3 Napa Valley Cabernet Vineyards, 3 Cabs, 2 Wineries: Celebrating with Ehlers and Silverado

“Let us celebrate
the occasion
with wine
and sweet words.”


When the Thomas Fire broke out, our plans to taste and write about giving the gift of wine from fire stung Napa Valley were set aside. After all, Sue’s house was at risk and she was in a voluntary evacuation zone… so our dinner plans at her house were definitely cancelled! While the fire continues to rage, the next time we got together, we celebrated the occasion: even though we are all suffering mightily from smoke inhalation with coughs, congestion, and headaches, we are safe, and the corner of the world that we call home is safe — at least for now.

And how did we celebrate that night? With four sparkling wines from around the world (post up soon!)) and then we got busy on the French Winophiles post for tomorrow.

Then last night we had the opportunity to taste these Napa Valley beauties paired with osso bucco and a squash and chard gratin with produce from Sue’s garden — with significant ash washed off!

What a gift — while the fire is now a quarter of a million acres burned, there’s only been one death, and fewer than a thousand structures destroyed. It could have been so much worse– the whole Ojai Valley could have burned:

The #ThomasFire has since continued to move east on the 126 toward Fillmore (parts of which were evacuated last night) and west and north toward Santa Barbara. This fire is far from over: it could burn for weeks more or until we get enough rain to put it out. And it will take significant rain to clean the air which may not be until January.

The best wines have a story to tell — or a story for YOU to tell!
Why did you choose this wine for this person?

These wines come remind us of the Napa Fire in October– and by writing about these wines, we bring attention to Napa which we will continue with a post about Flora Springs and another about Duckhorn. Right now, the region needs as much support as it can get! So many jobs are tied into the industry and tourism. In January, we will focus on Sonoma.

In addition to the fire story, these wines also have their own individual stories — but together, for a celebration or large gathering, the three tell a story about three vineyards as well as vineyard practices and family history, and it is an awesome experience to taste them side by side.

Ehlers is a historic property and they use biodynamic practices making it an excellent choice for those who go green whereas Silverado’s history includes the Disney family — so for all those Disney fans in your life, choose one of those wines!

Wines Well Worthy of a Celebration or a Gift:

2013 – Ehlers Estate – 1886 – Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – 14.5% alcohol -$100
2013 – Silverado Vineyards – Geo -Cabernet Sauvignon – 14.9% alcohol – $75
2013 – Silverado Vineyards – Solo -Cabernet Sauvignon – 14.2% alcohol – $125
Note: all wines were samples for review consideration


We found that there is a distinct Napa Cab boldness in these wines which we tasted in order from lowest priced to most expensive.

“The beginning of vine planting is like the beginning of mining for precious metals: the winegrower also ‘prospects’.”  Robert Louis Stevenson, The Silverado Squatters, 1880
The Silverado Mine is located in the top of Napa Valley.

As I mentioned above, Silverado was founded in 1981 by a Disney: Diane Disney Miller: 1933-2013. 

They purchased their vineyards in the 70s,  attracted by the beauty of the locale but the winemaking bug bit.  Their sustainable practices include 100% of the estate being sustainably farmed with 15% is farmed organically; 70%  Certified Napa Green; 50% preserved in the Land Trust exclusively for open space and agriculture use; 50% of the winery is powered by solar panels.

From their website: “For us, sustainable is not simply a farming method. It is an approach to all of our activities. It is the driving force behind everything we do.”

Jon Emmerich, Winemaker: “We work to make better use of the land, to farm it better, to help each block express exactly what and where it is.”

2013 – Silverado Vineyards – Geo -Cabernet Sauvignon – 14.9% alcohol – $75
98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc

This vineyard in the Coombsville area of Napa Valley was first planted in the 1880s; the Millers purchased it in 1987. The goal here is to express this vineyard planted on ancient volcanic soils on the western face of Mt George. The name Geo of course reflects the source, Mt George, but it the Greek word for earth.

Color: Garnet

Nose: Mint, eucalyptus, menthol tobacco or snuff, not cigar box but it does have a minty tobacco, very herbal, lemon verbena, also some dark chocolate.

Palate – This tastes like an expensive bottle of wine. In fact, it taste like you are totally getting your money’s worth out of this wine. We liked this wine so much it was difficult to move on to our next bottle of wine!

Of the three, the Geo is the most accessible and went the best with our pistachio wine cookie.



From the label: “On ancient volcanic soil defining the western face of Mt. George our vineyard, the oldest in Coombsville, has supported grapes for over a century. The wine from this rugged earth the embodiment of this historic site and its dark, expressive fruit is GEO.”

2013 – Ehlers Estate – 1886 – Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – 14.5% alcohol -$100

St. Helena – Napa Valley – bio dynamic wine

I first heard about Ehlers Estate from Elizabeth Smith, Traveling Wine Chick, who works there. With the 2014 vintage they changed their bottle style and label which disappoints me: This bottle is just so unique and lovely.

Color – plum in color, not translucent, but the light bounces off of it nicely, plush like plush red velvet.

Nose – eucalyptus, and mint, with cherry, berries, plum.

Palate – lingers, but not heavy, clean finish, minerals, makes the beemster cheese more nutty. tart cherry

Website info on their 2014 vintage: A full-bodied, complex Cabernet Sauvignon, built to last a lifetime. Ripe summer blackberries, sweet leathery tannins, black plums, dark Valrhona chocolate, vanilla bean, and notes of cinnamon. The layers of flavor impressions never stop. Dense and intense with a firm old-world acidity, this wine has a finish of Italian espresso. A classic Ehlers Estate ‘1886’ that will continue to improve for decades.”

Sue “This is the most complex and enjoyable of all of them.”
Me: “This is a complex and subtle wine.”

Biodynamic means that this is the right wine to gift your environmentalist friends: biodynamic goes far beyond organic and your green friends will love learning about biodynamic processes and procedures.

2013 – Silverado Vineyards – Solo -Cabernet Sauvignon – 14.2% alcohol – $125

Stags Leap District – Napa Valley

color – this wine had the most dense rich color of the three. rich plum, royal purple,

nose – eucalyptus mint, and that lemon verbena again, a bit more oak on the nose than the others, there is a richness on the nose,

palate – smooth and earthy with bright tart cherry fruit, Clean pure cherry, well balanced. Finish is jar cherries in a light syrup. The flavor of a whole fruit cherry preserved. Great complexity, this went so well with the pate on the whole grain baguette went so well with all of our wines, the earthy nuttiness

“Smooth and elegant, the 2013 SOLO Cabernet Sauvignon offers bold aromas of cherry and raspberry that carry over onto the palate.  Sweet black fruit flavors with a layer of lightly toasted oak and cola.  This is a full bodied Cabernet with an exquisite core of lush flavor.”  From the single vineyard that surrounds the winery

both the Geo and Solo are available in the 2013 and 2014 vintages. with this wine still being available, get one and lay it down for a while, it is great now, it would be wonderful to see what this will taste like in 5 years from now.


Sue decided that she liked the Elhers the best, but it was a hard decision between the Elhers and the  Solo.

But the question is not what is your favorite, but what makes each of them distinct.

Geo was cherry mint and clean to me with minerality.  Sue pulled out the iron rich soil that the grapes were grown in, mellow tannins expressive fruit, but for me it was all about the minerality.  Sue: pepper and spice and everything nice.

The Solo is really pretty tannic, if you’re were going to get the two, lay the Solo down or pair it with a ton of fattiness. Powerful and intense with a bit of anise on the finish. Sue felt that this wine had a better balance between the fruit, tannins and minerals and I thought  the Solo has more fruit with mocha on the finish. The Solo is really well balanced, but it does need to lay down for a bit. Sue loved the pistachio cookie with the Solo, it brought out the minerality in the wine  because of the caramel del sol. These were very lovely cookies paired with lovely wines.

Ehlers estate: Sue found this wine to be the most fruit forward of the three, and she found it to have more nuance than the others, minty and cocoa and fruit , really beautiful complexity.  I felt that of the three it was the most austere, the most subtle, the Geo has a lot of the minerals going on. As the night went on and we were sampling different cookies with each of the wines Sue found this wine to be more harmonious with each of the foods that we had to offer. To Sue this wine was the most well rounded of the three, and able to tackle most complex foods.

What a privilege to be able to taste the three of these wine over a wonderful meal. Each distinct in their own way, Each holding their own as being a brilliant wine. If you were able to give or were to receive any of these wines, you should consider it an honor. These are definitely wines for those who appreciate great wine.

At the end of the evening the Ehlers was the bottle that was most empty which is always an indicator of what we appreciated the most. While the decision was that each of these wines were wonderful, the Ehlers was gone first.

Squash Gratin

2 lb butternut squash or kaboch squash

15 cups Fresh Spinach

1 cup half and half

1T cornstarch

1 cup grated parmesan

1/2 cup sour cream

peel and slice squash 1/4″ thickness

arrange slices on cookie sheet brush with olive oil salt and pepper to taste and bake 425 degree oven for 20 minutes

saute spinach in 1 T of olive oil or butter till wilted, drain any extra liquid

in a saucepan combine half and half and cornstarch till bubbly and thick. Stir in drained spinach

Grease a casserole dish,

put spinach in the bottom

Arrange squash over the spinach

Stir grated parm and sour cream together place dollops over the squash

Bake in 425 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until top is golden brown.

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