Posted by: acooksca | 04/03/2009

New Stallion on the Trail

black-stallion-1a1For 50 years the “Silverado Horsemen’s Center” occupied 32 acres along Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail just a few miles North of the town of Napa. The equestrian center had an outdoor arena, indoor riding track, trails, paddocks and a stallion breeding station. This historic site is now breeding fine wines as Black Stallion Winery.

The Silverado Tail defines the Eastern edge of the Napa Valley floor and you access some of the finest Napa wineries from this less traveled road. Black Stallion is one of the first wineries you can visit after leaving the town of Napa. Turn into the olive tree edged drive and you are welcomed by the winery’s stone facade framing a dramatic 10-foot bronze statute of a rearing Stallion.

Elaine St. Clair is the winemaker at Black Stallion Winery. I know her through the limited production Syrah that bears her name and she extended an invitation to drop by. Elaine has been in the valley for years working as assistant wine maker for Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon and others. Since May she has been with Black Stallion and is now working her first crush there.

We strolled through the huge temperature controlled production building. Only a fraction of it was needed for cases of empty wine bottles, crisp new French oak barrels, stainless steel fermenting tanks and some truly impressive German made crushing and de-stemming machinery.

As we stopped to appreciate the aroma arising from a vat of Cabernet Sauvignon berries Elaine pointed to the north wall. “This was the in-door riding track and you can see the remnants of the horse stalls along the wall. It’s a great building, we have plenty of space to grow and lots of plans for improvements.”

The property has about 6 newly planted acres of vines. They have been sourcing grapes from small, local farmers who grow to the specifications of the winery’s winemaker and viticulturist. These smaller plots give the wine maker a lot of control. “This year started out with several damaging frosts that reduced the crop and postponed flowering.” Elaine explained. “We dropped the fruit that ripened too late. We also have the ability with our specialized small-scale de-stemming equipment to sort out undeveloped or raisin berries.” Elaine works with 12 varietals which blend into 8 bottled wines.

Black Stallion Winery opened to visitors in 2007 and it is evident that hospitality is taken seriously. The tasting bar inhabits a generous space in the center of the visitors hall. The cost of tasting is a modest $10 for your choice of four varietals and the day I visited a complimentary taste of the newly released ’06 Carneros Chardonnay($38.00) was being poured as well.

Also offered are 2007 California Pinot Grigio ($22.00) and 2007 Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc ($26.00), 2004 Oak Knoll Merlot ($42.00), 2004 Napa Valley Syrah ($38.00) and 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($65.00). An optional artisan cheese pairing plate is offered on weekends and a well shaded picnic area invites you to linger over a bottle.

The owners, who have a beverage distributing company in Minnesota, have chosen not to distribute but sell exclusively at the winery. The production is modest at 4,000 total cases and you can order directly from the winery. Better yet, visit this lovely new addition to the famed Silverado Trail.
4089 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 253-1400


Originally published in Farmstead Cheese News by Karen Bolla, edited for A Cook’s California (A Cook’s CA)  by Karen Bolla.





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