Before I even attended my latest seminar, I knew I would have some apprehensions about doing a post about the tasting. Reason being is that the seminar I was attending featured wines from Silver Oak and their sister winery, Twomey Cellars.
I can hear some you saying; "But Don, those are such great wines!" That's what I heard anyway. So what could I be so apprehensive about? Here begins the tale.
Beginning with their first vintage in 1972, and continuing on through a number of years and some excellent reviews, over time, things started to change, and for those in the industry, it was thought, not for the better. Inconsistent wines combined with an ever spiraling upward price just seemed to take the wind out of its sales (I know, it's usually spelled sails, I was in the Navy, but sales works in this case).
What started out as one of California's first "cult" wines, became known as just an expensive, and not so great, California Cab. Honestly, I didn't buy Silver Oak until my time as a wine buyer, and I am talking just the Napa Valley wine here. Like so many in the industry believed, I too believed it had a questionable reputation.
BUT! If you were to hear people, I'm talking non-professionals now, talk about the wine you would think it was phenomenal. Even during my short time at a local restaurant, I would overhear people say how wonderful Silver Oak was and that it was "the best." This started me thinking (like previous posts, that's dangerous I know). While entitled to my own opinion, so are others. Even if reviewers don't like it, doesn't mean it will not be loved by those who partake. Reputations can follow a wine through thick and thin and in this case, those great reputations had a serious affect on its wine price.
That's when I realized, that my own feelings and thoughts about the wine might be unfounded. I've only had 4 vintages of the wine. The first two, 1999 and 2000, which I had at an event at the wine shop somewhere around in the year 2014, were both well past their prime and questionable to drinkability. The 2010 vintage, which I bought for the shop and had received good reviews. Lastly 2011, which I was able to sample and felt it was not worthy. It should be noted that 2011 was a terrible vintage year in California. Now I'm looking at 2013. So far, I can honestly say I've never had a 2013 Cab I didn't like. This will be the acid test. (Don't get any ideas, I may have been raised during the hippie movement, but I was a good boy and didn't do things like acid).
2013, which is a blend of 79% Cabernet, 15% Merlot and 3% each of Cab Franc and Petit Verdot, was aged exclusively in American Oak for 24 months, 85% being new. From the beginning, Silver Oak Cabernet uses only American Oak. That was by design of the founders of the winery. While they have recently bought their own cooperage, there are no plans to ever use French Oak for their Silver Oak wines.
So now I'm putting on my "don't let what you think you know affect what you are about to taste" hat. Let the wine stand on its own so to speak.
First thing noticed is the nose. That what I call "typical deep dark red fruit" wafting up from the glass that is so prevalent in 2013's. The first sip reveals the same, but with a slight smoky or dusty flavor on the wine. There is also a sweetness to the wine. Possibly coming from the oak used. The medium tannins add nice weight and mouthfeel which gives it a long finish. Overall, a very nice wine. Maybe it's the American Oak or something else, I wouldn't age this wine a long time. That might have something to do with my previous experience, although I'm trying to not let that influence me. What about my "I haven't met a 2013 I didn't like?" Still stands!
The last issue has to do with an age-old question I get all the time; "Is it worth the money?" That question has gotten harder to answer with the 2013 release. For 2010, at the shop, I sold it for $100 a bottle. The retail price at this particular warehouse store was $135.99. At some point that may drop a bit, maybe to $115 to $120. Not a meteoric rise, but an increase still.
The answer is the same that I tell everyone, "It is if you think it's worth the price." For me, I know I can find what I consider better wines for less money. Though again to be fair, this is a much better wine for the money than some other previous vintages. Folks that have come to favor this wine may be just as influenced positively as I was to the opposite.
Click here for tech sheet.
To complete the tasting, we also sampled wines from Twomey Cellars. Their Sauvignon Blanc (very nice to me especially since they use a little oak), two different Pinot Noirs (Russian River and Bien Nacido) (I had to give the nod to the single vineyard Bien Nacido for its elegance and balance) and their famous Merlot (Nice, but I thought a little too dusty/earthy not enough fruit).
In conclusion, I hope that I've given the wine a fair shot. I'll leave it to you to decide if it's worth it or not. The one thing I do know is that the wine will continue to appear on wine lists across America and folks will still utter praises based on the reputation the wine has acquired over the years. The one thing I know about wine is that change is certain and each vintage stands on its own. So time will tell.