Here’s wine to start the new year: A 2016 bottle of Silverado Vineyard’s SOLO arrived with a mask and a message: “You don’t have to wear a mask when drinking SOLO.”

In 1968 Silverado planted Cabernet Sauvignon in the Stags Leap District, and over the next two decades created a new clone, designated by UC Davis as the Disney-Silverado Heritage clone. It is one of three cabernet sauvignons to achieve heritage status and the only one from the Stags Leap District.

Each year, Silverado honors its unique clone by creating SOLO. This year’s release, harvested Oct. 2-6, 2016, is 100% cab, deep, and rich with Stags Leap’s wonderful velvet. And fine to drink solo.

Meet Mullen Road Cellars

Another interesting release comes from Dennis Cakebread, who introduced his Mullan Road Cellars wines via Zoom from Washington’s new approved Royal Slope AVA in eastern Washington.

Cakebread, of Napa Valley’s Cakebread Cellars, said they’d been thinking about expanding out of state since the 1990s. He became intrigued with eastern Washington in the 2000s when he traveled to Walla Walla to explore the growing wine industry in the Columbia Valley. Appreciating the wines as well as the camaraderie of the winemakers, in 2012, he launched his Washington wine project there. Cakebread, deciding that the region was ideal for Bordeaux varieties, said his goal was to make a Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wine that captured both the history and terroir of the Northwest.

The Mullan Road Cellars label on Cakebread’s wines was “inspired by the adventurous spirit of Lt. John Mullen, who, in the late 1850s, built the first Pacific Northwest wagon road.”

Available now are the 2013 “Washington Exploration” as well as the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Mullan Road Cellars red blends. The winemaker is Aryn Morrell.

The grapes are sourced from the Solacksen Vineyard and Stillwater Creek Vineyards, located two hours north of Walla Walla. The south-facing Solaksen Vineyard in Frenchman Hills overlooks the Saddle Mountains with elevations ranging from 1,365 to 1,675 feet. Rainfall is sparse, and the vines are irrigated with water from a well, and an irrigation system features water-saving drip at four feet intervals.

Stillwater Creek Vineyard is a 235-acre site, planted in 2000 on a steep, south-facing area on the Royal Slope of the Frenchman Hills. Cakebread said the site’s fractured rock and southern exposure proved to be ideal for red varieties, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.

The Royal Slope AVA, approved in 2020, comprises 156,389 acres within the Columbia Valley AVA. The name Royal Slope has been used “at least” since the 1950s and came, it is said, from two Scotsmen who climbed the Saddle Mountains and “remarked on the slope’s majesty.” Royal City, population 2,230, is in the appellation.

Wine grapes were first planted on the Royal Slope in 1983. Today, it has more than 1,900 acres of wine grapevines in more than 20 varieties, 13 commercial vineyards and one bonded winery.

WATCH NOW: HOW DRINKING RED WINE CAN BENEFIT YOUR HEALTH

CHECK OUT SASHA PAULSEN’S FAVORITE NAPA VALLEY REGISTER STORIES FROM 2020

Sasha Paulsen is features editor at the Napa Valley Register. Reach her at spaulsen@napanews.com.