Silverado Vineyards was founded in 1981, when there were a fraction of the producers in the Napa Valley that there are now. Over time, as new wineries came on line and everyone was racing to taste the latest and the greatest, it became easy to overlook something in plain sight. That’s exactly where Silverado Vineyards still is. The winery, in a prominent place on a hilltop above the Silverado Trail, maintains six estate vineyards in various places, totaling 352 acres. Every ounce of wine they bottle comes from grapes they grow on their own property.
I recently visited Silverado for the first time in a number of years. After touring the facility I had the opportunity to taste through a large swath of the current portfolio with winemaker Jon Emmerich. While their wines have never been that far from my reach, I hadn’t sampled so many of them side by side in a long time. That exercise was at the very least instructive, and quite frankly eye-opening. Considered as a whole, the wines form a tapestry of flavors that speak to the six vineyard sites Silverado utilizes. The house style values proportion and typicity. Up and down the portfolio, regardless of wine, the grape in question screams out. The sense of "Napa Valley" is abundant and there is an ageworthy quality and inherent balance in the vast majority of their offerings that acts as an invisible but omnipresent connective tissue.
There are many hundreds of producers in Napa Valley today. Quite a few have no vineyard land or facility of their own. Some have one but not the other. Certainly Napa Valley has other estate producers, but not that many are fully grape-to-glass for the entirety of their production. That distinction guarantees the provenance of what you’re purchasing when you walk up to the register with a Silverado Vineyards wine. Also worth noting is the fact that the wines in their portfolio are priced fairly relative to quality in the bottle.
Here’s a look at a few favorites from my visit.
Silverado Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($25)
The grapes for this wine came from Silverado's Miller Ranch in Yountville. Gooseberry and citrus notes dominate the aromatics. Stone fruit and bits of orange rind are present on the lush palate. Anjou pear and white pepper notes dot the long finish.
Silverado Vineyards Estate Merlot 2013 ($40)
In addition to merlot (95 percent), a small amount of cabernet sauvignon was blended in. All the fruit is from the winery's Mount George Vineyard in Coombsville. This is a classic example of well-made merlot. Oodles of cherries dominate here from the first whiff through the last sip. Dried cherry, espresso, and black peppercorn are in play on the velvety finish. Firm tannins and rock-solid acid provide terrific structure. It’s great now, but no need to rush; it’ll age well for a decade.
Silverado Vineyards Zinfandel 2013 ($45)
All of the fruit (it's 100 percent zinfandel) came from the Soda Creek Ranch vineyards. Heaps of red and black raspberry aromas fill the nose. The palate is stuffed with fresh berry fruit flavors dotted by spice and hints of savory herbs. Pepper, hints of cocoa, and continued fruit flavors dominate the finish. This is a fresh and energetic example of zinfandel made in a classic style.
Silverado Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($50)
The fruit for this cabernet was sourced from a selection of Silverado's estate vineyards. The wine is 88 percent cabernet sauvignon, 9 percent merlot, and 3 percent petit verdot. Violets and red raspberry characteristics leap from the nose. Cherry, raspberry, and a touch of blackberry are strewn through the layered palate. Earth, minerals, and tobacco are all part of the persistent finish. This is a tremendous value in Napa Valley cabernet. Its typicity, proportion, and eminent drinkability epitomize what Silverado Vineyards is up to.
Silverado Vineyards GEO Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($75)
GEO is composed of 88 percent cabernet sauvignon, the rest petit verdot. All of the fruit is from the Mount George Vineyard. This is the second vintage of this single-vineyard cabernet. The name GEO represents the Greek name for Earth as well as being short for George. Winemaker Jon Emmerich feels this is the ultimate expression of their vineyard there. Savory herbs and cherry aromas leap forward. Wave after wave of intense red fruit flavors tell the story of the palate. Earth, minerals, and bits of chicory are evident on the impressively long finish. This wine is terrific today but will benefit from additional bottle age. Lay a case down for a dozen years and drink it in the five years after that.
Silverado Vineyards SOLO Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($125)
This is entirely cabernet sauvignon from the namesake Silverado Vineyard located in the Stags Leap District AVA, one of the great spots on earth to grow cabernet. It’s also a single clone (Heritage). This offering is extremely aromatic with red raspberry and cherry aromas joined by hints of sage. Blackberry, black raspberry, pepper, and more fill the big, bold, deeply layered palate. The prodigiously long finish shows off toast, roasted espresso, and hints of dried black fig. The 2013 vintage of SOLO will be at its best in about a decade, and should drink well for at least a dozen years after that.