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Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living. - Robert Mondavi

Silverado Winery - Breathtaking views, beautiful wines

Friday, October 3, 2014

Silverado Winery has one of the most breathtaking views of the Napa Valley. Silverado’s wine portfolio, like their tasting room view, is equally enchanting and, when visiting the winery, you’ll want to leave plenty of time to relax and enjoy them both together. Silverado has something for everyone - many wine tasting options, from refined single vineyard tastings paired with cheese to a more casual tasting on the outdoor patio, all boasting sweeping views since the winery sits atop a hill off the famed Silverado Trail.  Perched up on the hill, the winery is not visible from the Silverado Trail, so be sure not to miss the sign at the front gate, which  which leads up a steep narrow road to the grand circular driveway.   The site of the winery used to belong to Harry See (of See’s Candy fame), and was purchased by Diane Miller and her husband Ron Miller (former President and CEO of the Disney Corporation) in 1976.  The property is at the same time magnificent and welcoming, built in a Tuscan Villa style with beautiful stonework that compliments the trellised terraces, majestic with the surrounding hills and hawks circling overhead.
Entering the tasting room, a warm, welcoming room, makes you feel as though you’ve stepped into a family’s home - if that family had framed movie posters that decorate some of the walls.  It is not well known that Silverado is a winery founded by the Disney family, and they mean to keep it that way, understated, humble, and down to earth even though it is situated on what seems like the top of Napa Valley; my version of a Disney castle.

Diane Miller, the eldest child of Walt Disney, first came to the Napa Valley with her mother in 1975, and never forgot this beautiful place. While attending USC, she the cheerleader, met her future husband, Ron Miller, the USC  football player, a story worthy of a Disney film.  Later on the couple  devoted their lives to pursuing ways in which to delight families and support causes dear to their hearts, so it was no surprise that as the winemaking industry was taking off in Napa, they were intrigued by the idea that it might be a good investment and returned to LA with the decision that they’d seek some proven vineyard land to invest in rather than an existing winery.
The Millers ended up making a bigger investment than initially planned, purchasing both Harry See’s beautiful 90 acre property as well as See’s niece’s property, approximately 80 acres across the river from his property where they eventually built a winery and founded Silverado Vineyards. They re-planted much of the vineyards on phylloxera resistant AXR rootstock and grew Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc from which Jack Stuart,  their founding Winemaker,made consistently beautiful wines. The Millers were successful and began to seek out additional vineyards and eventually purchased historic vineyard sites and redeveloped these as well including the Mount George property, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. In 1988 they purchased the Carneros property now called “Firetree”, which grows Chardonnay. Then in 1992 they purchased the Soda Canyon property, planted to Sangiovese, Zinfandel, and later Sauvignon Blanc. The olive trees on that property are the source of the oil sold exclusively at Silverado Winery. Another Carneros property, the Vineburg Vineyard, is the most recent acquisition, and is the source of their premier Chardonnay.  
The day we visited Silverado, we were greeted at Silverado by Clint Wilsey and welcomed with the utmost hospitality, despite the fact that it was a mere week after the Napa Earthquake of 2014 had struck.  According to Wilsey, not a barrel had fallen during the 6.0 quake which was astonishing giving the height the barrels were stacked and the volume of wine aging at the facility.  There was an almost spiritual ambiance in the barrel room - stained glass windows bearing the California state flower, the poppy, were reminiscent of a Cathedral and overtook my mind and spirit when paired with the yeasty, earthy aromas of fermenting wine. It is that blend between the ethereal and the down to earth that makes Silverado such a rarefied yet approachable destination.   

The tour of the barrel room and fermentation room illustrated just what a large scale Silverado is able to produce, and what more, all on it’s estate from fruit they control all over the valley. Their ability to grow and tend to their own vineyards gives them a consistency to make quality wines year after year so that when people see the Silverado label, they can recognize and trust it as a selection that will be a beautiful,  balanced wine.  I was also delighted to hear the winery prides itself on having a strong community, and being a champion of green farming practices.  100% of the estate is sustainably farmed, and 50% of the winery is powered by solar panels.  

The wines we tasted were all beautiful, balanced, nuanced and clearly perfected - crowd pleasing wines that can be enjoyed now or set aside to age for years to come.  This winery is perfect if you’re looking for a romantic Napa Valley destination - bring a small picnic and enjoy a leisurely tasting on the patio overlooking the valley, or being a group and enjoy wines and a setting that will please both novices and wine geeks alike.   What’s next for Silverado?  As a result of Silverado’s growing confidence pride in each unique vineyard, they’ve now started making vineyard-designated Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignons.  Try the SOLO Cabernet Sauvignon, which Steve Heimoff from Wine Enthusiast and Robert Parker from The Wine Advocate have both heralded as a perfect expression of Stags Leap. For Disney lovers, this is an adult version of the fairytale experience you only wished could be true.

Tasting Notes on my favorites below:

2011 Miller Ranch Sauvignon Blanc: $22
Ripe grapefruit and melon, with grass aromas. Light and bright on the palate, flavors are crisp, citrusy with mineral notes.

2010 Mt. George Merlot: $36
Wet stone minerality, bright cherry fruit and notes of rosemary and mint on the nose set the expectation of complexity which this Merlot delivers. On the palate it is loaded with fruit, blackberries, cherries and plums enhanced by an herbal quality.Hints of spice and cocoa, coming from the barrel, are also present. These lush layers of flavor are held together in a
structure of fine tannins, giving a smooth texture which extends through the long, pleasing finish.

2010 Estate Cabernet: $48
Plum, spice, earth, dried herb and sweet oak aromas. Medium body with well-integrated fruit, spice and oak flavors. Balanced acidity and tannin give a long finish with flavors that linger.

2011 Solo Cabernet Sauvignon: $100
Spice, vanilla, plum, and cherry fruit aromas. Medium body, mineral and fruit flavors, well structured and balanced with a long finish.

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