The Negress believes in full disclosure so she will note here that she is only at this year’s Symposium for Professional Wine Writers thanks to the generosity of the folks at Silverado Vineyards. She was delighted to find out that the winery is friendly with Gary Fisch of New Jersey wine retailer Gary’s Wine and Marketplace (if you live in New Jersey near Gary’s and aren’t shopping there, you must be a glutton for abusive customer service and high prices). Fisch may have been relaxing in the Silverado guest house while general manager Russ Weis and winemaker Jon Emmerich were letting her taste some barrel samples. It doesn’t matter except to note that the Negress likes their taste in retailers.
She also liked their wines. In fact, her relationship with Chardonnay was irrevocably altered by their 2009 Vineburg Vineyard offering. She had tasted barrel samples from their stainless steel barrels as well as the older oak barrels. Emmerich said he used mostly the INOX wine in the ’09 with a touch of the juice that had seen oak. The wine was lean but well-structured with a touch of pineapple and honeysuckle but a nice hint of minerality. Consider the Negress sold. She will buy some to take home with her. Other faves included the 2006 Zinfandel from Silverado’s Soda Canyon vineyard. at 14.6 abv, it’s nearly ethereal as Zins go but still has the plummy quality that the Negress favors.
Silverado makes an excellent case for blending, a practice the Negress thinks got shoved aside a bit unceremoniously in post-Mondavi American wine. Some wines need a helping verb and a good example of this was a comparison of a barrel sample of Silverado’s 2010 and 2009 Miller Ranch Sauvignon Blancs. The 2010 has about 4 to 5 percent Semillon, and is slated to be bottled in the middle of next month. It’s somewhat more lemony than the ’09 and a bit green. Emmerich noted that the vineyard workers grow tomatoes on some of the unoccupied land and thinks this is a great indication for soil that is SB-friendly. The 2009 has 8 percent Semillon and has more notes of green apple and pear.
Emmerich and Weis went over their learning curve that led to the 2007 Mount George Vineyard Merlot. They only make about 5,000 cases of it, and it’s the antithesis of every indifferent Merlot that leaves your palate feeling fuzzy and dull (The Negress has likened drinking substandard Merlot to chewing on an Army blanket). The Silverado duo realized they had spent a very long time trying to make Merlot behave like Cabernet Sauvignon. Upon changing their thinking, their Merlot became brighter, with red fruit and a delicacy that’s addictive. The Negress rates this a strong buy, but that’s only likely if you’re in the Silverado wine club. Production is only 5,000 cases.
Her tasting closed with the 2007 Solo, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon grown on different parts of the property. It runs about 14.9% abv, which makes it a lightweight compared to some Napa heavyweights. But this wine can cozy up to food and not instantly induce a headache. Well-balanced and with enough tannin to guarantee some real aging potential, this one is also a keeper. Bad news for the Negress’ Chicagoland pals, Binny’s doesn’t carry Silverado wines. Call them up. A lot.