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Swanson Vineyards: Dixie Cups and Carnival Stripes In Napa

Alexis Swanson and son Johnny at Bar Jules
Alexis Swanson and son Johnny at Bar Jules

And now, the latest edition of The Swill, wherein certified sommelier and Hip Tastes book author, Courtney Cochran, brings you the latest gossip and findings from the wide world of wine.
[Photo: Ashley Teplin]

Alexis Swanson Traina is the rare socialite who actually works. And she works hard at that. I know this because she emailed me photos of her wines -- including some of the new wine series she just launched with Andy Spade -- and new Sip Shoppe tasting room around midnight. I’d told her I’m on deadline, but this was still impressive. Also, as if confirming that YES, she’s “just like us,” Alexis gestured to the words “10 o’clock” scrawled in pen on her hand. Apparently she’d been so busy the night before that she’d written the time of our appointment on her hand so as not to forget it. Either being a socialite isn’t what it used to be or this is a vivid demonstration of socialite slowed-down – a “wine country socialite,” if you will. Who really cares? This woman makes great wine. Swanson’s merlot has long been a fave of mine and Alexis is not too proud to sell, sell, sell. Here, her thoughts on wine’s new direction and her newly released line of "perfect-for-any-occasion" wines.

You have a reputation for outdoing yourself when it comes to hospitality. How are you pushing the envelope now? We recently came out with wines from Oakville called Please Forgive Me, Mazel Tov, Expensive, Lucky Night, Swell Swill and Thrilled For You. The names speak to specific personal occasions and they're all priced around $25, a nice fit for most budgets.

Your new Sip Shoppe opened in Napa this July. What’s the best thing about it? It’s a tall, tall room bathed in red and white carnival stripes. It’s a candy store for adults: reinventing the rituals of wine, reviving the nightcap, offering our favorite wines and clever gifts too!

What's the quirkiest thing about the new space? Sips in glass dixie cups, stemless Os, old fashioned cordials. We want to attract the 90% of Wine Country visitors who come to us with little or no hubris.

Anything you would have done differently? You know, it's really too soon to tell.

Fair enough. Can you give us the inside scoop on any new events or developments? Look out for our modern-day house wine, it's brand spanking new!

Will do! You've been known to bring the unconventional into the wine drinking process. What's the most outlandish thing you've ever done in the name of promoting your wines? The list is far too long.

When you're not drinking Swanson wines, you're drinking...? Anybody's rosé!

And can you succinctly describe your wine philosophy? Purveyors of things fine...mostly wine.