While driving through California's Napa Valley, there are many wineries to visit and sample the nectar of the grape. The Silverado Vineyard is located off the Silverado trail, part of the Stags Leap District in Napa Valley. This is a very special winery - not only because of its great product and the way it is shared with the public, but because it also has unique ties to Walt Disney.
Entering the gates at Silverado Vineyard - The first look at the Silverado Vineyard building is reminiscent of a large Napa estate, giving the visitor more feeling of family instead of business. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
Falling in love with the valley and knowing it was the place to settle and live, Diane Disney Miller (Walt's daughter) and Ron Miller purchased the land in the mid-1970s. This was the place where they sought to live and enjoy the wonderful California views and climate.
Outside the wine tasting room there is a patio with a command view of the Stags Leap district. A perfect place to enjoy a pour of your favorite wine and view the landscape. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
This land was strictly used as a vineyard at the time. In the beginning, the grapes that were harvested were sold to other wineries, and those wineries were turning out gold-medal, award-winning wines with these grapes year after year.
Built in 1981, this beautiful estate holds the complete wine-making facilitiesyet looks just like a spectacular Napa estate with no hints of production equipment. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
The Millers decided to build a winery of their own in 1981, pledging to spare no expense to make this the best winery that produced only the best wines they could and to make them available at a fair price. With these grapes sourced almost entirely from the family-owned estate, the wines were handcrafted in small lots with extreme care.
This cart was given to Walt Disney and his family by an Italian dignitary in 1954. Hand-crafted with exquisite detail, it stands at the entrance courtyard. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
The winery opened to the public in 1987 and began offering wine tasting and tours. The Mediterranean-style stone winery was established in 1981 and stands on a knoll above the Silverado Trail.
The cart is impeccably maintained by the family and is part of the welcoming dcor as you enter the winery. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
As you drive through the rock pillar entry, you wind up a curving driveway to the impressive sight overlooking the land of the Silverado Vineyards. The first vision of the winery is of a terra cotta, stone and stucco building that brings Tuscany to mind. This resembles more of an Italian countryside than a place in Napa Valley.
The wine cellar is climate-controlled, storing hundreds of barrels. When you open the door, an aroma strikes you and you cannot help but smile. This brought back memories for me, of my helping my grandfather make wine when I was very young. I had to stop for a moment and take in more than just one breath. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
The Silverado Vineyards' winemaking philosophy is described as:
From harvest to bottle, each step in the winemaking process is dedicated to expressing the character of the grapes grown on each of the winery's fine properties in Napa Valley. When the choice fruit is delivered to the winery, it is introduced to passionate winemakers who work with only the finest equipment.
There are thousands of barrels in the wine cellar being watched over with special care and with a special finesse. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
While the winery was grown over the years, Silverado's winemaking staff still believes that small is a good way of doing things. From harvesting, to small lot fermentation, to use of French oak barrels, visitors are able to see each step of the winemaking process.
The stained glass over the door of the cellar is of a lily, and was especially made and installed as a memento for Lillian (Diane's mother and Walt's wife), so she will always be a part of the winery. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
The wine tasting room is very conducive to trying "flights" of wine. A friendly staff and great tasting bouquets, this winery made you feel as if you were part of the family as opposed to visiting a business winery.
Taking a tour, you get to walk between offices and the tasting room through hallways that are lined with beautiful original artwork from artists such as Herb Ryman and Peter Ellenshaw. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
As we enjoyed a tasting flight, the staff told us about a tradition at Silverado Vineyards. Every year when the new harvest comes in and is about to be crushed, they have a ceremony called Blessing of the Grapes. One bottle of their best of last year's wine is opened and sprinkled over the harvested grapes before they are sent off for crushing. This is for good luck for the future vintage
This new wine tasting room has beautiful French doors offering north-facing panoramas of vineyards and the Stags Leap landscape. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
[Flights of wine: For $5 to $10, you try small sips of five or six wines. These usually start with white, dryer wines and move to heavier, red, or sweeter wines, although a flight could also consist of all-white or all-red wines. The idea is to start light and move to heavier more intense wines.]
Looking out from the wine tasting room. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
The Silverado Room holds up to 100 people for lunches, dinners, business meetings, and conferences. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
I could not help but notice (and I am sure this was unintentional) the cozy table at the end of the Silverado Room, the flower arrangement just had an all-too familiar look. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
Silverado produces Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. It takes two-and-a-half to three hours to bottle 300 cases of wine (that is about 81 bottles per minute). Photo by Frank Anzalone.
Driving through the gates of the Silverado Vineyard, you will get the sense that you are totally invited and welcomed. At Silverado Vineyards, you feel as if you are family. A very rare treasure in the Napa Valley, a place to live, share the fruits of the harvest and enjoy life. Photo by Frank Anzalone.
When visiting the Napa valley, make sure to stop in at Silverado Vineyards. The landscape is beautiful, the estate and staff are open and friendly and the wines are outstanding.
(Send an email to Frank Anzalone)
Frank is a mild-mannered marketing/advertising photographer by day, but his true passion is his professional band, Sage. His web site, mckyfoto.com, sports an impressive collection of Disney photos from his period as an official photographer for Disney Magazine. Frank has also published a book, "Images and Art of Santana Row", a coffee table style picture book of the grand new lifestyle shopping and entertainment destination in San Jose, CA.
Frank shot all of the photos for this article with Nikon camera gear. (Nikon D2x and D80 digital cameras with 18-55 zoom, 24-200 zoom and 80-400 zoom lenses, and a Nikon SB 800 flash for fill light).
Frank lives in Northern California with his wife, Karen. Premier annual passholders to both Disneyland Resort and WDW Resort, the Anzalones visit Disneyland and WDW as time permits in their busy schedule.