Intuition and love of the grape prompted Clarke Swanson to plant this much-maligned grape on his Oakville estate some 20 years ago. The result, year after year, is a stunner: vibrant aromas, flavors of ripe peach and pear, and a clean goodbye kiss will leave you feeling strangely tingly, giggly even-and possessed by the perfectly outrageous notion of pairing it with caviar and potato chips (as we do in the Salon), the centerpiece of a picnic in bed or a sunny afternoon doing nothing at all. Wanna know what a Pinot Grigio grape tastes like on the vine? Buy a case and find out; this grape loses nothing in translation.
For more than half a century, the Swanson name has been recognized primarily for frozen food products, as in the famous TV dinners the family launched in 1953, which, at that time, was a groundbreaking innovation in the food business.Twenty-five years ago, the Swanson family chartered another innovative course, this time into the world of wine. Commencing in the mid-1980’s, they were one of the earliest producers of Napa Valley Merlot. Today, while its wines are extraordinary, the mission of Swanson Vineyards is straightforward: to celebrate the simple pleasures in life, made better with wine.
The Swanson Vineyards story began in the summer of 1985, when W. Clarke Swanson, Jr. purchased a 100-acre property on Oakville Cross Road in the heart of Napa Valley. He was fortunate to obtain the services of Andre Tchelistcheff, one of the 20th century’s most sought-after winemakers, as a consultant, and, in the bold business style long associated with the Swanson name, planted Merlot in the heart of Cabernet Sauvignon country. As the risk paid off with excellent, well-received wine (a “Cab-lover’s Merlot”), the Swansons, together with their winemaking team, continued to experiment, planting other lesser-known varietals such as Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Semillon and Pinot Grigio.
Swanson Vineyards now operates under the helm of winemaker Chris Phelps, an expert inboth Bordeaux and Napa styles, honed at the venerable Chateau Petrus and Dominus, under the tutelage of Christian Mouiex, and then later at Caymus, with Chuck Wagner. Phelps’ wines are refined and elegant and at the same time remarkably approachable.