Charge for Tasting: $25 and up
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, by appointment only
Wine Price: Very Expensive
From the moment you arrive at Swanson Vineyards, you know they're different. Their tiny salon-style tasting room - manned by hosts so friendly they'll apologize if they don't manage to get your first glass of wine in your hand before you get inside the door - looks and feels like someone's elegant home.
Review"We love wine, but we love hospitality more," our host said, and it shows. The tasting experience at Swanson focuses on the pairing of wine and food and not just on the wines themselves.
You won't hear snooty phrases like "bouquet" and "nose" and "notes of vanilla with undercurrents of cassis" here, unless you or one of your fellow-tasters is saying them. Visiting Swanson is like going to a wine-country dinner party, and much more fun than the typical winery experience where visitors stand (or sit), sip and listen while someone else pours wines and talks about them.
Seated around a table in the Salon - a cozy room decorated in the style of a French salon, with watermelon-colored walls - small groups (no more than eight people) enjoy Swanson wines paired with food. The host is a congenial guide, helping guests get the most out of every sip. The whole affair feels elegant and the experience is memorable. Reservations are required for the Swanson Salon - and this is one time we recommend going when they're busy. This experience is much more fun with a group.
If you're in the mood for a more casual tasting or want to do something on the spur of the moment, the Swanson Sip Shoppe may be just the thing. A variety of wine and good pairings are available, served inside a festive striped tent. Their Night Cap offers a chance to enjoy some of Swanson's luscious dessert wines - or ask from something from the Secret Stash. No reservations are required, but it's best to call ahead if you can - otherwise, just drive up to the gate and ask for an instant reservation.
Wine Quality: All of Swanson's wines are estate-grown and bottled, and they only produce a limited number of cases a year. They have a loyal following, and their wines, especially their Cabernet Sauvignon have won several prizes, including a spot in Wine & Spirits' top 100 wines of the world in 2010.
Tourist Experience: Excellent. The hosts are friendly, the setting gorgeous and you'll leave feeling like you've done something special.
Getting to Swanson Vineyard
1271 Manley Lane
- Drive about 14 miles north of the town of Napa on Highway 29.
- Manley Lane is on the west side of the road, shortly after you pass Oakville Grocery.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with a complimentary tour for the purpose of reviewing it. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.