The latest in the "suck line" of threads. I expect there'll be more agreement here than in my "French" thread:

Before I start my rant, let me tell you what triggered it: last night with a nicely marinated flank steak, I opened a bottle of 1996 Silver Oak - Alexander Valley. It had been well preserved since purchase, and -- while I'm certainly not a Silver Oak fanatic -- I recognize the pre-1998 offerings as pretty good (though certainly not QPRs). Well, the fruit in this wine was falling apart, the tannins were nowhere to be tasted, and it had little structure. In other words, this wine is over the proverbial hill. I'll be honest -- I was pretty disappointed.

So, here are the reasons why Silver Oak sucks:

1) It is grossly overpriced, esp. considering competitors at the same price point. We're talking $100+ for the Napa. I can get 2 bottles of Neal, a bottle of Spottswoode, a bottle of Merus, a bottle of Pride, a bottle of Lewis Reserve (the list goes on and on) for that price.

2) It ages horribly. About 18 months ago, we took a little vertical (1990-1992) of the Napa Cab to dinner with us. The 1992 was holding up (which is laudable), but the other two wines were approaching plonk status. So ten years in the bottle is pretty much out of the question. But then there's last night's bottle of 1996 Alexander Valley (let's call it 4.5 years in the bottle), and its falling apart. That is unforgivable to me at this price point. As an aside, I should point out that Laube says to drink through 2008. I think he missed the drinking window on this one.

3) Their production is ridiculous. Don't get me wrong -- I have no problem with people making money, but this wine is perceived by the public as "limited." I believe their production numbers are in the tens of thousands of cases. I've even heard someone on these Board say that if you include their second wine(s), Silver Oak's production is approaching 100,000 cases. That, my friends, ain't exclusive. I also question how subtle your winemaking can be at this production level.

4) The pretentious consumer -- this is probably the biggest reason to hate this wine: the people who drink it are often shallow jerks. We've all seen the guy wearing his Hermes tie, gold cufflinks, and talking loudly on his cell phone in a restaurant with a bottle of Silver Oak on his table. Nothing screams, "Look at me!" more than this.

5) Too damned oakey. I know, I know -- it says "Oak" on the label, but they've taken it a little too far.

6) The ratings are mediocre. I only rarely buy wine for the ratings, but if you're paying this kind of cash for a bottle, you'd expect better. Type "Silver Oak" into wine search here, and you'll see a range of score between 66-96. The best in the last five years is the 1999 Napa at 91 points.

7) A segue from the earlier post -- it seems that Silver Oak, too, is over the hill. Looking at those ratings, you see the gaudy numbers in 1986 & 1987. That, to me, is when Silver Oak really established its reputation and put itself on the map. Ever since, they've been jousting at windmills. Don't get me wrong, I think Silver Oak's "front office" has demonstrated some incredible business savvy over the years (and Justin Meyer in undoubtedly talented), but I think their best days are over a decade behind them.

I'm sure there are other reasons that Silver Oak sucks, but these are the ones that initially came to mind. Anyone want to join me in Silver Oak bashing?
Original Post
G&PN - All of your points are valid. However, the one thing Silver Oak has going for it is related to your point (4). It makes a big statement to people who know little about wine. As a result, it is an excellent gift to give to those individuals.

I was giving a gift recently to a CPA acquaintance that provided me some good tax advice. My first instinct was to give him a 2002 Lewis Alec's blend. In my opinion, this is a fantastic wine. Then I decided that he would get more enjoyment out of the fact that he had received a "Silver Oak". I was correct in my thinking.

I don't think there is really anything wrong with people keeping that wine on a pedestal. Perception is reality to them and many others. Have at it and leave the good QPR stuff to the well informed.

Other than for this reason though, I do tend to steer clear of Silver Oak.
I've bashed Silver Oak so much, that I'm starting to feel sorry for them. They're just trying to make as dishonest a living as I am. So I've decided to leave the Oakies alone to stroke their inflated verticals, while I continue to search for wines that don't suck or need to be stroked, just drank.
I don't seek it out to buy anymore, but we still have a number of 1985-1996 Silver Oak bottles in our cellar. We popped the corks on a 1984, 1985, and 1986 over the holidays.

The 1984 was a little thin and tired (but still worth drinking), but the 1985 and 1986 were marvelous examples of how great a 20 year old California Cabernet can be. (We bought the '84 and '85 for $20, and the '86 for $24....)

SM

P.S. "...the latest in the 'suck-line' of threads...." Too funny.... But I'm still going to have to report this "non-adult" behavior. Smile

P.P.S. If you're looking for more 'suck-line' topics regarding overpriced wines, California Cabernets are a target-rich environment.
Wow, too funny, but very valid points. You know what the irony of it all is? Even with all that said .....

A: It still sells and will continue to sell

B: Looks like (at least according to Parker) these guys have rebounded a bit with their 01 and 02 vintages

I did get to recently try the Twomey Merlot (made by the same winemaker) and you know, not too shabby. Im not a huge Merlot fan and I certainly wouldnt throw down $65 for the bottle, but not bad.....

So whats next G&P???? Big Grin
I have to agree with DrinkumAll that Silver Oak has far-reaching brand recognition and quite an enviable niche of over-priced, low-quality "status" wine. It is a staple on every steakhouse menu. And of course the ultimate indignity is its high markup on said menus.

It is marketed quite brilliantly actually, right down to the unique label which can be admired and envied from several tables away.
Wink
quote:
Originally posted by Golf&Pinot Nut
:
[4) The pretentious consumer -- this is probably the biggest reason to hate this wine: the people who drink it are often shallow jerks. We've all seen the guy wearing his Hermes tie, gold cufflinks, and talking loudly on his cell phone in a restaurant with a bottle of Silver Oak on his table. Nothing screams, "Look at me!" more than this.


I have seen some people ordered Silver Oak and be pretentious like you said. Silver Oak is just fine fine not great as we know. Probably a good marketing and unique label make people easy to remember wine than anything else. Yeah,you are right. It's overpriced and too much oaky for me. Big Grin
Let me just say (again) if it's from Alexander Valley, it can stay in Alexander Valley. I've tasted my way through the valley several times. Nada. For some reason, fruit from the AV just does not compare with any other region. RRV, Sonoma, Napa (duh), Central Coast, Long Island, Texas, all seem to have better fruit.
just my two cents ,
back in the olded days when so was getting the high ratings they were buying there grapes cause they didnot grow enough.one day at chapellet i saw a bottle oak silver oak an on the bottom it said pritcherhill. so i asked a friend that works their whats up with that, they just said they used to buy their grape from us an blend it with theres. in the 90s
they started to do a lot of new planting so they would not have buy! now you see what there makeing. not as good. now its all about supply an demand!!!!!!!!
Confused
My only experience with Silver Oak is a magnum I had of the '86, which sounds fortunate, since the consensus (on this thread) so far is saying that after '86 it was all down hill.

I do not like BDX wines (french or Cali), but I truly enjoyed this bottle.
I have tried several of the '91-'96 Napa and they just don't age. I stopped buying SO several years ago because there are a number of Napa's out there with superior quality of grapes which can withstand a little time in the cellar.

The rant still won't drive the price down! Folks that buy a few special bottles of wine will always get drawn in to the Opus, Silver Oak marketing vaccuum...
I can't join in the Silver Oak-bashing b/c I've never tasted it. I've always been focused on two things since I became a wine hobbyist - QPR and seeking out lesser-known grapes/regions/producers. Plus, I don't rub shoulders with enough Silver Oak-types to have been showered with gifts of it.

Plus, the more SO bashing I see, the less likely it is that I'll ever taste it, oh well...
Try a bottle of Sulivan
http://www.sullivanwine.com/wine/
or
Pride Mountain if you can find it.
http://www.pridewines.com/

or for Zin
http://dcubedcellars.com/

http://www.brownestate.com/vineyards.html

Well made wines without the inflated price.
Buy two for the same price as a Silver Oak. Cool

quote:
Originally posted by nickylons:
I've bashed Silver Oak so much, that I'm starting to feel sorry for them. They're just trying to make as dishonest a living as I am. So I've decided to leave the Oakies alone to stroke their inflated verticals, while I continue to search for wines that don't suck or need to be stroked, just drank.
quote:
Originally posted by Vinyrd Skynyrd:
I can't join in the Silver Oak-bashing b/c I've never tasted it. I've always been focused on two things since I became a wine hobbyist - QPR and seeking out lesser-known grapes/regions/producers. Plus, I don't rub shoulders with enough Silver Oak-types to have been showered with gifts of it.

Plus, the more SO bashing I see, the less likely it is that I'll ever taste it, oh well...


You're not missing much. I tried it a few years ago before I knew what it was and thought it was a lot of money for what you got. I've been to the release parties a couple of times (they are fun if you don't mind crowds) and have been impressed with the marketing.
As someone who wasted/spent many years in marketing, I can tell you that SO has done their business just fine, if not their vinifying. In selling here in Seattle, there is a Type that I've dubbed the WineFaux (pronounced like Mo'Fo). The WineFaux is a a person of either sex who wanders into their local wine shop while talking on their cel, pausing just long enough to snap, "I need a case of Silver Oak and six of Leonetti Cab" to the hapless clerk. The fact that those wines aren't usually out on the shelves for purchase and maybe not in stock at all just annoys them and they agree to come back after you've found them some with much griping and sighing at the clerk's ineffectiveness. If they do hang up long enough to actually discuss their purchase, they'll sneer at the notion that they could get a better wine for a lot less money and will, eventually, get around to this nugget: "Look, they haven't been selling wine for all those years because it's bad. I only want the best and that's _____________ (fill in blank). It's always one of the wines from this list:

Silver Oak
Leonetti
Far Niente
Mouton-Rothschild
Beringer Reserves
Beaulieu Georges DeLatour
Opus One
Dominus
Luce (if they've ever glanced at WS)
Coppola Rubicon (Lately and rarely)

The Leonetti crowd are the worst. I envy wine stewards in other states who don't have to deal with them. They'll openly sneer at SO, Opus, and everything else. Telling them that Leonetti has peaked just provokes indulgent sneers. They're buying the name and know nothing of what's in the bottle.
G&PN,
So where are your tasting notes on the ‘96 SO AV?

And yes, I need more than:
“Bien, le fruit en ce vin tombait en morceaux, les tannins étaient nulle part pour être goûtés, et il a eu peu de structure. En d'autres termes, ce vin est au-dessus de la colline proverbiale. Je serai honnête, j'ai été assez déçu.”
I love Silver Oak. I currently have the 2000 Alexander on my winelist for $75/bottle and I can't keep it in stock. There are about sixty red wines on the list, approximately forty of which cost less than $50 and the Silver Oak outsells everything but my seven glass pours. Like FSU said, it's not a bad wine, but there are plenty of cabs out there that I prefer that cost <$25. Fortunately, for the sake of SO sales, my opinion is in the minority.
GreenDrazi: That is funny!!

GPN: There is another thread floating around about a replacement for MTH; I think you found it: What Sucks Now.

As a side note, I hade the 1999 S.O. AV last year. I thought it was not that bad. The finish went on for 1.5 minutes (timed). After I pulled the splinters from my gums and tongue I told the person who bought it that I thought it had an incredible finish. (Not a lot of fruit mind you.)
Several responses to Stevebody's post....

1. In my opinion, Beringer Private Reserve Cabs have been among the most consistently great cabs in California over the past 20 years. I think your comments here are misguided. We have recently opened some of the older ones in our cellar, and they are spectacular wines. And I find them to be very approachable and enjoyable when they are young.

2. I have similar admiration for Mouton. It deserves its place among the great wines of the world.

3. The piling on about Silver Oak and Opus reaches a crescendo on these forums that is way out of proportion - so much so, that there is something else going on here. It just seems so fashionable to bash them - I mean, it approaches "hate." Silver Oak is not a terrible wine; not even close. I have had some incredibly good Opus One wines. I don't know if it was worth the price, but my father brought a bottle of 1996 OO to dinner at the Martini House, and I was very pleased. Perhaps both wines have achieved a certain "status" among uneducated wine drinkers that is far beyond what the wines deserve - but the disdain expressed in this thread is also far beyond what the wines deserve.
EVERY SINGLE bottle of the Oak that I've tasted has been overrated. I've never had a bottle of Silver Oak that didn't make me wonder, "How much did you pay for this?!" I've had soooooo many $50 bottles that were godly nectar compared to Silver Oak, it's unbelievable.
If you read my post, I think you'll find that the only wine I made any sort of judgement about was Leonetti which, as I said, has peaked. That's not even to say it's a bad wine; it's just been surpassed in quality by a lot of other WA wines.

The comment was about the people. They're buying these wines not because they're convinced they're wonderful wines but for the name alone. I have a lot of customers who buy the same wines but have done the time to taste around and have simply decided that they prefer wines on that list. The WineFaux's peremptory attitude and open scorn for anything not on their short list of anointed wines is what gets me started, not that they want that particular wine. I've been gifted with S.O. several times and have always drunk the wine and enjoyed it - mildly. It's NOT worth the inflated prices and isn't the sort of wine around which one should build their entire viewpoint on wine.

I don't happen to like Mouton but I have nothing to say about Bordeaux lovers who do. The mere fact that I included it on that list of wines that people buy for name alone has gotten me corrected twice, here. Why are people who like Bordeaux so touchy about any perceived slight? Do I do harm to Mouton by including it on that list? And, Melissa, I am a MAJOR fan of the Beringer Private Reserves and the Beaulieu. This is how these dumb arguments here get started. What I stated was not "Misguided". An opinion cannot, by definition, be misguided. An opinion is just one person's viewpoint. Today, with the possible exception of the Mouton, I can recommend an alternative to each of those wines that is better - IMO, of course. What else does a wine steward have to sell by but ratings and his/her own palate? - and costs less. That's not "misguided", either. It's simply, again, one man's opinion and it's an educated opinion. I've tasted every wine on that list, every vintage for about the past twelve.

Jeez, lighten up. My opinion certainly isn't the last word, even if I had been dissing those wines. Neither is yours.
quote:
Originally posted by Sweet Melissa:
The piling on about Silver Oak and Opus reaches a crescendo on these forums that is way out of proportion - so much so, that there is something else going on here. It just seems so fashionable to bash them - I mean, it approaches "hate." Silver Oak is not a terrible wine; not even close. I have had some incredibly good Opus One wines. I don't know if it was worth the price, but my father brought a bottle of 1996 OO to dinner at the Martini House, and I was very pleased. Perhaps both wines have achieved a certain "status" among uneducated wine drinkers that is far beyond what the wines deserve - but the disdain expressed in this thread is also far beyond what the wines deserve.


I agree entirely.
OK, if you say Silver Oak sucks, I believe you.

And I'm also inclined to believe that the mailing-list cult Calicabs don't suck, for the most part. But the bigger point is this...

I think the whole TYPE A, UPWARDLY-MOBILE-STATUS-SEEKING-STRIVER APPROACH TO WINE APPRECIATION SUCKS REALLY, REALLY HARD, much harder than any lousy bottle of off-vintage Silver Oak. S.O. is the symptom, not the disease.

Whether you're a SO cell-yakking, case-ordering yutz, or an alpha-collector jealously guarding your precious turf on the Screagle list with a drooling snarl, the point is exactly the same: wine is for DRINKING, not to show everyone else that you've "MADE IT".

C'mon, just chill out and enjoy a glass of prosecco, for chrissakes.
We had a vertical at my hose in the fall with 84 to current Napa and Bonny’s (to 91) on the first night and 84 to current of the Alex the next day. The unanimous favorites (including 2 winemakers) were the 85 and 91 Napa and the 86 and 91 Alex. No Bonny's made the cut for the upper tier. The favorites were all a pleasure to taste and have evolved very well. That being said, it was not my dime and it never would be.
We have been drinking Cali Cabs almost exclusively since 1988. I'd be hard pressed to disagree with most opinions of SO. I question where Dan Baron has taken the winery over the last decade or so. I do not agree with the over use of American Oak, particularly the cooperage SO bought some years back.

I'm still a buyer of the wine I celebrated over on my honeymoon, but I've backed off a bit on recent acquisition.

BTW - Justin Meyer is no longer with SO. He passed away in August 2002. Ray Duncan and family has control.
quote:
Originally posted by stevebody:
The comment was about the people. They're buying these wines not because they're convinced they're wonderful wines but for the name alone.


People buy cars, purses, and clothing for the name alone; why cant they have their wine? Big Grin I think Silver Oak is a marketting genious in the wine world, and I applaud them for that regardless of the price of their wines or the quality. Big Grin

"Let them drink Silver Oak!" Wink
I'm not sure which is worse:

Silver Oak, or

Wine "know it alls" who love to proclaim their wine superiority by publicly trashing well-known (albeit questionable quality) wineries that are perceived as great by the unwashed masses.

"Silver Oak? Well I would never drink that merde--I only drink wines that are offered through mail lists and approved by my online buddies!"

I am only halfway serious with this, as I am no Silver Oak fan either. But it often seems like posters like to "one-up" each other by saying things like "Silver Oak Sucks" or "Stags Leap just hasn't been the same, blah blah blah--I'll only drink Neal."

Drink what you like. Avoid what you don't.

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