Walking in to Silver Trident Winery in the Napa Valley town of Yountville, the first impression is that of being in someone’s home (if someone’s home was a Tuscan villa). This impression was reinforced as we walked past the foyer and saw a living room, dining room, and a small library – all designed with elegant decor. Overall, the Silver Trident tasting room looked like one of those “staged” homes that realtors talk buyers into setting up with furniture and furnishings much nicer than most actual homes. In the case of Silver Trident, the furniture and furnishings are not just nice, they are the epitome of luxury. As far as we know, Silver Trident is the only winery that also doubles as an honest-to-goodness furniture showroom. And not just any furniture, but an exclusive collection of items from Ralph Lauren Home. Just about everything in the tasting room is for sale which means visitors can leave with wine and a couch and chairs.
The team at Silver Trident likes to refer to their space not as a tasting room, but a tasting home. Unlike many wineries, there is no stand-up wine bar at Silver Trident; everyone tastes wine sitting down, with no rush. For those whose idea of wine tasting involves four gulps in 10 minutes and a sprint to the next winery – please do not stop at Silver Trident. This is the type of place where you want to sit down, sit back, take a load off, and enjoy the wines in a lavishly comfortable setting. We were lucky enough to taste at a time when the cozy library was available; this is the perfect space for 2-4 people to taste in a semi-private setting decorated, of course, in Ralph Lauren Home style.
Tastings are also offered in the dining room and the living room (where we will be tasting again next week with friends from out of town).
As the headline of this post states, the quality of the wine more than lived up to the expectation created by Silver Trident’s interior space. Our starting wine, Silver Trident’s 2016 Rosé of Pinot Noir, set the tone for what was to come.
Like each of winemaker Kari Auringer’s wines, this pink lovely was balanced and delicious, crafted in with more of an Old-World approach. Expected aromas of strawberry and watermelon on the nose gave way to a refreshingly crisp finish on the palate. Nicknamed “Apollo’s Folly,” this Rosé is made of grapes grown on the Mendocino side of Andersen Valley in the Potter’s Valley sub-appellation. The wine contains zero residual sugar and is fermented in stainless steel and neutral oak. The light, almost-salmon color, results from the grapes sitting on their skins for only 12 hours. Unlike many wines of its type, Apollo’s Folly is whole cluster fermented which means that the stems and seeds are included in the process. This is a common method for making wine in France, and winemaker Kari has made a wine of which the French would be proud.
For this wine, the specific varietal is Pinot Noir clone 667. The viticulture geeks out there know that there are a number of Pinot Noir clones that have been planted in the United States (notably in Northern California and Oregon). Each of these clones has its own preferred growing conditions and unique aroma and flavor profile. “Hogwash!” you might be saying to yourself. “Pinot is pinot is pinot, what difference does the clone type make?” Well, think of all of the different types of apples in the world and how differently they taste. Here is a link to a fascinating and in-depth discussion of the difference between the Pinot clones. Pinot Clones
The reason that we mention the particular clone in the Silver Trident Rosé of Pinot Noir is that it is representative of the thoughtful and methodical approach that the winery takes to its roster of wines. Pinot Noir vineyards are abundant in Sonoma County and Napa Valley but Silver Trident sought out a specific vineyard with a specific Pinot clone because they were wanted to make wine with a precise aroma and flavor.
After the Rosé, our wine hostess Beth Bowlin poured a taste of Silver Trident’s 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, nicknamed Symphony No. 9 after Beethoven’s final completed symphony.
Many wineries in Napa Valley produce Sauvignon Blanc and there are many good choices from which to choose. Of all the ones we have tasted, we enjoyed Silver Trident’s the most, as an aromatic powerhouse as well as for its zing on the palate. Silver Trident’s Sav Blanc is a blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Sauvignon Blanc Musqué Clone, the latter contributing to a less “grassy” aroma than one might expect. We nurtured this wine far longer than we usually do with a white wine, especially knowing that we were holding up the pouring of the red wines. At $32 a bottle this wine is very high on the value-to-price scale.
When we were finally ready to leave the Sauvignon Blanc, Beth started our tour of the red wines with a pour of 2014 Pinot Noir (“Benevolent Dictator”).
Remember our discussion of clones from a few paragraphs back? This 100% Pinot Noir is a blend of Clone 667 and 777 sourced from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations. Aged for 18 months in 40% new French oak, this Pinot Noir balanced the aroma and flavor of cherry with earth and wood that we expect from a Russian River Pinot, with a hint of vanilla as we let the wine open up in the glass. Full-cluster fermentation is also used in the production of this delicious wine.
Our final two wines were the 2014 “Playing With Fire” red blend and the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (“Twenty Seven Fathoms”). Unlike most red blends in Napa Valley, the Silver Trident version’s lead grape is Malbec (38%) with almost an equal measure of Cabernet Sauvignon (32%), along with Cabernet Franc (15%) and Merlot (15%).
Aged for 21 months in 70% new French oak, this wine is more subtle and restrained than other Napa red blends but definitely no wimp. Playing With Fire has backbone, firm tannins and a nice long finish.
The current vintage of Cab was sold out but Beth was wonderful and poured us some of the 2014 which is not even available to the general public yet. Silver Trident’s Cabernet does not qualify as a “fruit bomb” or “big Napa Cab” that visitors often experience in Napa Valley. We say this not as a criticism but an observation, and a grateful one at that. Cab can be more restrained and balanced and that is what the winemaker delivered. This wine, 27 Fathoms, was named in reference to the depth of the Panama Canal which was a bridge between the new and old worlds when constructed. Silver Trident’s winemaker wanted this Cab to be a bridge between wine’s Old World and New World: the best of the French style and the terroir of California.
As a bonus, Beth poured us a taste of their 2013 Friends & Family Cabernet, a very low production wine (70 cases) that is normally available only to their approximately 700 members. This wine aged in 100% new French oak for 24 months but was by no means “oaky” or over-produced.
We enjoyed our day at Silver Trident so much that we immediately made an appointment to visit the winery again this upcoming weekend with friends from out of town. Get ready, P.J. and Tina, come thirsty (and hungry, it’s a paired tasting).
One final and important piece of information we wanted to share is that Silver Trident has an upstairs meeting room that can accommodate a couple of dozen people – perfect for a team offsite, board meeting or similar gathering.
John & Irene Ingersoll
September 6, 2017