I hang out on Twitter with a bunch of wine biz and wine blogger folks. Late Friday PM I noticed a little post offering two free tickets for the Silver Pass. What’s that? I googled it and found that the Silverado Trail wineries have a passport weekend twice a year. Not many participate but the 18 wineries that do are more than enough for an adventure.
Early Saturday morning 11/8/08 Katya and I met our benefactor at the farmer’s market in Healdsburg and picked up our tickets. After some photography in the Alexander Valley for our video series we headed down Highway 128 to Calistoga and the wine questing adventures began.
We visited 10 wineries in two days. All of them offered a limited selection to taste and the small wineries offered only 2 or 3 wines. Most offered food. Most of the wineries we visited are open by appointment only. All had great wine, usually Cabernet. A few highlights:
- Pina (pinya – Spanish) Winery is a small family-owned winery with a Spanish heritage. This was our favorite. They offered a sequential tasting of 2000 to 2006 (barrel) Cabernet’s from the Buckeye Vineyard and it was to die for. Their wines are expensive but were real Big Reds, not this smoothed out stuff that is in fashion today. The Cabs had real finish that lasted and the old robust aromas we used to enjoy. Somehow they accomplished this without the biting tannins of the past. Their Cabs are art in a bottle and we’ll be back. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the huge pan of paella that tasters were gorging from.
- Midsummer Cellars is a micro-winery just off Silverado Trail where Highway 128 heads east from the Napa Valley. They were gracious hosts with fine gourmet food and an incredible carrot cake, backyard ambiance under a 600 year old giant oak, and two Cabs worth your time to investigate. Don’t pass them up on the next Silver Pass weekend!
- Titus Vineyards is a tiny winery on the Silverado Trail that is by appointment only and had a selection of 5 wines to taste as I recall. This was a lively and friendly place and we’ll return.
- Athalon hides north of Calistoga and is by appointment only. They are extra friendly, gourmet munchies, and had several wines to taste, along with a frisky winery cat to entertain us. Great views of the lava cliffs on Mt. St. Helena.
- Conn Creek is one of the older wineries in the region and is open daily. What was extra special about this winery for the Silver Pass is that they opened a barrel room display venue for us and we were able to taste Cabs from different vineyards that they source grapes from. That was both interesting and fun! They plan on expanding this service and will be remodeling their room in the near future. Make an appointment in 2009 to taste in this room.
If you are curious we also tasted at Zahtila, Signorella (a favorite for the view!), Judd’s Hill (friendly family-owned), and William Hill which is open daily with good prices and a great view.