Swanson Vineyard gate sign 1Tasting appointments are required for many Napa Valley tasting rooms these days and wine tasting at Swanson Vineyards is no exception.  But with vineyards turning red, brown and gold and the wine country tourist season winding down, it’s getting easier to snag a drive-by appointment by calling tasting rooms while you’re almost in their driveway.  Such was the case this past weekend during a totally unscheduled series of wine adventures to some of my favorite Napa Valley destinations, including wine tasting at Swanson Vineyards.

Swanson is tucked away on a small side street in Rutherford, within a mile of Highway 29 even though there is no winery sign on the highway pointing in its direction.  You could easily drive right by this tasting room – the sign at the gated entrance is nearly hidden in the shrubbery and confirmation of your appointment using the call box is needed for entrance.

Once you’re past the gate, the atmosphere is instantly warm and welcoming.  This is a family winery with no corporate pretenses and license to decorate any way they please.  The courtyard connecting the parking area to the front of the tasting room building might remind you of a small park in Paris and the architecture of the building itself is in the French country style.  At the end of the walkway, you come upon a door straight ahead and another to the right, each leading to a unique interior that reflects even more French character.

Mindi pouring in The Sip Shoppe at Swanson Vineyards 1Take the short path to the right and enter The Sip Shoppe with its brightly decorated French circus tent interior.  The walls are lined in tent canvas painted with red and white vertical stripes and circus poster art is everywhere.  The cheerful, casual and festive atmosphere and friendly staff makes The Sip Shoppe a wonderful stand-up tasting room experience.  But don’t be fooled by the clown art, Swanson produces serious wines that represent some of the best limited production offerings in the Valley.  I especially liked their 2011 Zinfandel, 2012 Chardonnay and 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, but the best of all was the 2011 Merlot.  Although available to taste, this great red had a limited case production and is only available to wine club members.

If you prefer a warm venue for a sit-down group tasting, use the main entrance for The Salon.  This is a classic, big round table that offers an hour long, full flight tasting experience accompanied by gourmet chocolate, caviar, cheeses and insights into the wines and history of Swanson Vineyards.  Seatings are limited and not available for drive-by appointments.

I hope you’ll include wine tasting at Swanson Vineyards in one of your future Napa Valley wine adventures.

The Salon at Swanson Vineyards 2Wine Tasting at Swanson Vineyard

The Sip Shoppe – Thursday through Monday 11am to 4pm, approx. ½ hour, $25 (tasting fee waived with purchase)

The Salon – Wednesday through Monday, seatings at 11am, 1:30pm, 4pm, approx. 1 hour, $65

Call for reservations: (707) 754-4018


Swanson Vineyards

1271 Manley Lane, Napa, CA 94558

Phone: (707) 967-3500


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Disclosure: The author is a member of this winery’s wine club.  Wines and other products or services described in this article were provided by the winery pursuant to benefits available to all club members. No free samples or other inducements were provided to the author in return for this review.