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by Fred McMillin
for April 4, 2000

 

Cab Gab


Prologue

Silver Oak Cabs are wholly seductive. They command a fanatical following.

...Wine Atlas of California, J.H.


The Rest of the Story

Since its formation in 1972, Silver Oak has made Cabernet Sauvignon and only Cabernet Sauvignon. Let's go back and look at the grape.

60 A.D.—Pliny the Elder called the divine vine of Bordeaux "Biturigiaca" after the local Gallic tribe Bituriges Ubriacai. Being a physically tough vine, the name became "vitis dura" (hard vine). It is still called "Vidure" in some parts of Bordeaux even as we speak.

1852—"Cabrunet" arrived in California at a San Jose nursery, and in a few decades showed more potential than that other red-wine newcomer, Zinfandel.

1960—Potential or not, Cab's total acreage was still only about 600.

1971—Planting has taken off. Acreage is 7,600 and will triple in five years.

Justin Meyer  
1972—Ex-football star (St. Mary's College of Moraga—Economics grad), ex-monk (Christian Bros.) Justin Meyer, (pictured), got into the act, founding the Siver Oak Winery with oil-man, vineyard-owner Ray Duncan. Back at Christian Bros., studying to replace the legendary Brother Timothy, "Brother Justin" was making about 35 different wines each vintage. Consequently, he and partner Duncan agreed on making the best wine they could only from California's best grape, Cabernet Sauvignon.

1977—It didn't take long for Winemaker Meyer to get that act togther. Here's a review of his '77 Cab by critic Anthony Dias Blue: "Lush but firm; very elegant and balanced. Lovely."

Before long, almost every vintage was selling out in about six months. My tasters just tried the 13,000 case 1995 Silver Oak Napa Valley Cab, $75 a bottle. Our results...
Best Red of Tasting
Best of Tasting
Rating—The only wine rated EXCELLENT.

It is our Super Wine of the Day!


Postscript

The Wine Spectator's Jeff Morgan described now-President Meyers as half Santa Claus, half grizzly bear (see photo). It must have been a great sight in the 1960s when Christian Bros. would send him to promote their wines in Manhattan at the Four Seasons, the grizzly bear in a Roman collar. During those years, my wife and I would save our pennies and occasionally dine at the Seasons. Alas, we missed Brother Justin.

Note: I like the winery motto—"Life is a Cabernet."

Credits: Charles L. Sullivan's A Companion to California Wine

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 
 


This page created April 2000

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