The Difference Between Our Napa and Alexander Valley Cabernets

Whether in our tasting rooms or out at wine events, we’re commonly asked: What’s the difference between the Silver Oak Napa Valley and Alexander Valley Cabernets? As you probably know, we only make one varietal (Cabernet Sauvignon) that’s aged exclusively in American oak—but we have two distinct bottlings. Here are three things that set them apart.

  1. Appellation

    Wine starts in the vineyard, and location matters. Climate and terroir affect where and how we grow and source grapes for our Cabernets. Separated by the Mayacamas, Napa Valley and Alexander Valley are neighbors but are also very different.

    More inland, the Napa Valley appellation (AVA) is more uniformly warm throughout the year. For example, a singular concentration of Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in the rocky soil and arid, Mediterranean climate at our estate Jump Rock Vineyard that sits an elevation of 1,500 feet. This mountain fruit brings richness and structure to our Napa Valley Cabernet.

    In the Alexander Valley AVA, temperatures can rise higher than those in the Napa Valley AVA, but our winemaking team balances fruit from these areas with fruit from other areas of the AVA. For example, the clay and sandy loam soils at Red Tail Vineyard is located on the southern end of the Alexander Valley AVA and touches the cooler Russian River Valley AVA. The result is a Cabernet Sauvignon grape with an acidity and brightness that requires more time to arrive at optimum ripeness.

    These appellations determine not only what words go on the bottle, but also help our wines tell unique stories.

  2. Density

    If you take a look at the composition of our Cabernets side by side, you’ll notice that the Napa Valley Cabernet is more of a blend. There’s approximately 80 percent Cabernet Sauvignon compared to the 95+ percent Cabernet Sauvignon in the Alexander Valley Cabernet. The Napa Valley Cabernet blend allows for higher concentrations of other varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Franc to balance the boldness and structure of the Cabernet Sauvignon. This balance of flavors is also what gives the Napa Valley Cabernet more complexity than the Alexander Valley Cabernet.

    Fun fact: The density and boldness of the Napa Valley Cabernet is also why we typically pour it after the Alexander Valley Cabernet on our Walk-In Tasting and tour experiences.

  3. Extended Aging

    Flavors, aromas, and tannin imparted by our American oak barrels add a richness and depth to our Cabernets. It’s this use of American oak that is true to our story and has become a signature of our wine style. Both our Napa Valley and Alexander Valley Cabernets spend an incredible 24 months in barrel to harmoniously marry the flavors of oak and fruit while softening tannins. Also, instead of barreling first, our winemaking team creates the blends and then barrels them.

    Silver Oak's Cabernet Sauvignon is aged in American Oak barrels
    Extended aging in American oak is a signature of Silver Oak's winemaking style

    The reason our Napa Valley vintage is available after our Alexander Valley vintage is because the former receives an extra five months in bottle. Due to the density of the Napa Valley Cabernet, this extra time softens the wine so it (like the Alexander Valley Cabernet) is drinkable upon release.

Here’s the bottom line: One isn’t better than the other—and you don’t have to pick a favorite. Our Cabernets are about you and what you like.

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