Silverado Resort

By George Fuller, Contributor

Glorious Days and Chardonnays in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys

NAPA, Calif. - When Brett Ogle won the 1993 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am on the Pebble Beach Golf Links, he knelt down and kissed the 18th green. It was a defining moment in his young career. After all, Pebble Beach is one of golf's most hallowed venues, and to have achieved his first PGA Tour win on such a revered course was clearly a thrill for Ogle.

I feel the same way every time I get to Napa Valley, California, 45 minutes north of San Francisco. I just want to get down on my knees and kiss the ground that produces such sweet nectars as Heitz Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Duckhorn Merlot and Cakebread Chardonnay. What Pebble Beach is to golf, Napa Valley is to winemaking.

Luckily, you can wave the magic wand and combine great golf with great wines. If you do so, you'll find yourself at Silverado Resort, right in the heart of Napa Valley. And when you add in a bevy of exquisite dining choices such as Thomas Keller's The French Laundry, consistently ranked as the best restaurant in the U.S., Wolfgang Puck's Stars Grill Oakville, Mustard's Grill in Yountville, Tra Vigne and the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in St. Helena, you find yourself in absolute heaven. You feel like kissing the ground, the greens, the grape vines and just about everything else you discover.

It is a safe assumption that there are very few things most of us would rather do in this lifetime than play golf on magnificent courses, eat food prepared by some of the world's great chefs and sample wines from this country's finest wine-producing region. These three things are in abundance in California's Wine Country.

Silverado Resort is the premier golf resort in the region. Located at the southern end of the fertile Silverado Trail, near such fine wineries as Chimney Rock, Clos du Val and Stag's Leap, Silverado Country Club & Resort is an experience that combines tranquility and elegance.

The golf courses are set on 360 acres of gently rolling land. Fairways are lined with stately mature oak, towering redwood and weeping willow trees. If you're playing a round of golf in the late afternoon, you will more than likely be sharing the course with the dozens of deer that live on the resort's 1,200 acres.

Site of the Senior PGA Tour's Transamerica Tournament, the North and South courses were the first courses Jones Jr. designed on his own after serving an apprenticeship in his renowned father's design company.

Opened in 1966, the Silverado courses reflect much of the elder Jones' "easy bogey, tough par" philosophy of golf course design. In addition to featuring Trent Jones Sr.'s signature crown greens that repel mis-hit balls, the courses at Silverado also display a "short hole, tough green; long hole, flat green" approach. "Fair" is an apt description: If your shots are on line, you'll have a decent score. If you're off line, you'll be carding bogeys and double-bogeys.

"Silverado was the first course I did independently," Jones Jr. says. "Although I was still under my father's banner, I had some different ideas, such as leaving things fairly natural-rocks in front of tees and so forth. But I was basically following what I learned from him."

The North can be played from 5,857 to 6,900 yards, and the South from 5,672 to 6,685 yards. Both courses feature large, fast greens. Walking is common and local members mix with resort guests, giving Silverado a clubby feel. If your timing is right, you might get a chance to ask NBC Sports commentator and former U.S. Open champion Johnny Miller, who is a member and frequent visitor at Silverado, how he thinks these two gems should be played.

Accommodations are in privately owned condominiums that line the fairways of the two Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed golf courses. Dining is superb in both the Vintner's Court (Friday and Saturday nights) and the Royal Oak restaurants-located in the resort's mansion reception house. Particularly popular is the seasonal Friday night seafood buffet in Vintner's Court that has been offered for more than 20 years. Salads, sashimi, house-smoked salmon, green New Zealand mussels and lobster and pasta with clams are a few of the selections you'll likely find. Extensive wine lists are offered at both venues.

A full-service spa was added to the resort's list of offerings a couple of years ago, making Silverado much more than a golf resort (although we know what's important, eh?). Silverado Resort represents California at its best: serene, rolling hills, mature oak trees, great food and wine and a year-round climate that is well suited for golf. Just makes you want to kiss the ground on which it sits, doesn't it?

George Fuller, Contributor

Editor, writer and photographer George Fuller has been writing about golf and travel for more than 15 years. His projects have taken him throughout the United States, Asia, Polynesia, Europe and Mexico.

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