It was a pleasure to meet with an accomplished winemaker of 25 years, Mr. Jon Emmerich of Silverado Vineyards to learn more about the philosophy and passion behind their winemaking just in time for the Fall harvest season. The winery is a favorite of Inspirato Members and a short ten minute drive from our Inspirato rooms and residences at Auberge du Soleil.
When and how did you become a winemaker at Silverado Vineyards?
I recall drinking Mateus Rosé and Blue Nun with my parents. It was at UC Davis where, on a lark, I enrolled in the Fermentation Science program. My dorm mate’s family owned a small winery; we decided to use some of their fruit to make wine in our dorm room. I realized if we could make decent wine in a dorm room, I could potentially make really good wine out in the world. I headed to France for an internship.
After Davis, I worked a harvest at Stags Leap Wine Cellars, and then spent a year at Conn Creek Winery and Sebastiani before moving to Silverado Vineyards. Managing winemaking is just one part of my role. I spend time on the road carrying the Silverado story outside Napa Valley. I also spend copious amounts of time in Silverado’s vineyards to understand the terroir and communicate its story through the wines. If my staff enjoys their work and our customers enjoy our wines, then I have done my job. In the end, that’s what really matters.
Do the wines of Silverado Vineyards have a “house style”?
Yes, absolutely. Elena Franceschi, our Associate Winemaker, and I have been working together for several years and since we are working with all estate fruit there is a consistent, well structured, focusing on fruit, not overripe characters… a refreshing palette, brightness. The wines have life!
As we celebrate the 2013 SOLO vintage release at the winery this month, describe how SOLO is different from most Napa Valley “Flagship” Cabernets?
In 1968, Silverado’s estate vineyard became the third planted to Cabernet Sauvignon in the Stags Leap District, now world renowned for its Cabernet Sauvignon. Over the next two decades, through careful observation and meticulous field selection, an entirely new clone of Cabernet Sauvignon emerged. The vines had adapted to Silverado Vineyard’s steep, shale soils to produce fruit with intense plum, red currant and cassis characters. The University of California at Davis acknowledged this unique vine with a ‘Heritage’ designation. It is one of only three Cabernet Sauvignons to attain this status – and the only one from Stags Leap District.
Jonathan Emmerich is only the second lead winemaker in the history of Silverado Vineyards. He honed his craft while working for several years under Jack Stuart, who was Silverado Vineyards founding winemaker.