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In many ways Silver Oak has been a poster child for the American steak house expense account wine. While the young California Cabernet Sauvignons that dominate these wine lists are generally not my cup of tea, there's no denying the ideal fit that comes with the duo - the robust tannins of Cabernet melding with the fat of steak, giving a seamless and silky textural sensation. If you're going to drink your Cabernet young, a bone-in rib-eye is an appropriate place to start.

However, outside of this classic pairing I find much more pleasure when these wines have significant bottle age. Finding the perfect address in Napa and Sonoma to bring the ultimate reward at 30+ years of age is no easy feat. But, Silver Oak's reliance on lower alcohol wines have given them a long-documented track record of graceful aging. Today's offer going back to 1978 personifies the lower alcohol wines of times past that bring an unshakable ethereal conviction, along with a hefty dose of nostalgia.  

Silver Oak's use of American oak barrels is what separates the style first and foremost from their Napa neighbors who've overwhelmingly chosen French wood. The wider-grained American oak is famous for its sweet vanillin, coconut, and dill notes that are imparted. However, much like in traditional Rioja when these resulting wines are given decades to evolve, flavors minimize and merge with the transformed wine. 

Silver Oak has long prided itself on sticking to modest levels of ripeness, even as the tide began to shift in Napa toward the bombastic. Raymond Twomey Duncan and Justin Meyer started in 1972 with just 1,100 cases. Based on a handshake and an eye toward 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged solely in American oak the duo built their label into iconic status.

Today, the wines are still top selections on steakhouses throughout the country, but for me it's these bottles that have seen decades of slow evolution in dark cellars that really bring out the magic.

There's always a bright, ethereal nature to aged Cabernet Sauvignon that's such a wild departure from what we see in young examples. So many producers now shy away from letting the variety's's natural herbal qualities shine. When these eucalyptus and thyme notes are given years to integrate with the black cherry and cigar box qualities the results capture the most enchanting elements of Napa and Alexander Valley.

The Napa Valley designate wines usually show about half a degree greater alcohol compared to the slightly cooler-climate Alexander Valley. For example, the 1982 Napa Valley available today is listed at 13.4% vs. the 12.9% of the Alexander Valley.

1977 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 
$299 per bottle.

1978 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 
$299 per bottle.

1982 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
$149 per bottle.

1982 Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 
$149 per bottle.

1985 Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1.5L
$439 per bottle.

1986 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 
$144 per bottle.

1987 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 
$149 per bottle.

1988 Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 
$134 per bottle.

1991 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
$149 per bottle.