Pinot Grigio poured in clear glass Dixie cups and paired with potato chips topped with dollops of domestic caviar? That’s just a taste of what visitors to Swanson Vineyards’ new Sip Shoppe have in store.
The tasting room debuted late July, heralded this weekend by a party at the Swanson family’s private estate in Oakville, where guests were invited to dress “curious and eccentric,” and celebrity co-architect Andy Spade mingled with revelers wearing folded newspaper hats while an opera singer serenaded.
Suffice it to say you can dismiss any ideas of a stuffy, ordinary wine tasting. Sip Shoppe is a whimsical, cheeky adventure, starting with the room of bold red-and-white striped circus-style fabric walls, and unrolling as samplings of Swanson Vineyards’ library vintages are presented in special 1.5 ounce pours mini Riedel Os. Sweet wines are served in charming crystal cordials, and the proprietary Angelica dessert wine arrives in colored cut crystal.
“We take our wines very seriously but are whole-hearted believers in a dash of decadence,” explained Swanson Vineyards’ Creative Director Alexis Swanson Traina, sporting a Chinese straw hat while she surveyed guest tables littered with lollipops and sweet-sour chews. Staffers, dressed as flappers, Mardi Gras queens and colorful ladies, helped lead guests through an elaborately carved door, set-up, most curiously, all by itself in the middle of the Swansons’ emerald green lawn.
The vision of some of the world’s finest talents, Swanson Vineyards’ Sip Shoppe partners include Kate Spade collection co-founder Andy Spade; renowned illustrator Jean-Philippe Delhomme; interior designer Thomas Britt; chocolatier Katrina Markoff of Vosges Haut Chocolate; singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton’s exclusive stationery line; avant-garde florist Torryne Choate; and renowned California painter, Ira Yeager.
Surrounded by faux stone gargoyles and Yeager’s paintings, visitors browse Sip Shoppe’s gift shop – but find no trite wine country-style dried floral wreaths or grape gee-gaws. Instead, shelves brim with clever, stylish gifts, such as a collection called The Newlywed Kit: six bottles of Swanson Vineyards’ special occasion wine “Just Married,” accompanied by an ostrich feather duster and a sage bundle (complete with instructions on how to clear out negative energy and create wedded bliss). Coming shortly…The Break Up Kit, The Stork Kit, The Please Forgive Kit.
Adding to the fun are the morsels for the Sip Shoppe's tastings, including domestic caviar and chocolates, jellies and sorbets, offered in pairing menus such as the winery’s signature tasting, the Salonnière, featuring “Alexis” Cabernet Sauvignon paired with an Alexis Bonbon, followed by Swanson Vineyards’ sought-after dessert wine, Angelica.
“It’s about glorifying everyday rituals, every way we can,” Swanson Traina explained, as a French-style organ grinder played his music in the background. “It’s a celebration, to reinvent the rituals of the mundane, through wine.”
Details: Swanson Vineyards Sip Shoppe, 1271 Manley Lane, Rutherford. Open Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reservations are not required, but can be made at 707-967-3500 or by emailing email@example.com. swansonvineyards.com.
Tip: If you’re visiting Napa, plan a day of eclectic eating and drinking the easy way, with Pure Luxury as your personal chauffeur. We can also recommend the best activities, restaurant and accommodations to make your trip extra-special.