“Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures.”— Michael Broadbent
We awoke on Day 2 excited for the real start of our Napa 2017 experience. We hit the Marriott gym first, a nice space next to their spa with a good assortment of cardio equipment and strength training options. Our muscles limber and our palates anticipating a full day of delicious wines, Brian and I met up with our friends and we set out for Silver Oak Cellars. The Silver Oak experience was by far the best of the day, and hence deserves its own post, I think!
Silver Oak Cellars is located in Oakville, CA in the Napa Valley appellation, though they also have vineyards in Alexander Valley. The winery derives its name from its location in Oakville and its proximity to the Silverado Trail. It was started in 1972 by two friends, Raymond Twomey Duncan, a Colorado entrepreneur, and Justin Meyer, a wine maker and, believe it or not, former Christian brother. The winery focuses on producing high quality Cabernet Sauvignon, and if you like Cabs, you’ve got to make a visit to Silver Oak.
We booked the Twomey and Silver Oak Experience, a private tour for our group with the opportunity to taste both Twomey and Silver Oak wines. As a quick side note, Twomey essentially started when Ray Duncan purchased Soda Canyon Ranch Vineyard in 1999, intending to use it for expanded Cabernet Sauvignon production. When he discovered it was planted with high quality French Merlot vines, it seemed there might be an opportunity to expand beyond Cabernet Sauvignon. However, the Duncans were dead set on maintaining the purity of Silver Oak’s original mission: excellent cab, and only cab. Instead of expanding the varietals offered under the Silver Oak label, they started a new company: Twomey Cellars. Twomey now primarily produces Pinot Noir and Merlot wines.
We pulled up to the quiet, airy estate and were greeted by Debbie, our guide. If you go to Silver Oak, ask for Debbi – she’s knowledgeable, sassy, and a lot of fun! We started our experience with a Twomey pinot, followed by a Twomey merlot in a room half occupied by the Duncan family private wine cellar. I admit I wasn’t very impressed with the Twomey wines, but hey, that wasn’t what we came here for! We soon moved on to the Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which we took with us as we started our walk around the grounds.
The Alexander Valley cabernet was delicious. The 2012 vintage is 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot. I found it rich, bold, and velvety, with a subtle softness around the edges. As we walked and sipped, Debbie led us through the winery and shared some history of the estate – they have certainly survived a lot of adversity! Floods (more than one), fires (in the same year as one of the floods!), illness, etc. At one point they actually hauled in dirt to raise the estate off the ground to avoid future flooding. We breezed through a beautiful banquet room – you can rent the space for corporate events and such – and out onto the front lawn overlooking the vineyards. We were then escorted into their production space, the steel fermentation tanks rising nearly to the ceiling. Here Debbie poured us a taste of the 2012 Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The Napa Valley Cabernet is a true Bordeaux style blend. The 2012 vintage is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. It was different from the Alexander Valley Cab; definitely more “old world,” more complex, with more acidity and structure. It was absolutely lovely.
With this new treat in our glasses, we proceeded in to one of the many barrel rooms. Silver Oak ages its wine for just about 2 years in American oak, and the wine spends an additional 20 months or so in the bottle before it is released. As we stood in the chilly room surrounded by the 2015 vintage, I couldn’t help but feel a little giddy knowing this wine wouldn’t even be available for another 2 years, and that it would taste differently from the wine in my glass. That’s the beauty of blending – at places like Silver Oak, the wine is always a little different, a little new, a novel experience.
We exited the barrel room before I could start shivering, returning to the tasting room and the grandeur of the Duncan Family cellar. Once back we had the opportunity to sample one of the library cabernets (which basically refers to one of the older vintages). After a few more laughs with Debbie and another splash of our favorite Silver Oak wine, we headed back into the Napa sunshine and on to our next destination: Duckhorn Vineyards.