I recently sat down for lunch at Hearth ’61 with the President of Silverado Vineyards, Russ Weis, when he was in Phoenix. We tasted 3 wines while Russ told us the Silverado story, about life in Napa Valley surviving recent wildfires and about the wines.
Russ was practically born into the wine business as the son of grape growers in Madera, California. Russ started his career in Napa Valley in 1987 at Christian Brothers Winery then went on to Robert Mondavi Winery in 1993. He joined Silverado Vineyards in 2004.
The Silverado Vineyards story
Silverado Vineyards was started in 1981 by Diane Disney and her husband, former football player and movie producer Ron Miller. The 6 historic vineyards owned by the winery date back to the 1800s and are located throughout Napa Valley. The winery is currently owned by Ron and his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, with plans to keep it in the family for several more generations.
The wines are made by winemaker Jon Emmerich and associate winemaker Elena Franceschi. All wines are “Grown, Produced and Bottled by” the winery, one of a few Napa Valley wineries that can say that. A small portion of grapes are sold to other wineries.
With over 300 acres of vineyards the wines express the differing terroirs, giving each wine its unique complexity and character. The winery and home vineyard are in the Stags Leap District along the Silverado Trail.
Tasting the wines
During our lunch we tasted the 2016 Carneros Chardonnay and proprietary Cabernet Sauvignons GEO and SOLO from the 2014 vintage.
The chardonnay comes from the Vineburg and Firetree vineyards in the cooler southern part of Napa Valley. The wine is aged in French oak barrels with some in new oak. The wine is clean and well-balanced with oak and acidity. Bright fruit that the Carneros region is known for makes this a great wine to drink by itself or paired with food. It made a nice complement to our shrimp cocktail. The chardonnay is the winery’s second largest produced wine, at just under 10,000 cases.
The GEO Cabernet Sauvignon uses grapes grown on the Mt. George vineyard in Coombsville. The Millers bought the vineyard in 1987 and was the first vineyard planted to grapes in the Coombsville AVA. A splash of Petit Verdot is blended before the wine was aged for almost 2 years in mostly French oak. The wine was soft and enjoyable with good tannins giving you the typical Cabernet mouthfeel taste of blackberries and cocoa and drinks well. Only 2,200 cases are made.
The SOLO Cabernet Sauvignon was the last of the 3 wines we tasted. Made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine is named for the fact it’s made from a single clone. The Silverado- Disney Heritage clone was given “Heritage” status by UC Davis because the new clone was carefully observed and had adapted to the unique soil of the Stags Leap District. It’s one of only 3 Cabernets with this status and the only one from Stags Leap District.
The bold fruit comes from the Silverado Vineyard and offers currants, cassis and plum nuances. It’s aged in 100% French oak with 38% new oak. The wine pairs well with grilled red meats and roasts. 2,400 cases were produced.