Napa in the AM

It’s Spring.

One of the many perks about teaching is that Kara and I always get a week off for Spring Break.

One of the many perks about living in the Bay Area is that we are a short drive to some of the greatest wine growing regions in the world.

This past Wednesday, Kara and I decided to drive on up to the Napa Valley to get our taste on.

Now… If you’ve ever been tasting in Napa on the weekends, you know how crowded it can get (both in the tasting rooms, and on the highways). On Saturdays and Sundays, it’s a must to get into Napa by 10:00am (when most wineries open) to beat the rush.

But…

On a lazy Spring Wednesday, it’s really fun to get to Napa early just so you can take your time rolling from one tasting room to the next.

When we first arrived in wine country at 10:00am, we decided to start the day with some sparkles…

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Drinking Bubbles at Domaine Chandon

You know that I’m a fan of Domaine Chandon (What? You didn’t? Click here). Their tasting lounge in Yountville is beautiful and relaxing. I decided to do their Classic Tasting to give you the lowdown on their wines that you should be able to find at a wine shop near you…

The Brut Classic is loaded full of lemon and apple fruits. The Blanc de Noirs (the wine that got me into Domaine Chandon) has some good acid with fruits of cherry and red currants. The Rose was my favorite of the flight. Fruit of red apple with a great minerality. The Extra-Dry Riche had some sweetness of honey and peaches, but was balanced out with herbs of eucalyptus and spearmint.

Not a bad start to the day.

Next, we headed over to the iconic Cabernet Sauvignon producer, Silver Oak in Oakville, where Kara and I were treated to a VIP tour and tasting.

When Kara and I first arrived, we were greeted with a taste of the current release of their Alexander Valley Cabernet…

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Silver Oak 2008 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is the “entry level” wine from Silver Oak. It consists of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from various vineyards throughout the appalachian (including their own). The wine is aged on 50% new and 50% once-used American oak for 24 months before bottling. The wine was then bottle-aged for another 15 months before release. It retails for $70.

Color: Dark ruby red.

Nose: Fruits of raspberry and cranberry with hints of buttered toffee and menthol.

Taste: Fruits of cranberry, raspberry, and red currant are rounded out with notes of leather and menthol.

Score: This wine is big and tasty on the palate. It’s an easy 91+ that should get much better with a few years of aging.

While tasting the wine, we got the opportunity to hang out with their library and large format wines in the big glass display case at the front of the winery…

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Check out these bottles…

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And these ones!

Next, we got a taste of the 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet…

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Silver Oak 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet

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Oh man!

Whereas the Alexander Valley is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend that could be considered Silver Oak’s ode to Bordeaux. The 2008 edition consists of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. It is aged in 100% new American oak for 24 months before another 20 months of bottle aging. This wine runs for $110.

Color: Darker than the AV Cab, but still in the ruby red category.

Nose: Beautiful nose of blueberry (I’m a sucker for blueberries), raspberry, and boysenberry fruits wrapped up in that sweet American oak.

Taste: Fruits of cranberry, blackberry, and blueberry fruits. This wine has some very nice, soft tannins, and a good acidity. It’s beautiful.

Score: You know… When you talk about a wine that rolls in at $110, the first thing you may wonder is whether or not the wine is worth it. This wine is Shakespearean. It’s got an approachability that will please the masses. It’s got the ageability that will turn on the collectors. It’s got the depth that is thought-provoking enough to excite any wine geek. Is it worth it? Yes… Yes it is. 92

While tasting the Napa Valley Cab, we got a chance to check out more of the winery.

If you haven’t been to Silver Oak in a while, things may look different. They had to rebuild the winery after a fire in 2008, but have done a great job of honoring its history. Here’s the memorabilia room…

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They say that this double rainbow over the winery during the rebuild was a signal from late winemaker Justin Meyer that everything was going to be okay.

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The Silver Oak Time Capsule

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An article referring to the 1972 Silver Oak as overpriced at $6 a bottle.

After looking at some of the history of Silver Oak, we got us a taste of the 2008 Twomey Merlot…

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Twomey 2008 Merlot

Twomey is the sister label of Silver Oak. With a slogan like “Life is a Cabernet”, it would be kind of weird to see a Silver Oak Merlot or Pinot Noir. This Twomey Merlot is their ode to the great wines of Pomerol in Bordeaux, France. As such, this wine has been aged on French oak. It costs $50.

Color: Lighter ruby red.

Nose: Blackberry fruit with hints of vanilla and spice.

Taste: Massive blackberry and blueberry fruit, balanced out with a good acidity and herbaceous notes of black tea.

Score: Yes. The Napa Valley Cab is worth it at $110, but the Twomey Merlot at $50 is a steal. 92.

Next, we took a stroll through the winery facilities…

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Fermentation Tanks

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These are barrels of “Growers Lots”. Winemakers will hold on to wines from individual lots to see how these wines age over the years. This helps them predict how certain blends will age over time.

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American Oak Barrels Stacked to the Sky

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This year, Silver Oak is experimenting with barrel size. What I wouldn’t give to aid in this research.

We ended the tour with a taste of one of their older vintages, just to see how well these wines do age…

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Silver Oak 2002 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $100

Color: Nice and dark.

Nose: Dry herbs, tobacco, and menthol.

Taste: I love the way that wines age over time. I love the transition of bright fruits to herbs. That is just what this wine does. There are still some nice juicy plums on the front palate, but they give way to these tasty, earthy tobacco notes.

Score: Just beautiful. 92+

Here’s the thing I love about Silver Oak. In a world where EVERYBODY knows about your wine… and most folks rave about it, they could probably get away with being all stuffy and pretentious…

But…

They are far from it.

When the folks at Silver Oak talk about their winery and their wine, they light up. There is a strong sense of family among their coworkers. That feeling of family rubbed off on us the moment we walked in the door.

Their goal is to make consistently good wine every single year and to share it with the folks they love.

That means you.

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Life is a Cabernet… and some really good Merlot made by a sister label.

Not a bad morning in the Napa Valley.

Not bad at all.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

Be sure to check back next time to see what happens to Jeff and Kara when they check out more of Napa in the PM.

Have you ever had any wines from Domaine Chandon, Silver Oak, or Twomey? What did you think? Leave a comment and let us know.

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2 Responses to “Napa in the AM”

  1. Greg Morse Says:

    Strange but a pretty building. Nice pictures

    • jeffisrad Says:

      Thanks Greg.
      The tower that is on their label wast put on as an ode to the castles in Bordeaux. Those water towers used to be all over the Napa Valley. When the original winery opened up, folks kept asking where the tower was… So they built one.

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