Silver Oak: The Love-Hate Relationship

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Robert.Fleming
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Silver Oak: The Love-Hate Relationship

Post #1  Postby Robert.Fleming » March 15th 2014, 7:35am

Silver Oak at Chambers Street?!!

From the WSJ: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1 ... 4121566268

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Silver Oak: The Love-Hate Relationship

Post #2  Postby Robert B. » March 15th 2014, 7:57am

When my wife and I went to Silver Oak for a wine tasting a couple of years ago, we tried three Silver Oaks. One "new" Napa, one "new" Alexander Valley, and one "older" Napa. I was intrigued how much heat was on the "new" Napa, but not on the "new" Alexander Valley or the "older" Napa.

The "older" Napa was the most enjoyable to me and my wife.

Sorry I do not remember the exact vintages.

I was pleased with the experience. I still like an "older" Napa with a nice porterhouse steak.
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Silver Oak: The Love-Hate Relationship

Post #3  Postby Paul Miller » March 15th 2014, 8:08am

Thanks for posting. In light of the "other" thread started yesterday, I was thinking as I read that thread that if anyone posted about Silver Oak, it could be a lightening rod for bad behavior. So I drank a Silver Oak last night with a steak. It was warm enough to grill outside, so I did, and popped a 2002 Napa Valley. And it was fruity and oaky, but went well with steak. I think I have a 2003 left. Have not bought since because my tastes changed. I think they are generally well made with good fruit, but they've found their style and place, and are successful at it. And with good marketing, I think they make a great intro for people into good wines. So what, suck people in with the profile, if they like it they like it, else, a launching pad into other styles.
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Silver Oak: The Love-Hate Relationship

Post #4  Postby danupdike » March 15th 2014, 8:11am

I get to try both the Alexander and Napa at trade tastings every year, and cannot understand the infatuation, other than recognizable brand name. I also cannot believe the price it commands vs. quality ratio.
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Silver Oak: The Love-Hate Relationship

Post #5  Postby Carlos Delpin » March 15th 2014, 8:53am

Silver Oak from the 80's and 90's are tasty. They had this coconut aroma signature that was attractive for us island folks. Still pop one out these once in a while at a blind tasting and love how haters praise the wine.
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Silver Oak: The Love-Hate Relationship

Post #6  Postby Dale Bowers » March 15th 2014, 9:02am

Paul Miller wrote:Thanks for posting. In light of the "other" thread started yesterday, I was thinking as I read that thread that if anyone posted about Silver Oak, it could be a lightening rod for bad behavior. So I drank a Silver Oak last night with a steak. It was warm enough to grill outside, so I did, and popped a 2002 Napa Valley. And it was fruity and oaky, but went well with steak. I think I have a 2003 left. Have not bought since because my tastes changed. I think they are generally well made with good fruit, but they've found their style and place, and are successful at it. And with good marketing, I think they make a great intro for people into good wines. So what, suck people in with the profile, if they like it they like it, else, a launching pad into other styles.

+1 There is a place and time for every wine. Diversity is the spice of life. Had an early 2000 (can't remember exactly) vintage a few months ago at a friends house over dinner. Was enjoyable for what it was. Would I want to drink it everyday? No. But it was definitely a nice change of pace.
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Silver Oak: The Love-Hate Relationship

Post #7  Postby ericleehall » March 15th 2014, 9:05am

Whenever I see one of their giant tanker trucks rolling around Healdsburg, I always imagine a Texan with a six-shooter hijacking it and taking it back to his ranch in the ole Lone Star State.
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Silver Oak: The Love-Hate Relationship

Post #8  Postby Roberto Rogness » March 15th 2014, 10:01am

Anyone remember the Smith & Hook Monterey Cabs from the 80's? They had so much coconut they smelled like German Chocolate Cake!
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Post #9  Postby Dale Bowers » March 15th 2014, 10:04am

Where does the coconut smell come from? Lots and lots of new oak?
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Post #10  Postby Al Osterheld » March 15th 2014, 10:07am

American oak.

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Silver Oak: The Love-Hate Relationship

Post #11  Postby Thomas Keim » March 15th 2014, 10:20am

danupdike wrote:I get to try both the Alexander and Napa at trade tastings every year, and cannot understand the infatuation, other than recognizable brand name. I also cannot believe the price it commands vs. quality ratio.


Actually, the first thing that came to mind about Silver Oak is; how stable the prices have actually stayed. These were $60-$75 Cabernets ten years ago, and have pretty much stayed the same while their neighbors wines have doubled, tripled, even quadrupeled in price.

And I am not a Silver Oak fan by any means, but they really have stayed true to their heritage and still produce pretty similar wines to what they did years ago -
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Silver Oak: The Love-Hate Relationship

Post #12  Postby Paul Miller » March 15th 2014, 10:26am

Al Osterheld wrote:American oak.

-Al


I know French and American oak impart different characteristics, but it's all White Oak, correct? Or are they truly different trees? Is it "terroir" of where it is grown (dirt, climate, etc.) in the US vs. France that makes it different? Aren't the rings in American oak not as tight as in French oak and thus why you get more of that flavor profile out of American barrels?

I bet there is a thread here on WBs about oak and barrels I should do a search for.
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Post #13  Postby Robert.Fleming » March 15th 2014, 10:33am

Paul Miller wrote:I know French and American oak impart different characteristics, but it's all White Oak, correct? Or are they truly different trees?

Yes, different species.
From Wikipedia:
The species of oak typically used for American oak production is the Quercus alba which is a white oak species that is characterized by its relatively fast growth, wider grains and lower wood tannins. It is found in most of the Eastern United States as well as Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin where many wine barrels are from. In Oregon the Quercus garryana white oak has started to gain usage due to its closer similarities to European oak.
In France, both the Quercus robur (common oak) and Quercus petraea (white oak) are considered apt for wine making, however, the latter is considered far superior for its finer grain and richer contribution of aromatic components like vanillin and its derivates, methyl-octalactone and tannins, as well as phenols and volatile aldehydes.
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Silver Oak: The Love-Hate Relationship

Post #14  Postby Paul Miller » March 15th 2014, 10:55am

Thanks!
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Silver Oak: The Love-Hate Relationship

Post #15  Postby Scott Brunson » March 15th 2014, 11:13am

Dale Bowers wrote:Where does the coconut smell come from? Lots and lots of new...

Al Osterheld wrote:...American oak.

-Al

FIFY

It was one of our first consistent "splurges" on wine 20+ years ago so I have a nostalgic soft spot even though I won't buy it any more.
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Silver Oak: The Love-Hate Relationship

Post #16  Postby Paul Miller » March 15th 2014, 11:54am

Scott Brunson wrote:It was one of our first consistent "spurges" on wine 20+ years ago so I have a nostalgic soft spot even though I won't buy it any more.


+1

It was a wine everyone knew about and was a splurge. Stag's Leap (especially Cask 23) was another. This would make an interesting thread - "Wines you never buy anymore, but have an old sweet spot for."
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Silver Oak: The Love-Hate Relationship

Post #17  Postby larry schaffer » March 15th 2014, 12:35pm

I still have some 90 and 91 Alexander Valley and Napa cabs hidden somewhere. I usually donate them to the auction that benefits my kids' school because others find more value in it than I do. I've opened a few and have found them pleasurable - just not memorable.

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Post #18  Postby jcoley3 » March 15th 2014, 12:46pm

Paul,

To follow on Robert's post, American oak often has a very 'dill' note that works very well with Rioja, but for me works on a case-by-case basis with American reds. That dill flavor and aromas is the signature of Silver Oak, in some vintages it has tended to overwhelm the wine. I actually think the past couple of vintages of the Alexander Valley Cab have shown well, and they reminded me of why the became so popular.

The Napa, OTOH, has for many years worn the oak less well and commands a premium solely because of its AVA. The closest I think you can get to the heyday of Silver Oak Napa is tracking down a bottle of Meyer Family 'Bonny's Vineyard' Cab. It's more expensive than Silver Oak, but it's the same vineyard SO did a single-vineyard release from many years ago (until 1991).
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Post #19  Postby Markus S » March 15th 2014, 12:51pm

Robert.Fleming wrote:
Paul Miller wrote:I know French and American oak impart different characteristics, but it's all White Oak, correct? Or are they truly different trees?

Yes, different species.
From Wikipedia:
The species of oak typically used for American oak production is the Quercus alba which is a white oak species that is characterized by its relatively fast growth, wider grains and lower wood tannins. It is found in most of the Eastern United States as well as Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin where many wine barrels are from. In Oregon the Quercus garryana white oak has started to gain usage due to its closer similarities to European oak.
In France, both the Quercus robur (common oak) and Quercus petraea (white oak) are considered apt for wine making, however, the latter is considered far superior for its finer grain and richer contribution of aromatic components like vanillin and its derivates, methyl-octalactone and tannins, as well as phenols and volatile aldehydes.


But not only this, but also the way the staves are cut and dried amplifies the differences as well.
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Post #20  Postby S. Reynolds » March 15th 2014, 1:03pm

I feel like CSW regularly has an older bottle or two of Silver Oak. My experience with the producer is fairly limited but I have had some younger vintages (very unpleasant style to my tastes) and at last Thanksgiving a large group plowed through a 3L bottle of the 1983. It was fantastic--restrained, graphite, light cedar box, fruit but not fruit-forward. Really lovely wine, probably served too young. I understand there was a shift in style at some point, but the '83 is what you'd call "classic" Napa Cab.
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Post #21  Postby John Morris » March 15th 2014, 1:59pm

Carlos Delpin wrote:Silver Oak from the 80's and 90's are tasty. They had this coconut aroma signature that was attractive for us island folks. Still pop one out these once in a while at a blind tasting and love how haters praise the wine.


I haven't had one in a long time, but I remarked once in a tasting 20 years ago how delicious these were -- and how guilty I felt for liking them.
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Post #22  Postby b. c@stner » March 15th 2014, 2:03pm

Haven't purchased in many years, but being an old guy this was one of the wines I cut my teeth on. And their customer service etc. was always outstanding. My wife and I visited on our anniversary once way back, and when they found out they had someone run out and buy us a little cake. Still have some mags from the late 80's and 90's hanging around. And prices are indeed stable. Binny's here typically has Napa "on sale" for $79.99, and the Alex was just at $47.95 I noticed. Heck, that's a value wine anymore no?
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Post #23  Postby Craig Gleason » March 15th 2014, 3:13pm

I bought most vintages from 1984-1995. I stopped mostly because I was no longer buying much US Cab of any type, and the price of the Alexander had gone to $50 on release. I stopped buying Napa after 1992 when I decided I liked the Alexander better.

Silver Oak is often described as spoofed but I don't think it was ever over-extracted or high in alcohol. The legitimate beef is the oak, but if you like classic oak-aged Rioja or Ridge wines, there is a reasonable chance you would also like Silver Oak.

I still like my old bottles, but I drink them in private with the curtains drawn.
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Post #24  Postby Charles Kersten » March 15th 2014, 4:34pm

Interesting to see this thread...Talked to someone in MN today and they were at the opening for Total Wine in Rosedale. They were pouring Napa and Alex. I bought some Silver Oak back in the early-mid 90's and gosh it seems they were about the same price then as what its going for now.
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Post #25  Postby Alan Rath » March 15th 2014, 5:32pm

Carlos Delpin wrote:Silver Oak from the 80's and 90's are tasty. They had this coconut aroma signature that was attractive for us island folks. Still pop one out these once in a while at a blind tasting and love how haters praise the wine.

Yep. I have a friend who like wine, but is not a "geek" about it, and collect Silver Oak. He'll open one on occasion, and I've always enjoyed them, for what they are. With some age, they can be quite decent.

When we moved up to the Bay Area, and started exploring wine, Silver Oak was one of the early stops we made, to their release parties, and it was always fun. Stopped doing that after the 96 vintage, but still remember what a nice experience it was back then, particularly up at the Alexander Valley winery.
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Post #26  Postby Pat Burton » March 15th 2014, 6:01pm

My wife and I visited Silver Oak by random circumstance on our first visit to Napa, before we knew anything at all about wine. Later I picked up a single bottle I still haven't opened and now doubt I would enjoy it as my palate has significantly shifted. Still, I did recently grab an older bottle when the chance presented itself. I was shocked at how this bottle performed, especially from the mediocre vintage:

  • 1980 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley - USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (12/31/2013)
    This bottle had a bottom neck fill and the cork was easily removed with an ah so, showing saturation about one third of the way up the cork. Right upon opening, I picked up aromas of spice box, cigar, cedar, old leather, and black fruits. The body was also intriguing, offering up black currants, tobacco leaf, hints of plum, and faint earth and mushroom-like components. The acidity remains prominent and brings the wine together as a whole, making me want to take another sip before the taste has faded. A truly exceptional bottle of wine. (96 pts.)
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Post #27  Postby Al Osterheld » March 15th 2014, 7:52pm

I've mainly drunk them from the 1980's. A bit oaky with the dill and cocoanut mentioned above, and fairly soft, round and approachable from the extended aging. While they aren't wines I'd buy for myself, I find them tasty enough and would rather drink them than any number of more highly touted, ripe, extracted, equally oaky, and expensive California Cabs. FWIW, my experience is mainly with the Alexander Valley rather than the Napa, because I preferred it.

I bought a some in the 2000s as gifts for my administrator who enjoyed California wine but wasn't especially geeky about it. I thought she would enjoy them and she did.

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Post #28  Postby Randy Bowman » March 15th 2014, 8:13pm

Carrie and I were Silver Oak groupies and it was Silver Oak that really got us interested in wine. We used to buy all we could out the back door of a couple restaurants and there are still a couple cases in our cellar, from 77 to 97.

Two things happened to us in regards to Silver Oak. Our tastes changed some and when Justin Meyer retired, the wines slowly started to change in profile. To me, the wines have migrated towards the current trend of fruit forward, higher alcohol Cali Cabs. I used to be able to pick out Silver Oak in blind tastings, but not in the last 7 seven years.
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Post #29  Postby Robert B. » March 16th 2014, 2:48pm

  • 2005 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - USA, California, Napa Valley (3/16/2014)
    Aromas of sweet plums and blueberries. Drinking very well. Luscious mouth feel. A little dry at the beginning. Long finish. A little earthy in flavor. Really enjoyed with a thick (almost 2 inches) porterhouse. Also drinking well by itself. (91 pts.)
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Post #30  Postby Robert B. » March 16th 2014, 3:18pm

Silver Oak - especially the Napa version - is not a bad wine. It may be a bit too expensive for its quality. I am drinking one right now by itself. I am drinking the 2005 varietal. It may be a bit overpriced.
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Post #31  Postby Howard Cooper » March 16th 2014, 5:23pm

I must say that I have never been a big fan of Silver Oak. I had this for the first time in 1984 at Auberge de Soleil. It was the Alexander Valley - don't remember the vintage. My biggest issue with the wine has been the price. The wine would be ok IMHO if it was priced about 1/2 of the current price. For example, a couple of years ago I tasted their wines right after having been to Chateau Montelena. Forget the estate Montelena. I did not think the Silver Oaks were close in quality to the cheaper Montelena Cabernet.
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Post #32  Postby Ed Steinway » March 16th 2014, 5:34pm

I really enjoyed the Silver Oaks from '85 to '92. As Randy mentioned in a previous post, I think their style changed after '92 when Justin Meyer stopped making the wines. I also heard rumors that Silver Oak lost some of their vineyard souces around that time. A friend of mine had the '91 Alexander Valley and Napa Valley a few weeks ago and said that they were both spectacular.

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Post #33  Postby Joel W » March 16th 2014, 6:30pm

Ed Steinway wrote:I really enjoyed the Silver Oaks from '85 to '92. As Randy mentioned in a previous post, I think their style changed after '92 when Justin Meyer stopped making the wines. I also heard rumors that Silver Oak lost some of their vineyard souces around that time. A friend of mine had the '91 Alexander Valley and Napa Valley a few weeks ago and said that they were both spectacular.

Thanks,
Ed


Interesting. We had a magnum of the '91 Napa 2 years ago at my sons 21st birthday and it was an oak bomb... SUPER oaky! It wasn't bad. Most enjoyed it but I must admit, it was totally overshadowed by the '91 Trefethen (at 1/3rd of the price) we had at the same dinner....

I would call it quite good, but not spectacular.... And I'm one that enjoyed it the most.
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Post #34  Postby Anton D » March 16th 2014, 8:19pm

Roberto Rogness wrote:Anyone remember the Smith & Hook Monterey Cabs from the 80's? They had so much coconut they smelled like German Chocolate Cake!


Absolutely!

I still have some early to mid 80's magnums of those!
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Post #35  Postby Darren Graves » March 17th 2014, 6:56am

Ed Steinway wrote:I really enjoyed the Silver Oaks from '85 to '92. As Randy mentioned in a previous post, I think their style changed after '92 when Justin Meyer stopped making the wines. I also heard rumors that Silver Oak lost some of their vineyard souces around that time. A friend of mine had the '91 Alexander Valley and Napa Valley a few weeks ago and said that they were both spectacular.

Thanks,
Ed


My FIL loved Silver Oak and bought piles of it from the 80's,90's, into early 2000's when he passed all his wine came to me and his daughter. While there is a time and a place for this wine, the style has begun to drag on both of us and we have started donating quite a bit of it to charity auctions, which the charities love as it brings in decent bidding because of the name recognition among people that aren't into wine.

In our opinion the Alexander Valley is the best drinking, along with Bonnie's vineyard, which I don't think they make anymore, the Napa is hit or miss. Beware the corks as some of them from the 80's are iffy and even the early 90's. When the Silver Oak from his collection is gone, I won't be buying anymore.

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