Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Silenus Vintners

When we attended the Zinfandel Festival several months ago, we liked the Highlands Winery Zin and obtained a card from them.  Highlands does not have a tasting room at their vineyard, but you may taste their wines at Silenus Vintners.  We thought Silenus was simply a tasting room but it turns out they are the winery where Highlands and other vineyards make their wine.  Silenus offers tastings from their “collection of artisan winemakers” with a frequently changing menu.  We were not able to taste all three Highlands Winery wines, but only one, so this is really a review of Silenus Vintners rather than Highlands Winery.

Entry sign

Silenus Vintners began in 2006 when the Williamson family purchased the property and added a crush facility with tasting room.  They opened their facility so other vineyards could produce their wine there.  In 2010, the Chinese-American company Silenus International Group purchased the winery.  

Tasting bar

Silenus is located on Solano Avenue, the road that parallels Highway 29 and is about half way between Napa and Yountville.  Although reservations are required, they can sometimes be obtained on very short notice if they are not too busy.  Eleven premium wineries are featured with more than thirty different wines.  There is a $15 tasting fee for six wines.  We had a choice from six white wines and seven red wines from which to chose.  Prices on the tasting menu ranged from $10 to $75 with two wines being on sale for $10 and $14.  The presentation is in a lovely modern tasting room with very friendly service thanks to Scott.

Especially striking was the high quality of all the wines we sampled.  Our tasting began with the Matthiasson 2010 White Wine at $35 which is a highly unusual blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Ribolla Gialla and Tocai Friulano. The later two are Italian varietals.  This is an intriguing wine that has a very unique taste.  It is quite dry with good acidity, some citrus and a hint of nuttiness. It would probably pair well with seafood or poultry.  Next was the Coleman Nicole “Morris Ranch” 2009 Pinot Noir ($45), a pleasant, lighter style PN with plenty of bright fruit (mostly strawberry). If you like lighter style PNs you should try this. This was followed by an excellent Ideology “Reserve Block" 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon which was $68 and is 100% Cab.  2007 was, of course, an outstanding year for Napa Cabs.  This one was from Oak Knoll grapes and only 225 cases were produced by Brian Graham.  It is a full-bodied, but not overpowering Cab with cherry and vanilla on the nose and black cherry with good structure, great balance and integrated tannins on the palate plus a decent finish. Both of us really liked this Cab.  Our next taste was the Highlands Reserve 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain, also at $68.  This was rounder than the Ideology Cab but still had substantial mouth feel and an even longer finish.  It was quite good and it would be difficult to chose between this and the Ideology. The style of the Ideology was more appealing to me, but that is simply a personal preference.  The Matthiasson 2006 Red Wine at $75 was next.  This is essentially a Bordeaux style blend with more Merlot than Cab.  It, also, was a very nice wine and I liked it almost as much as the Ideology.  It had a lovely ruby color with some raspberry in the aroma.  On the palate it has a freshness with well-balanced acid and tannins, some cherry and a long finish. Our final tasting was the Modus Operandi Cellars 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This had a light cherry aroma and was quite drinkable for a Cab this young.

Building next to tasting building

We also purchased some wines that we were able to taste later.  One of them was the Highlands Howell Mountain 2006 Zinfandel ($29).  It was deep ruby in color with a dark cherry and ripe plum aroma. On the palate it had good brambly boysenberry fruit with some pleasant herbaceousness and earthiness, firm tannin and a medium length finish with some pomegranate and a touch of alcohol that improved with some air. We also purchased several bottles of the Silenus 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon which was lovely and very drinkable with soft tannins. It was described at the winery as a “prettier style cab.”  At $45 a bottle, it was very good for the price.  We purchased and tasted more carefully the Highlands Zin and the Silenus Cab underlined above and were very pleased with both of them.

One tasting provides only a glimpse of what Silenus Vintners has to offer, so this review is a preliminary one and will be modified after we have made an additional visit or two.  In the meantime, we can enthusiastically recommend visiting Silenus.  Their boutique wines are very good and are more affordable than most wines of this quality.

Silenus Vintners
5225 Solano Ave
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 299-3930
Date of visit: March 7, 2012 

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