Monday, July 25, 2011

Swanson Vineyards... Wow!

I'm back from my Napa trip, and thanks to all of the delicious food and wine that I consumed, a good time was certainly had by me! (Did I mention that I'm now on a cottage cheese and cucumber diet?)

One of the highlights of my trip was a tasting at Swanson Vineyards. The entire time I was there, "OMG" kept crossing my mind. How better to describe an afternoon spent drinking fabulous wine, eating cheese and Vosges Haut-Chocolat truffles, and learning about the history of Swanson Vineyards? Oh, and all of this took place in the Salon that was decorated by Thomas Britt. See? OMG!

Alexis Swanson Traina, the super clever Creative Director of Swanson Vineyards, envisioned the Salon as a modern day version of those much romanticized Parisian salons- an intimate place for conversation, discussion, and conviviality. It is in the Swanson Salon that the formal tastings are held. And seriously, you feel as though you're at a chic home. Much of the decor was done by Britt (who, as godfather to Alexis, is someone near and dear to the Swanson family.) Britt chose a pinky red strié finish for the walls that is the perfect backdrop for the eccentric but fabulous paintings by California artist Ira Yeager. Antiques with great old patina are dotted throughout the space.

But the heart of the room is the octagonal tasting table with its magnificent polished wood and geode inset top and impressive metal antler base. (Leave it to Britt to find something as unique as this.) The table is graciously set with beautiful silver candelabra, votives, wine glasses and more wine glasses, and flowers arranged to a casual perfection by Alexis' mother, Elizabeth. It's truly a special spot at which to taste the range of Swanson wines.

I'll stop now because words don't do the Salon justice. If you're ever in Napa, I encourage you (maybe implore is the better word?) to visit Swanson yourself. For those of us who like design, food, wine, and entertaining, Swanson is right up our alley. You don't just go there to taste the wine; you go for the experience. And this truly is an experience that I won't soon forget!

Below are just some of the copious photos that I took of the Salon. Formal tastings in the Salon are by appointment only. Next door to the Salon is the jaunty Sip Shoppe where more informal tastings are held. Stay tuned for my photos of Sip Shoppe plus the charming courtyard of Swanson. For more information on Swanson Vineyards, visit their website.

The tasting table was so lush and beautiful. Of course, I'm also a sucker for silver vases and votives (including that monkey votive!) and a bounty of flowers.

The tasting started with a refreshing 2010 Rosato, followed by a crisp 2010 Chardonnay. Reds followed including Swanson's noted Merlot (2007), a 2007 Alexis Cabernet, and a 2007 Face Cabernet. We ended the tasting with their delicious Crepuscule Late Harvest Semillon. My sister and I were taken with all of the wines tasted. I also have to say that I have never been a Merlot fan, but the Swanson Merlot is one of my new favorite wines. In fact, quite a few bottles of the Merlot, Rosato, and their Pinot Grigio came home with me.

With our Chardonnay, we enjoyed a potato chip with creme fraiche and a dollop of Hackleback caviar. (I'm going to play copycat and serve this at my next to-do.) The cheese plate included my all-time favorite Mimolette cheese. In the ceramic spoon was a rose petal holding Castello blue cheese and a few drops of a Chardonnay syrup. This too might show up at one of my future parties. The truffle at the top left of the photo, an "Alexis Bonbon", was by Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Alexis Cabernet was incorporated into the truffle. Another OMG moment.

The unusual (and very cool) tasting table found by Thomas Britt. Based on the blurriness of the table base photo, it's apparent that I took it after the wine tasting.

The details include antiques, paintings by Ira Yeager, unusual accessories, and of course, those ceramic lions.

All photos are the copyright of Jennifer Boles/ The Peak of Chic.


  1. What a wonderful room. Am I correct in thinking that there is a giant mirror in the pedimented doorway? If so I love it even though it is a bit Alice through the Looking Glass- esque. Might be weird after so much wine-hehe.

  2. Hi Kerry! Yes, that door surround contains a mirror! Isn't it neat?!

  3. The coral walls were a good choice for a large winery dining room, flattering for most, day and night.

  4. On our next trip to Napa, must go + divine images. Thanks.

  5. hello, Jennifer-

    It was wonderful to see you in San Francisco--and I loved your story on Swanson.

    The tasting room--and Sip Shoppe--are rather a secret, as they are by appointment only, limited hours. So the person--you and Laura--who visit, are indeed fortunate. The concept is so exquisite...a rose petal!
    And it is all done with such style and brio and a sense of enjoyment and fun.
    I think even a lifelong wine connoisseur could learn a lot and would have fun.
    I can't wait to return...very best, DIANE

  6. How fabulous!! Looks like a wonderful visit - the wine, decor and food!!

  7. Anonymous6:48 PM

    Jennifer, pardon the horrendously tardy reply, but thank you SO much for this post! We are beyond thrilled that you had such a great experience. Hope to see you in salon again soon!

  8. It's Chic with a Big C !