About Us

Swanson Vineyards was founded in 1985 by W. Clarke and Elizabeth Swanson and is known for nationally distributing Pinot Grigio, Merlot and Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon – in addition, Swanson has long been producing limited production, tiny batch wines made from intriguing varietals. Our original wine facility was purchased in 1986, then renovated and expanded in 2000. Since then, we have been offering limited seated tastings in our Salon. The Swanson Vineyards’ Salon was modeled after a Parisian salon of the mid 1800’s, where handfuls of diverse and fascinating callers were graciously entertained with sinful libations. Inspired by old-fashioned ways of elegant living and conversation – we want each guest to feel as though they are coming to a party held in their honor.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, our founder Clarke Swanson is a graduate of Stanford University and holds a MS in Journalism from Columbia University. During his studies at Stanford, Clarke became acquainted with Napa during weekend visits; it was during this time that Clarke decided he wanted to own a vineyard one day. In 1969, Clarke married Elizabeth Pipes, a seventh generation New Orleanian who grew up in the Crescent City. After they married, they settled in Naples Florida and would frequent the Napa Valley during business trips. 1985, Clarke purchased his Oakville property that continues to be his and Elizabeth’s home.

As a newly minted vintner, Clarke obtained the services of the famed winemaker and consultant, Andre Tchelistcheff. Andre, most famous for his winemaking, was also the expert on terroir, viticulture, and grape growing. He recommended that Swanson turn its focus away from the popular Cabernet Sauvignon and instead toward Merlot. It is through this relationship that Clarke was introduced to Marco Cappelli who became a protégé of Andre and was the Swanson’s winemaker for its first 17 vintages.

Under the guidance Chris Phelps, winemaker from 2003 and now consulting winemaker as of 2015, the Swanson portfolio continues to reflect a commitment to pure, premium wines that reflect the terroir from which they come. After finishing his Enology studies at University of California at Davis, Chris attended the University of Bordeaux and landed an internship with Christian Moueix for the 1982 vintage in Puisseguin-St. Emilion. This led to training at Château Pétrus in Pomerol and 10 years as winemaker at Moueix’s Dominus Estate in Yountville, Napa Valley. Following Dominus, Chris spent 7 years at Caymus Vineyards; he joined the Swanson team in 2003 and shortly after his 12th anniversary, transitioned to consulting winemaker.

Newly appointed lead winemaker, Robin Akhurst, joined Swanson Vineyards in early 2015 after globetrotting for eight consecutive harvests. Boasting an impressive list of mentors and an even more impressive resume, Robin continues to carry out our commitment to making wines with great nuance and character. A native of Scotland, Robin’s studies took him across the world to New Zealand’s University of Christchurch; then to Burgundy and Australia where he interned with the famed wineries Domaine Leflaive and Two Hands Winery, respectively. Landing in Napa in 2009, Robin has since worked with winemakers Thomas Rivers Brown, Nils Venge, and Mark Carter. With his tenure at Swanson, Robin continues to work closely with consulting winemaker, Chris Phelps

It is with our winemakers’ mindset that we strive to produce wines with marked elegance and finesse with minimalist winemaking intervention. With careful consideration of varieties of rootstock, clones, spacing and trellis systems, our challenge and endeavor is to ensure that all the potential of our vineyards is captured and reflected in our wines.