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A Cellar Chat with Silver Oak Winery

A Cellar Chat with Silver Oak Winery

Dedicated to the pursuit of creating exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon, Silver Oak is a standout in Napa Valley. It all began with a handshake between Raymond Duncan and Justin Mayer almost 50 years ago, and the Duncan family has since continued the tradition of exceptional Cabernet aged exclusively in American oak. With Father’s Day right around the corner, we were lucky to chat with Silver Oak Proprietor and Chief Revenue Officer Tim Duncan and his son (and off-premise regional manager), Matt Duncan, to learn how they maintain the family operation of producing top-quality wine.

Tim and Matt Duncan

Can you share with us a bit of the origins of Silver Oak?

Tim Duncan: My dad, Ray Duncan, co-founded Silver Oak in 1972 with Justin Meyer. In 2001, Justin retired as winemaker and sold his share of Silver Oak to our family. Since taking full ownership, my brother, David, and I have emphasized quality through acquiring premium vineyards and implementing leading-edge technologies and practices at every step.

What are some family traditions that shine through in the winemaking process at Silver Oak?

Tim Duncan: Our winemaking style has remained consistent since our first vintage: We make one varietal, Cabernet Sauvignon, aged exclusively in American oak barrels and finished at moderate alcohol levels. David and I share a love of the outdoors going back to our childhood in Colorado so we are also committed to sustainable farming of our estate vineyards.

In 2006, the winery faced a devastating fire but came out the other side in 2017 with a state-of-the-art renovation. How did the family all come together during that trying time?

Tim Duncan: With time, we came to see the loss as an opportunity to create a new (and better!) Silver Oak. It’s this idea of continuous improvement that drives us. We thoroughly planned and consulted with every department—from winemaking and hospitality to marketing and sales—to build a world-class winery around the production of just one wine, our Napa Valley Cabernet. We added more space for our guests, so they can enjoy an intimate connection with our brand. It was really a collaborative effort that brought us closer as a family.

Though it is a family run winery, we’re sure there are many people that are not blood-related that feel like family. Are there any members that have been with the organization through the ups and downs that you’d like to thank?

Tim Duncan: We have had so many people contribute to the success of Silver Oak. Whether here for one year or 30 years, our employees work hard to create exceptional wine and special experiences for our fans. We’re incredibly fortunate and thankful.

At Silver Oak, it’s often said that “the best wines are still ahead of us.” What is in store for future generations at Silver Oak?

Matt Duncan: We’re always improving and thinking ahead. For example, my sister, Haley, and uncle, David, have made industry-changing decisions in the sustainability space. Our new Alexander Valley Winery houses a membrane bioreactor that helps the facility achieve its net positive water rating. Decisions like these help promise a future for Silver Oak and the wine industry. For me, I’m lucky to travel with and learn from my dad. It’s with his knowledge that I hope to continue to build the Silver Oak legacy.