S is for Swanson Vineyards
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.
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:
Pinot Grigio 8,000
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.
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 :-)