This wasn't just "some red wine." It was super premium red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon from Silverado Vineyards in Napa Valley. There were three, the 2013 Solo, the 2003 library vintage of the same wine, both from the Stags Leap District. And the 2012 Geo, which comes from a different vineyard.
Although this was a media dinner, there was no need for a hard sell, because wine of this caliber is way beyond that. The 2013 Solo Cabernet Sauvignon is from estate vines granted heritage status by UC Davis, renowned for its Department of Viticulture and Enology.
Only three Cabernets have been granted this honor, and Solo is the only one from the Stags Leap District. Each year, Silverado presents a limited release to show off the wine. The winery produced 2,476 cases of the 2013 Solo. The price for a bottle is $125.
What makes it so special? That unique Silverado Heritage Clone, for one thing. The Silverado Vineyard, where the grapes for Solo grow, was first planted to wine grapes in 1884. The first Cabernet Sauvignon vines went in in 1968, making Silverado one of the first three Cabernet vineyards in Stags Leap District. The new clone emerged as the vineyard was being developed.
According to Weis, the vines were replanted between 1988 and 1993, after phylloxera struck the area, and certain blocks are being replanted now.
Talking about the two wines, Weis said, "These two vintages were fairly difficult for us. In 2003, the vines had to go through more than a week of temperatures above 100 degrees," while 2013 was a year of "massive tannins." Despite these differences, the two Cabernets show a family resemblance, Weis noted. They are silky and seamlessly connected from start to finish as you drink them.
What did I think of them? I am not a wine technician, but I can say that these wines aren't like the Cabernets I am used to. They are refined and elegant rather than big fruity wines that assault the palate.
Along with these, we tasted the 2012 Geo, from the Mount George Vineyard in Coombsville. This area was first planted to vinifera vines--those that produce grapes for table wines--in the 1860s. Solo is 100 % Cabernet Sauvignon, while the 2012 Geo is 98 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 2 % Cabernet Franc.
What do you eat with wines like these? I bowed to Weis's judgment and ordered what he did, Snake River Farm's Wagyu New York steak wlth potato-bacon terrine and red wine reduction (above), which was almost as pricey as the wines--$98.
Dinner started with shots of lobster bisque and a basket of breads, including miniature baguettes baked in the pizza oven and perfect with wine.
Weis laced talk about the wines with tales of Napa history. Stags Leap, he said, was once planted to Chardonnay, Riesling and Chenin Blanc, and Chenin Blanc was the top grape in the area. It was the late Robert Mondavi who visualized Cabernet Sauvignon as the way to go.
This was the course followed by the founders of Silverado Vineyards, the late Diane Disney Miller and her husband Ron Miller. Expanding their holdings with more vineyards, they created one of the most stellar labels in California.
If you are intrigued by Solo, you can celebrate the next release at a three-hour party at the winery September 16. The cost for a ticket? A little more than a bottle of Solo--$160. Click here to make a reservation or to learn about other events at Silverado.