Justin Meyer, co-founder of Silver Oak Cellars, one of California's most successful brands, has sold his 50 percent interest in the North Coast winery to partner Raymond Duncan for an undisclosed price.
The deal gives Duncan, 70, ownership of the estate's brand name, two winemaking facilities -- one in Oakville, in Napa Valley, and one in Geyserville, in Sonoma County -- and 320 acres of vineyards.
Meyer, 62, has reduced his involvement in the day-to-day operations of the winery over the last several years, but he will continue to work with Silver Oak as a consultant after the sale becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2001.
"The reason for the change is estate planning [for Meyer's family]," said Duncan. "Plans will be to continue Silver Oak in the same manner we've conducted it for 30 years -- making the best Cabernet we can."
Duncan, a Denver-based entrepreneur and oilman, and Meyer, a former member of The Christian Brothers religious order, started Silver Oak in 1972. Duncan focused on the financial and administrative responsibilities, while Meyer oversaw production of the wines. Silver Oak has subsequently become one of California's most popular high-end brands, with an annual production of 63,000 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Silver Oak currently makes just two wines: 50,000 cases of Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 13,000 cases of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wines have a distinctively rich flavor profile that comes from 26 to 28 months of aging in American oak, followed by another 12 months in bottle for the Alexander Valley wine and 18 months for the Napa Valley wine. At any given time, the winery has about 7,500 barrels of wine on the premises; this dependence on a steady supply of quality American oak barrels led Duncan and Meyer to purchase 50 percent of a Missouri cooperage last year.
Due to the extended aging, Silver Oak releases its wines two or three years later than most producers. "Justin's vision was twofold: to make the best Cabernet he could, and to make a wine that was drinkable upon release," said Peter Carisetti, marketing manager for Silver Oak.
Last summer, Silver Oak released the 1996 Alexander Valley Cabernet for $50 per bottle. The 1995 Napa Valley bottling is scheduled to be released on Feb. 3 for $85 a bottle.
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