, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    pretty photos this week, too! thanks for sharing!

  23. May 28, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    what a beautiful place and a beautiful tribute! They should hire you!

  24. May 28, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Thank you for including me on your amazing vineyard visit! Your photos made me feel a part of the tour! And your tablescape and food look marvelous! Thank you again!

  25. May 29, 2010 at 12:24 am

    what a marvelous place…i can’t believe i have never heard of swanson winery. as i sit here with my glass of pinot grigio, eating bruschetta and watching the great escape, i am pining for a bit of creme fraiche, caviar and potato chips. perhaps i can pair onion dip with the chip and it will still be as charming? hardly!

  26. May 29, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    I was hoping for a picture of Elizabeth! What a lovely and engaging place. Great post!

  27. May 30, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Sorry I’m late arriving. So much going on this weekend with out of town guests. :-) I’m trying to catch up with my blog friends this morning.
    Swanson Vineyards is now on my list of places to visit next CA trip. Ira Yeager’s art is tugging at my heart strings. It’s full of old world whimsy. I really like it. Everything about this vineyard looks inviting and charming. Such attention to detail. Thanks for sharing this little jewel.
    Hope you are enjoying the holiday weekend. ~ Sarah

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