Not a typical way to start a wine tasting experience for sure. To start with the owners coming out of the hospitality and travel industry, opened their doors in Yountville in 2015. Their goal was to feature handcrafted artisan wines specifically showcasing Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and a Napa Valley red blend. They are producing approximately 3,500 cases in total per year. They hired Kari Auringer as the winemaker. Kari worked for ten years under the noted Celia Welch (Scarecrow and many more). One of the primary goals of the winery was to feature richly layered wines with complexity and depth. All the grapes are handpicked as well as their staff.
A Tasting Home verses a Tasting Room
They set out to create a comfortable environment where customers felt relaxed, like being at home. Through various past connections with Ralph Lauren Home Collection, artists and galleries, essentially all the items in the “home” are available for purchase. This includes furniture, floor coverings, artwork, glasses and serving trays.
The feeling enjoyed while going through a tasting is intimate, warm and beautifully appointed living room, dining room or library. Upstairs they also have a loft for private events. So, no tasting bar, no rush and no standing on your feet while proceeding down the wine lineup.
For today’s event we were hosted in the Library with the theme of “heroes and heartthrobs”. Many pictures brought back some fond and funny memories of these icons.
Wine Pairing with Potato Chips?
Yes that is correct! Different, yes. Unique, yes. Odd, yes. Did it work – yes! It started out as an “aha moment” when one of the owners was served wine and potato chips on a flight. He enjoyed the textual crunch and salt with his wine. So before the next visit to Yountville he asked his staff to seek out potato chips from around the world! Then when all were gathered in Yountville, six of them proceeded through wine and potato chips to develop the pairing available today. They call this event the Potato Chip Extravaganza tasting.
While I have been to hundreds of wine tasting and pairings, this was a first for me! Truth be told, I was both excited and skeptical as to how this would unfold and taste. We were greeted in the foyer with a pouring of Rosé of Pinot Noir. Then escorted to the library where it was paired with Zapp’s Cajun Crawtators potato chips. Astonishment and delight were the first impressions. The pairing seemed “other worldly” as it transcended typical common sense and reasoning, yet the symbiotic relationship was solid. A smile on our face with this first tasting must blow away the working staff. We continued the afternoon through the various selection of wines and chips with dark chocolate in the end to round out a reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. They also have a Potato Chip Extravaganza Tasting Package and video for your home use.
Now with this opulent setting and unique food pairing, one could mistakenly draw the conclusion that this was all show to mask sub-standard wines. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not a single wine was lacking all the grace and characteristics of the varietal. While four wines stood out, I am going to talk about two of the favorites. First was the their Symphony no.9, a 2019 Sauvignon Blanc paired with Route 11 sour cream and chives potato chips. First on the eyes a light straw color. On the nose, pineapple, mango wafted into the senses. Then stone fruit opened up on the palate, specifically peach. Floral notes continued to develop as the wine gently warmed. Secondary flavors of soft lemon grass and stone fruits made for a unique Sauvignon Blanc. This wine was not your typical citrusy or sharp Sauvignon Blanc. It also possessed a medium heavy viscosity. It was mentioned that the wine during fermentation on the lees was stirred daily. This wine has broad ramifications as to wonderful and new food pairing to be explored. I gladly purchased a couple of bottles.
The second wine was their 2019 Pinot Noir called the Benevolent Dictator. For only the second time in ten years, I rated this wine on the bouquet alone as being a top scoring wine! Upon tasting it after 5 or 6 breaths of this enticing aroma, it was absolutely confirmed as being a wine worthy of making my yearly Best Wines Tasted (comes out in December each year). This was beautiful crimson red on the eyes and had a translucent character. On the nose aromas of cherry, strawberries, cola and cinnamon were present. When tasting, black cherries, eucalyptus and black tea were the prominent tastes. The finish was long lasting and velvety with soft mineral highlights coupled with vanilla. The grapes come from the famous Dutton Ranch on the Russian River and they extracted this beautiful fruit into an exquisite wine. Unfortunately they were sold out of the 2019 that was tasted but had the 2017 and 2018 available for purchase but not tasting. Took a slight gamble that these two years would be “similar in quality” and bought a bottle of each.
A few footnotes to the story. First the best wine and potato chip pairing was their proprietary blend call Playing with Fire (62% Merlot, 19% Malbec and 19% Cabernet Sauvignon from Georges III Vineyard) with Zapp’s Voodoo potato chips. The next footnote is the naming of wines and stories behind them. For example, their Cabernet Sauvignon is called Twenty Seven Fathoms named for the depth of the Panama Canal (original depth, updated since then) as the owner passed through it many times while in the cruise business.
The last footnote is the quality of their wines, especially the two I previously mentioned as was their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon with depth and silky tannins.
For a winery never visited nor tasted their wines, this was a “home run” or to be more precise a Grand Slam. The Hospitality Manager Beth Bowlin was extremely knowledge and informative which helped make this visit so enjoyable. While the uniqueness of the potato chip tasting may get you in the front door, you will leave with the appreciation of the great wines of Silver Trident.