It’s September 1st. So long summer…! (though it’s not easy to tell exactly when summer comes and goes out here in the valley – the grapes are the only real indicator). There’s also fewer trains of bridesmaids stumbling from Taylor’s Refresher (aka Gott’s Roadside) into downtown St. Helena.
TODAY IS #CABERNETDAY! And I’ve begun with a breakfast glass of Swanson Vineyards 2007 “Alexis” Cabernet Sauvignon. Speaking of…
I’ll be riding out the Harvest storm spending half of my week at Swanson Vineyards hosting Salon Bon Vivant Tastings as a Salonniere. It was merely weeks ago that I experienced my own Salon Tasting – utterly unawares that I’d soon be hosting myself. The Bon Vivant tasting is an experience for the senses – and very much in line with Noble Rot ideals of experiential learning. The tasting is an hour long and guests are guided through the Swanson history while sipping through several wines, some nationally distributed, others only available through the club or via their website.
Elizabeth and Clarke Swanson and daughter Alexis are straight out of the best new TV Series yet to hit the golden screen. Elizabeth, a fifth-generation New Orleanian, whose mother was Cuban, can be seen most days cultivating the impeccable gardens that compose the courtyard at the winery on Manley Lane (just off Hwy 29 in Oakville). She is a burst of bright light and energy – a welcome whirlwind of generosity and sunshine. Clark is a handsome man and one of the only in the valley I’ve known to sport a double-breasted suit jacket. That makes him diamonds in my stacked hand. And Alexis, whom I’ve only met once, reminds me very much of her mother and happens to be the creative mastermind behind much of the winery’s unique offerings . With their powers combined…! Well, you get the idea – the place is fun, theatrical and the experience the Swanson’s hope people take away is a truly memorable one. To boot, their wines make it pretty easy. Winemaker Chris Phelps hails from Chateau Petrus, Dominus, Caymus, et al., is a classicist who loves making varietal correct wines that express just that, the varietal – no masking or confused juice by extemporaneous wine-making practices. Marco Cappelli makes the dessert wines and his pedigree includes Chateau la Tour Blanche and direction under Andre Tchelistcheff – a God to the valley of Winemakers.
The other half of the week I’ll be at Alpha Omega Winery. I’m thrilled to know that I’ll be worked like the slave my Italian ancestors always imagined I’d be. Grueling work! Long hard hours! Little pay! Guaranteed to build character! Look: I’ll learn a hell of a lot, especially since winemaker Jean Hoefliger is clearly a genius/outofhismind. Alpha barrel ferments all their reds, which go through natural fermentation and that can last until February. Gotta love it. The wine is definitely a special wine. Meant for drinking now or holding onto and drinking later. AO exudes a different style of comfort and sophistication from Swanson, and it is exciting to share in both their existences as I fully believe in the experiences to be gained from each of these wonderful wineries.