Uncorked: Wines from Silver Oak and Twomey are top-notch
Apr 14, 2010 | 2079 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I am always amazed by the conviviality that ensues when a group of strangers comes together over a few glasses of wine.

In such a setting, I forged a friendship with Tom Johnson, eastern regional wine manager for Silver Oak Cellars and ambassador-at-large for both Silver Oak and Twomey, Silver Oak’s sister winery. Tom stopped off in Anniston a few weeks back to bring me up to date on the latest happenings at both wineries.

Napa’s famed Silver Oak Cellars released its first cabernet in 1972. Founder Ray Twomey Duncan, an oilman from Colorado, purchased land in Napa in the early 1960s, and the Duncan family continues to increase its holdings in California’s prime viticultural areas.

Duncan originally partnered with Justin Meyer in his Silver Oak venture. Duncan and Meyer shared common goals from the inception: to create a winery that would forever raise the standard of California wine, and to make only one wine — cabernet. Meyer sold his interest to the Duncan family in 2001.

In 1999, Ray Twomey Duncan and his four sons founded Twomey Cellars, establishing a sister winery where varietal wines other than cabernet would be produced. They purchased production facilities and surrounding vineyards south of Calistoga. The new winery was named Twomey (pronounced “too-me”), the patriarch’s middle name.

Twomey’s first wine was a merlot sourced from the family’s Soda Canyon Ranch property, planted to merlot by previous owners. Longtime Silver Oak winemaker Daniel Baron persuaded the Duncans to allow him to make a merlot from Soda Canyon fruit, using methods learned while working two harvests in the merlot-dominated regions of Bordeaux, Pomerol and St. Emilion.

Using a 19th-century method called soutirage traditional, Baron crafts merlot at Twomey using tools devised before wineries had electricity.

The method is akin to decanting a bottle of wine, but in this case an entire barrel is decanted. Today, moving wine from barrel to barrel is primarily accomplished with mechanized pumps, but Twomey merlots and first growths from Bordeaux are gently moved from barrel to barrel by hand.

This non-mechanical procedure preserves wine aromatics and allows small amounts of oxygen to reach the wine, helping to mellow out tannins. Thus, these wines are drinkable upon release, but also possess longevity.

In 2000, the Duncan family acquired property in the heart of the Russian River Valley, ideally suited for growing pinot noir. Ben Cane was hired as winemaker for their pinot noir program in 2007. Cane now produces four different pinots and a sauvignon blanc at the Healdsburg facility.

With fruit coming from the best sources in the world, top-notch winemakers and incredible attention to detail, Twomey wines like Silver Oak are pricey, but worth the expense for those serious about wine. Try one of the following:

Twomey 2007 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley. Pinot noir does best in cool climates like the Russian River Valley. Top wineries like Twomey have expanded their holdings into cool growing regions. This wine is a bold and concentrated pinot noir, with dark fruit aromas, nicely integrated tannins, high alcohol, 14.1 percent by volume. The 2007 is not available in our market area, but Tyson Art and Frame has the 2005 vintage for $50.

Twomey 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. In the $28 to $30 range by special order from your favorite wine source. Pale straw color with citrus flavors and a crisp finish. Great summer picnic wine with a screw-cap closure.

Twomey 2005 Merlot. $53.75 at Tyson Art and Frame. Not your mama’s merlot. A big, complex merlot, as opposed to a mindless quaff. Concentrated, dark fruit flavors and aromas that jump out of the glass. Pleasant approach, smooth mid-plate, lingering finish.