Recently, I've had the opportunity to taste two late 90's vintages of Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: 1998 and 1999. Silver Oak is a premium wine that appears on many restaurant wine lists as a benchmark of American Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab). The owners and wine-makers have been in pursuit of the ultimate American Cab since the mid 1970's. That is all they do-- one varietal (grape type), one purpose, one mission. Well, how do they do? According to many wine critics, they have had some stunning years throughout the 1980's and 90's. However, the wines haven't had a high scoring year in a while. Prices are high, but that is due to the fact that they do have an established track record and a fairly strong, devout following. It's relatively expensive stuff at about $60/bottle in the store and $100-$130/bottle in a restaurant (the Silver Oak Napa Valley is nearly double these figures). So, is it any good? What does it taste like?
1998 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon:
Amazing dill scent on the nose! (put your nose at the rim of the glass for a big whiff)
Strong wild berries on the palate (take a sip and swirl it in your mouth to cover your tongue)
Some complexity on the finish (pause after swallowing to see if there are other flavors lingering)
Also, a strong oak presence (the wine, like many, is aged in oak casks and picks up some flavor)
1999 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon:
Some sweetness and dark berries on the nose
Dark berry and spice on the palate
Some layers of oak and cedar on the finish
Well, fairly similar tasting notes. I remember enjoying both, but forgot to note what food I paired them with: this type of Cabernet Sauvignon is generally considered a red meat compliment. The wine actually does have a consistancy from year to year. Many wine lovers are enchanted by the dill that is often prevalent and many fans are eager to acknowledge the "oakiness". Neither of these wines scored extremely well with the critics, just posting good, solid scores. But when you spend this much on a bottle, is it okay to settle for just good, solid scores? That is the most complicated and loaded question in the world of wine! Basically, if you enjoy a wine and are comfortable with the price, drink up! At The Wine Cask , we are wine lovers who generally seek out value wines (enjoyment at a reasonable price). We don't drink a wine like Silver Oak on a regular basis. However, Silver Oak is a name that can add special meaning to a dinner, party, or other occasion. At a client dinner, for example, Silver Oak can turn heads and confirm your appreciation for the client. Many people recognize the label for quality and exclusivity. It is often the highest-priced wine on the list at mid-range restaurants and steakhouses.
In summary, Silver Oak is generally not the best value for the price. But it consistantly delivers an air of confidence by enchanting wine drinkers with its dill and oak notes as well as its special place in the pursuit of great American Cab throughout the past three decades.