Today’s Story: Silver Oak
Silver Oak was established in 1972 by friends Ray Twomey Duncan, a Colorado entrepreneur, and Justin Meyer, a winemaker who trained at the famous Christian Brothers Winery. The two shared a vision of focusing solely on Cabernet Sauvignon and aging their wines in strictly American oak to produce a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon built for cellaring. Silver Oak quickly grew out of their dairy barn and inaugural 1,000 case release, climbing over the following decades to become one of the top selling restaurant wines around the country. Though Justin Meyer retired in 1994 and sold his shares to the Duncan family in 2001, winemaker Daniel Baron picked up the reigns having studied Justin’s ways and Silver Oak continued to make consistent wines. Nate Weis has been winemaker since 2014, and to this day Ray’s sons David and Tim Duncan own and operate the winery.
Silver Oak consists of over 400 acres of vineyards between Napa Valley and Alexander Valley, all of which grow under sustainable viticulture practices. The vineyard management and winemaking teams are both delicate in changes that occur in the vineyards, but they also use a great deal of science and historical accounting in deciding when to pick the fruit. Silver Oak practices Berry Sensory Analysis, using tools to discover and analyze the sugar, acid, pH, and flavor of the fruit in addition to its pulp, seeds, skin, and texture. Coupled with catalogued details of each vineyard and block going back several decades, Silver Oak can pick at optimal ripeness for the wine they want each vintage.
In the cellars, the Silver Oak winemaking team led by Nate Weis prides themselves on producing consistent and high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon using both science and art. With only three winemakers in the history of Silver Oak (with overlap between each “changing of the guard”), it’s no surprise that Silver Oak offers a similar profile vintage after vintage. Interestingly, Silver Oak blends their young wines before aging and therefore they get an image of what the wine will be like before going into oak and picking up any characteristics of the wood. After nearly five years of barrel and bottle aging, Silver Oak releases their wines which are both enjoyable in their youth and have the structure to age for several decades in the cellar.
Fun Fact: Silver Oak owns their own barrel cooperage in Higbee, Missouri and I highly suggest taking a scroll through the images and barrel-making process on the website here.
Today’s Wine: 1995 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot; 13.3% ABV
The 1995 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is deep garnet in color with ruby hues. There’s absolutely no bricking yet, and the wine is somewhat translucent. I decanted this for an hour or so, but in reality this was singing as a pop-and-pour. The nose showcases aromas of black plum, juicy blackberry, redcurrant, blueberry, licorice, forest floor, and cigar box with that classic Silver Oak clove and vanilla. On the palate, I get notes of black cherry, cassis, plum, tilled earth, green underbrush, cracked black pepper, cedar, and more Silver Oak vanilla and oak. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) but integrated tannins, and a medium (+) finish. Drink up if you have it.
Price: $135 (shared by a friend). I always struggle to call Silver Oak a great value wine, largely because every vintage tastes very similar and these fit more into the “people pleasing” camp of wines. The one thing you can credit Silver Oak with is consistency, but I think there are more exciting wines for the price. All depends what you want out of a Napa Cab.