The Silver Oak Water Tower: How it All Began

When Justin Meyer and Ray Duncan first agreed that a water tower should anchor the label of their fledgling winery in 1972, little did they know that this iconic artwork would take on so much meaning in the hearts of Silver Oak fans worldwide. From wedding rings to tattoos, paintings to patio umbrellas, the fan tributes to our water tower label are indeed too many to count.

Inspired by the label of Chateau LaTour, their favorite red wine, Justin and Ray chose to include a water tower as a symbolic tribute to California agriculture. Back then, water towers were a common and functional feature of California farming.

Chateau LaTour label

But in the modern era, the tower represents so much more than Cabernet Sauvignon – it is a symbol of joy and celebration. So how did it all begin?

Bonny Meyer, Justin’s wife, led the creative process for the new logo, traversing the region capturing photos of various water towers. The tower that resonated most with the group was located off of Trancas Avenue in the NE corner of downtown Napa and was distinguished by its irregular window pattern and lightning rod.

What began as a simple pen-and-ink drawing by classically trained artist, John Ferrell, became two real life water towers at our wineries in the early ’80s and ’90s, followed by a replica that toured the country for our 40th anniversary in 2012.

We caught up with John, who designed the original versions of several diferent wine labels with his business partner, Ralph Colonna, that have since become household names, including Jordan Winery, Staglin Vineyards and Gloria Ferrer.

“Of the hundreds of wine labels we designed during that era, I never knew which ones would take off and reach commercial success,” says John. “Our best designs created an emotional connection through a sense of place.”

John estimates he put more than 100 hours of pen-and-ink line work into his original logo explorations and final illustration, which today hangs in Silver Oak CEO David Duncan’s office as a reminder of our humble beginnings.

Silver Oak water tower artist John Ferrell with David and Tim Duncan
L-R: Artist John Ferrell with Silver Oak owners and brothers Tim and David Duncan

“Of the hundreds of wine labels we designed during that era, I never knew which ones would take off and reach commercial success. Our best designs created an emotional connection through a sense of place.” – John Ferrell, original Silver Oak label designer

Today, our iconic water tower welcomes visitors to our tasting rooms as a backdrop for lifelong memories (and selfies). So the next time you’re in wine country, be sure to take notice of the myriad of water towers that adorn the landscape, knowing that big ideas are often rooted in humble beginnings.

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