The PGA Tour 20/21 season kicked off with the Safeway Open at Silverado Resort and Spa and we were thrilled to experience the course last month. Crews were busy trimming every inch of the grounds while letting the rough grow a bit taller. It was already a challenging depth for amateurs, so it was fun watching the pros iron through it last week. Volunteers were charged with vigilance in tracking errant balls destined to be swallowed by the thick outer grass. A solo gallery stand was a sign of the 2020 tournament times sans fans, but a few VIPs enjoyed the view from over the 18th green.
The North Course’s bent poa greens were greased to go in the peaceful setting of the pin oaks and majestically towering redwoods, the natural habitat for an abundance of red headed woodpeckers. The Johnny Miller design flows around the foothills and waterways of Napa Valley like a smooth Pinot Noir. Fairways are narrow and the simple approach may not be as simple as it appears. The defense of a simple layout requires carefully placed tee shots. The S-shaped #5 par 5 sets up a high fade to get past the corner and have a chance of reaching the green in two. Too far or too little and you find the rough which is nearly impossible to hit out of and hold the green. Number 11’s short par 3 is surrounded by water on three sides; accuracy is a must. Rounding 18 one might recall Cameron’s tearful victory of last year or now Stewart Cink’s birdie to win with son Reagan on his bag. While the North Course was PGA Tour ready, the South Course is no slacker beginning with a creek that dissects the two courses. It is like a walk in the park over gentle rolling hills. Exceptional fairways and greens reflect the beauty of the surrounding vineyards and homes.
Silverado is reserved for members or guests who may play a round for each night they stay at the resort. The elegant clubhouse has a porch with rockers to welcome patrons and a boutique caliber pro shop. A veranda overlooking the courses serves meals and sunsets. The snack bar on the North Course grills the very famous burger dog not to be missed. Bryan Johnson, Golf Sales Manager will arrange a Golfers Dream Package for groups of 12 or more and like everyone in the area, has advice on wineries. He is a member of Nickel and Nickel, a Far Niente sister winery and recommends their excellent cabernets and tours.
We began our own wine tour at Silverado Vineyards right down the road in the City of Napa and Appellation of Stag’s Leap. The owners wanted a Tuscan Villa but could not locate one so brought their sangiovese vines here instead. Fine tastings from the outdoor patio combine with fantastic valley views, where on a hot August day, the pin oak overhang provided welcome shade.
Since we savor Duckhorn cabs, their winery was a no brainer and no disappointment starting with a friendly Irish greeting and a splash of Rose from Eva before seating. All tastings and dining were happening outside due to California’s Covid restrictions. After sips and wine stories on the terrace with Ali, a glass of Merlot from their Three Palms Vineyard was poured to accompany a stroll through the gardens along the sauvignon blanc vines. Duckhorn’s grapes were perfectly formed hanging on those vines and perfectly fermented in their bottles.
Castello di Amorosa (Castle of Love), is a fantasy tour of authentic Italian workmanship. Eighteen artisans hand chiseled the stones, all imported from Europe to construct a Tuscan castle high on the hill complete with a drawbridge and towers. The architectural masterpiece is matched by its fine wines. Personal or self-guided tours through the castle include the magnificently adorned Chapel where Latin mass was held for 4 years before the county shut it down. The Great Hall took 17 months to paint the walls and ceiling Sistine style. The Castle where Disney’s movie “Bedtime Stories” was filmed took 30 years to complete. The Courtyard is where tastings are conducted by friendly folks like Tysha whose expertise on the wines is paired with persuasive sales skills. You can’t leave Napa without a case and/or membership after all. Napa is the most widely recognized wine region in the country and the comparative test for all others making it a bucket list destination for any wine lover.
Our final day began with a puff of smoke on the eastern horizon and the next morning we departed with a light sheet of ash on our car. California has had its share of pyro-disaster and Covid has only compounded their economic plight. Napa needs love from tourists, and they deserve it because they know how to give it back in their wine, cuisine, hospitality and great golf.
— By Alice Scott