Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Meet the Boca Bacchanal Vintners: Swanson Vineyards - Purveyors of Things Fine...Mostly Wine!

The mission statement of Swanson Vineyards is pretty straightforward: "to celebrate the simple pleasures in life, made better with wine." What's not to love about that?

In case you were wondering, this is in fact the Swanson family that introduced the TV Dinner to the US in 1953, a groundbreaking innovation in the food business at the time. Following the sale of Swanson and Sons to the Campbell Soup Company in 1955, W. Clarke Swanson Jr. enjoyed a successful career as an entrepreneur in media and the community before planning a return to his family's agricultural roots. In 1985 Swanson purchased a 100-acre property on Oakville Cross Road in the heart of the Napa Valley.

He obtained the consultation services of André Tchelistcheff, America's most influential post-Prohibition winemaker and, in the bold business style long associated with the Swanson name, planted Merlot in the heart of Cabernet Sauvignon country. The result was a “Cab-lover’s Merlot” that was extremely well-received and the Swansons, along with their winemaking team, continued to experiment with other lesser-known varietals such as Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Semillon and Pinot Grigio. 

The Salon at Swanson Vineyards
Winemaker Chris Phelps has been with Swanson since 2003 and brings with him an impressive and well-rounded pedigree. After obtaining his winemaking degree from University of California at Davis, Phelps trained with Christian Moueix at the famed Château Pétrus in Bordeaux. After returning to California, Phelps spent twelve years at Dominus and another seven at Caymus before joining Swanson.

Swanson Vineyards is also very much a family affair. Swanson's wife of 42 years, Elizabeth, is the creative force behind the family winery known for her warm and marvelous style of entertaining and her artistic sense of design.
Her title appropriately reads, “dream maker, tastemaker, opinion-maker, keeper of the most special fairy dust." In 1993 the Swanson's eldest daughter Alexis, the inspiration for their popular red wine of the same name, joined the family business as marketing director. Alexis is responsible for the whimsical tasting room the Sip Shoppe, a candy store for adults where visitors can sample a selection of Swanson's offerings in style. For this project, the Swansons collaborated with other purveyors of style including Kate Spade collection co-founder Andy Spade; renowned illustrator Jean-Philippe Delhomme who also did the fabulous illustrations for the Swanson Vineyards website; interior designer Thomas Britt; chocolatier Katrina Markoff of Vosges Haut-Chocolat; and singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton.

Clarke Swanson
Swanson Vineyards will be represented at this year's Boca Bacchanal by none other than Clarke Swanson himself. In addition to being a husband, father of three and founder of the family winery, Swanson is also Director of the Napa Valley Vintner’s Association, an overseer for Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Vice President and Director of the Friends of the Lincoln Performing Arts Theater in Napa Valley and the former president of the Oakville Wine Grower’s Association.

On Friday March 23rd, Swanson Vineyards will be paired with Chef Carlos Guia of The Country Club at The Wynn Las Vegas Resort for one of the six Vintner Dinners. You can also enjoy the fabulous wines of Swanson Vineyards at the Bacchus Bash on Saturday night and at Sunday's Grand Tasting. Hope to see you there! 

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