Turkey dinner with cranberry sauce and apple pie; the traditional Swanson TV dinner. Since 1953 Swanson has been synonymous with bachelor living, working families and modern convenience. In 1985 the Swanson family purchased 100 acres between Silver Oak and Opus One. W Clarke Swanson planted Merlot in the heart of Cabernet country, CA and that gamble paid off. Swanson built a reputation with quality Merlot and now expands that production to Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and a few red blends.
While Swanson TV dinners have become equated with microwaves and convenience, the wines have proven themselves to be associated with quality. Recently selected as one of the top 100 wines of the world and winery of the year, 2010 by Wine & Spirits Magazine, Swanson is a winery to be considered on your list of top contenders. The three wines reviewed here will be released in the spring.
You’ve had the dinner, how is the wine?
Visit Swanson Vineyards on the internet www.swansonvineyards.com
2009 Swanson Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio to me is usually either crisp thin and tart, or slightly flabby but still light on fruit. The 2009 100% Napa Valley Pinot Grigio (13.6%ABV) is a nice balance of flavor, fruit, and mouth feel. 100% stainless steel fermented to bone dry with no malolactic fermentation, the sip reveals a nicely structured wine that is pleasing to the palate without being flabby or tart. Flavors of melons, lychee and citrus are softly interwoven. At $21 this is typically more than I would pay for a Pinot Grigio. Give this wine a try at the tasting room (or order it by the glass) before committing to the whole bottle. 3+/5
Scores on Cellar Tracker are 89 points from 3 different reviews
2007 Swanson Merlot
It’s no secret I love a well made Merlot. I love the combination of aromas and soft subtleties of fruit that can often times have flavors of coffee, cherry, and chocolate. Merlot makes for a great dinner pairing or just relaxing in the evening. The $36 Swanson Merlot is sourced primarily from their Oakville estate vineyard. Winemaker Chris Phelps gave the fruit a cold soak extended maceration before laying it down for 20 months in 40% new French and American oak. The color in the glass has a fairly dark plum center and soft colors of muted ruby at the edges. The aroma out of the glass is a bright combination of fruit, licorice, and cola. From what I’ve seen and smelled the anticipation was very high. This wine, on the sip, lived up to the expectations. The fruit was slightly thin on the front palate but opened up to a medley of flavor. I loved the play between cola and coffee and the fruit flavors were not over the top but nicely balanced. This merlot also boasted some modest muscle with a hint of thickness on the finish. At $36, worth the price for merlot lovers. 4/5
2007 Swanson Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon
The 07 Swanson Alexis stands tall above everything else. Literally…the bottle is like two inches taller than your standard wine bottle. Do you get more? At $75 you should, but sadly it’s just a marketing play. The pedigree here is strong; 26 day extended maceration, 22 months in 60% new French oak, Napa Valley fruit from Schmidt Vineyards and a moderately tame (for California) 14.8%ABV. The Alexis is 81% Cabernet and 19% Merlot. The swirl showcases the deep color of the fruit but the wine is not opaque. Like the merlot, the aromas jump out of the glass. This wine is deep and lush with a bouquet of dried flowers, baking spices, dark berry fruit, and subtleties of toasted oak. On the sip, I was surprised by the soft strength of the wine. For a young bold California Cabernet, Alexis is very approachable and velvety while still offering well integrated tannin that you would expect. I would expect this wine to be in its prime in just about 5 years. I liked the wine but I didn’t LOVE it and for $75, I need to LOVE it to recommend it. From a quality perspective, the Swanson Alexis is an extremely well made wine with great aroma and flavor. Proceed with caution even with a 4/5 score.
Only 500 ½ cases of this wine were produced so chances are your only experience will be at the tasting room or very select restaurants.
Previous vintage of this wine scores 92 points with 3 reviews on Cellar Tracker.
Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review and for fun…here is a flashback to the 80’s with some TV Dinners by ZZ Top!