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Silver Oak New Release

The first time I tasted Silver Oak, nearly 8 years ago was like a revelation for me. I think I ordered a 1994 Napa Cab at Mecca. I had just gottenlogo.barrell.jpg interested in wine, and it was at the time, the best red wine I had ever had. It was also the first time I had ever paid, or thought of paying, over $100 for a bottle of wine.

Since that first bottle, I've had a lot more Silver Oak, and a lot more red wines that have less of a marketing budget, less of a cult following, and a lot more soul. In the small bit of experience and knowledge I've gained over the years, I've come to realize that while Silver Oak is a well made wine, the price does not reflect the true relative quality of the wine compared to others in the industry.

That didn't stop me, obviously, from heading up to Silver Oak and Twomey (pronounced too-mee -- their Merlot label) recently to taste the new Napa cab that will be released to the public on February 1, as well as their other current releases.

1999 Silver Oak Alexander Valley
The nose delivers a powerful punch of eucalyptus and bing cherries. This wine has a wonderfully round mouthfeel with flavors of blackberry, molasses, and vanilla. The oak is heavy, as usual for a Silver Oak, and the tannins strong. The wine feels a little unbalanced towards these oak notes, and while the tannins are velvety on the tongue, it plays like a slightly out of synch symphony.

Overall score: 8
How much?: $65

1999 Silver Oak Napa Valley:
This wine wafts up vanilla, coffee, and chocolate out of the glass, and as it entered my mouth I got hints of paprika and damp earth, before my tongue was awash in blueberry and blackberry fruit flavors. This is a little more of a complex wine than the Alexander Valley, and it is slightly more balanced. Perhaps you could say this wine is closer to the Chateau Latour which Silver oak is modelled after. Having tried the 1998 some time ago, my memory tells me this is a better wine than last vintage.

Overall score: 8.5
How much?: $98

2000 Twomey Merlot
This relatively new label for Silver Oak has taken over the old Stonegate property on the Napa Valley floor south of Calistoga. This wine provides aromas of tea and damp earth underlying a strong vanilla flavor in the glass. On the tongue it is luscious with dark, ripe plum and blackberry flavors. I've never tried the Petrus that this wine is modelled after, so I can't give a comparison, but it was enjoyable, perhaps even more so than the Silver Oaks. I drank this wine with lunch (Flank steak with caper and sundried tomato tapenade) and it complemented the beef while standing up to the garlic in the tapenade.

Overall score: 8.5
How much?: $59

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.