Napa Weekend: Swanson Vineyards
Swanson Vineyards was the second destination on our weekend trip to Napa. It was also the only winery were I paid full price for the tasting and after noting how much many of the other wineries charged, at $55 per person, it was among the most expensive tastings I have ever encountered. I’m sure there are more expensive places but I didn’t go to them on this trip.
The question is: was it worth it? Definitely. Swanson wasn’t just the wines but rather the whole experience, which differs from many of the mainstream wineries in the area. From our host, Eric Jensen, greeting us in the parking lot with a glass of of their 2007 Rosato to the intimate group of eight people including the host gathered around an ornately decorated table overflowing with stemware, everything about the experience at Swanson was first-rate.
In addition to the tasting notes, vineyard map and other brochures about the products and winery, our host made an attempt to give us a little insight about each wine along with fun facts about the tasting room. I say “attempt” because we were having so much fun meeting new people and just talking amongst ourselves that we had to take turns redirecting our attention back to our host.
Each person had their own cheese plate with portions of Mimolette Vieux, Toma Valsesia, and Burmuda Triangle along with varietal specific glasses for each wine. To compliment the citrus and apple of their 2007 Chardonnay they also served a bite of wild American Hackleback caviar and crème fraîche on top of a potato chip served on a scallop shell. With the quality of the presentation, I looked forward to tasting their red wines. It was one of the few places I took notes on the wine so I’ll give my impressions on what I tasted.
2005 Swanson Vineyards Merlot
Deep brick color with notes of spice and smoke with blackberry and blueberry flavors. Full-bodied with round tannins, smooth acidity and a long finish. I’m not a big Merlot fan but this was impressive.
2005 Swanson Vineyards Sangiovese
Medium garnet color and an aromatic floral nose with flavorful palette of plum, cherry and clove. Smooth acidity and soft tannins lead to a medium long finish.
2005 Swanson Vineyards Alexis
This signature Cabernet Sauvignon had a wonderful bouquet of licorice, vanilla and violets and structured complex palette of black fruits, anise, fig and black olive. Chewy and balanced wtih a very long warm finish. Drinks nicely now, but should also age gracefully.
2005 Swanson Vineyards Tardiff
This late-harvest Chardonnay is a fine example of the benefits of Noble Rot. It gives the wine a very concentrated flavor of apricots and stone fruits much like a Viognier and a pleasant balance of sweetness and acidity. With 17.5% residual sugar and 12.8% alcohol it was a great final pairing with a Petite Morceau Estate chocolate bonbon.
Swanson Vineyards are located in Rutherford and tastings are by appointment only. You can’t even drive up to their place because there’s a closed gate at the entrance. You need to call them well ahead of your arrival date at 707-967-3500 to set up an appointment.