Welcome to the Silver Oak community! Here you can read the latest from our wineries and vineyards, learn about upcoming events and join in the conversation about all things Silver Oak.
We managed to escape the heat last weekend and early this week and water was used wisely to keep canopies healthy and grape berries hydrated. The forecasts now call for a stable period of seasonal temperatures well within the ripening and vine function ranges, although we are keeping our eyes on the possibility of showers next weekend (August 29th). The beginning of this week we saw the return of a thick and stubborn marine layer that took a long time to burn off: a welcome homecoming in our eyes.
In the fields, flavors are progressing in all varieties, but there is a sense of tranquility as sample chemistries, like the weather, are stabilizing and offering the opportunity for patience. An interesting marker of this vintage is surprisingly small berry sizes. Pinot noir has a well-documented tendency towards producing hens and chicks (clusters with berries of different sizes and levels of maturity. Normal sized berries are the “hens,” smaller berries are the “chicks”) but it is especially prevalent in many vineyards this year. We’ve coined the term “chicks and chicks©”. It’s catchy, we know.
In the Bordeaux varieties, we are seeing berry weights 20-30% lower than what we consider the “standard” for the individual varieties, in large part due to the drought. The ideal time for controlling berry weights is between bloom and veraison, and the relative lack of rain has let us control soil and thus plant moisture very closely through irrigation. This is in many ways the crux of the precision farming techniques that the vineyard team have been using for a number of years. I should note that the reason we want small berries is that they are generally a great starting point for making high quality red wines.
As with everything viticultural and enological, however, small berries are a double-edged sword. Over-extraction with such low berry weights is a real concern and possibility, so we will be adjusting our fermentation protocols as needed. This is yet another example of how growing grapes and making wine is a series of seemingly unrelated but actually inter-connected decisions and actions.
Our shout-outs this week: (1) to kitchen staff. They came in a few hours early last Saturday and made breakfast for our crews picking Sauvignon Blanc. It was a huge hit, after all, it takes the Whole Bunch to raise a wine. (2) to Nick Filice, our Grower Relations Manager, who this time of year has to play grower psychologist/therapist, brutal truth deliverer and logistics coordinator.
The Twomey Healdsburg winery has continued on a hectic pace in their second week of crush. Russian River Pinot Noir from Last Stop Ranch and Westpin Vineyard has been a steady stream this week and Ferrington Vineyard (Anderson Valley) and Bien Nacido Vineyard (Santa Maria Valley) were picked out by the middle of the week. There is one more block of Sauvignon Blanc in Oakville to pick (likely early next week) and we started harvesting the Sauvignon Blanc at Twomey Healdsburg Thursday. Fermentations are very active, barrels are being filled with Sauvignon Blanc and the crew is not far from pressing the first Pinot tanks.
Our Geyserville Winery will get started next week with Cabernet from the Reynoso Vineyard and/or a partner vineyard in the hills above Geyserville. A couple of Alexander Valley vineyards are approaching ripeness, and others are not far behind. Some parts of the Alexander Valley are a little behind and the Cabernet tsunami will start in 12-18 days according to my crystal ball.
We crushed Cabernet in Oakville from the Milat Vineyard in what I am told is the earliest pick in Silver Oak’s history, so Oakville is officially open. It will be a few more days before the next pick of the year as we wait for other vineyards and blocks to ripen.
In honor of the unusual and non-customary, this week’s quote comes from the esteemed Hunter S. Thompson (also of Colorado):
"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
August 24, 2015Read more ›
The 2011 vintage was challenging in Alexander Valley, as it was for all Northern California winemakers. As a winemaker, these are the kinds of vintages that push us to think creatively and make wines that truly show the mastery of our craft.
In January 2012, as our Associate Winemaker, Christiane Schleussner and I prepared to present our proposed blend to our President and CEO, David Duncan, we were a little nervous. First of all, there is always a plan, an anticipated case quantity. The plan is based on producing acreage, crop estimates for each vintage and historical performance of vineyards. And we have a clear understanding: the Director of Winemaking has the final say as to what goes in the blend. Nevertheless, we work from a place of mutual respect, admiration and consensus. All that being said, to propose a blend that is about 60% of plan seemed like it might be a hard sell. To illustrate our choices, we also made up a blend that would take us to full capacity.Read more ›
Although he toyed with the idea of becoming a pilot or firefighter, Nate Weis’ decision to pursue winemaking seemed almost inevitable. A Napa Valley native whose father is also a Winemaker, Nate grew up with wine on the table and a drawer full of t-shirts emblazoned with winery logos. His first job after graduating with honors from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Biopsychology/Neuroscience was as a “cellar rat.” Nate remembers, “My dad suggested I make sure I actually liked winemaking before heading down that career path. I loved that first harvest, so I packed my bags, dropped my application for UC Davis grad school in the mail and went off to Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand.”
Nate spent the 2003 harvest at two New Zealand wineries, and when he returned home he worked one harvest before starting grad school. After earning his MS in Viticulture and Enology, he was hired as a Cellar Master, and then spent two years as an Assistant Winemaker. In 2008, Nate was hired by Marchese Piero Antinori to be Winemaker for Antica Napa Valley, where he made Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot. He also served as Winemaker for Aril Wines in Napa, a small ultra-premium producer of Cabernet and Syrah.
Nate joins us as only the third Winemaker in our 43-year history. He will work together with Daniel Baron, Director of Winemaking, until Daniel retires, a tradition that began when Daniel worked with Justin Meyer in his transition. When asked what he likes about winemaking, Nate couldn’t give just one like. “I love the uniform – jeans and boots. I love the physical nature of the work, coming home covered in muck and tired out from working hard. I love the setting and getting to play with heavy equipment; one of my best memories is a harvest spent on a tractor spreading grape pomace in the vineyard and watching the sunset. And I’ve grown to love plant biology too – figuring out how to get the vine to do what we want it to do. It’s like unraveling a mystery. And of course I love the end product. I often see people when they’re happiest – at a great meal with a glass of Silver Oak in their hand.”
Nate is responsible for managing our Napa Valley and Alexander Valley wine production from grape to bottle and also serving as an ambassador for the brand. He is honored to work with Daniel, whom he admires as an intelligent, articulate and excellent leader with an active mind and wise persona.
“Daniel has been a great steward of Silver Oak, much like Justin Meyer before him. I hope to continue this tradition, while also putting my stamp on the winery,” reflects Nate. “At Silver Oak we all think that wine tends to reflect the people and personalities behind it, even in the smallest of ways. I’m excited to find out what part of me the wines of Silver Oak will ultimately reflect while also maintaining the rigorously high quality standards established here over the last 43 years.”
Nate earned his Executive MBA in Wine Business from Sonoma State University in 2013. He is married, and with four children, the little free time he has is spent playing rugby, running and reading.
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We have exciting news to share! We have acquired full ownership of Missouri-based A&K Cooperage, becoming the first North American winery to own and operate an American oak cooperage. We had purchased a 50 percent interest in the cooperage in 2000, and saw full ownership as an opportunity to maintain exacting barrel-making standards and secure a consistent supply of aged stave wood. The cooperage will now be called “The Oak Cooperage.”
“We are excited to extend our philosophy of innovation and constant improvement at every step of the winemaking process to The Oak Cooperage” said President & CEO David Duncan, who notes this acquisition will allow our winemakers to control quality standards such as the selection, aging and toasting of our American oak barrels. “Having control over our oak barrel needs and production makes complete sense from both an excellence and cost control standpoint.”Read more ›
Hooray for Release Day!
The time has come to release another highly anticipated vintage of our Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Mark your calendar and reserve your ticket for our 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Release Day on Saturday, February 7th as we are sure you won’t want to miss out on this fun event. Release Day is a celebration we have been carrying on for over 20 years, and for many loyal fans it has become a strong-rooted tradition.
As we have done for the past couple of years, we will have one event at our Oakville Winery in the Napa Valley. Our Geyserville Winery will still be open for regular tastings.
We have some wonderful local restaurants coming in to prepare tasty bites to pair with the featured cabernet, live music and the always fun photo boot.
The doors open at 10am and pouring ends at 3:30pm. Whether it is your first, tenth or twentieth Release Day, we look forward to seeing you and sharing this beautiful vintage.Read more ›
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