In 1972 Ray Duncan and Justin Meyer founded Silver Oak Cellars with the idea of making only one varietal – Cabernet Sauvignon. Meyer was a winemaker for Christian Brothers and Duncan brought his business background to the enterprise, and the winery has over the years proved to be one of the most successful in the state. Critics and connoisseurs admire Silver Oak’s polished style, and more than 35 years after its founding the winery still makes only Cabernet Sauvignon, sometimes blended with small amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The winery owns 200 acres of vineyards in Alexander Valley and 15 in Napa Valley. About 50,000 cases are produced each year. Justin Meyer sold his shares of the winery to the Duncan family in 2001, and a second generation of Duncans is fully involved with winery operations.
Alexander Valley is an American Viticultural Area just north of Healdsburg, in Sonoma County. It was granted AVA status in 1984, with amendments made in subsequent years. The Russian River flows through the valley, and the region was named for Cyrus Alexander, a 19th century landowner and grape grower. The AVA includes 15,000 vineyard acres, much of it rich, alluvial soil layered on a bed of gravel, somewhat similar to many vineyards in Bordeaux. Alexander Valley is sheltered from marine weather by the low hills northeast of Healdsburg, though it is often shrouded in the morning fog coming off the Russian River. Some of the earliest commercial winemaking in the area started in the 1880s, when immigrants formed the Italian Swiss Colony cooperative at Asti. The region made jug wines until the 1960s and 1970s, when a new wave of quality-minded producers started estates. Today Alexander Valley is home to some of California’s most admired wineries, including Simi, Stonestreet and the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Silver Oak Cellars, though based in Napa Valley, has a second winery in Alexander Valley where it makes Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Many grapes do well in the Alexander Valley, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel.
One of the most widely grown grape varieties, it can be found in nearly every wine growing region. A cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a hardy vine that produces a full-bodied wine with high tannins and great aging potential.