Rebuilt winery rises from the ashes of 2006 fire, true to past, ready for future

Rising from the ashes of a devastating fire in 2006, Silver Oak Cellars new 65,712-square-foot winery and tasting room recently reopened in Oakville on Sept. 29 with a style evocative of the former structure built in 1981.

It retains the two classic stained glass windows that were a hallmark of the original building along with the stately wooden entrance doors that greeted visitors at this Napa destination for more than 25 years.

“The tragic fire had an upside. It presented us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to incorporate all of the technological advancements of recent years into the winery’s new design while also enabling us to anticipate future changes,” said Silver Oak President David Duncan, leader of the rebuilding project.

“The entire site was raised five feet above the flood plain, and the winery was reoriented so that grapes are received on the east side. Our goal was to develop a new winery that honors the past with the flexibility and functionality to sustain growth for the next 50 years. For example, this updated structure also includes some 1,464 solar panels that provide enough energy to supply power for all of our needs most of the time.

“We were able to take our 35 years of experience in both winemaking and hospitality and apply it to creating an ideal space for making our Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon and entertaining our guests. The hospitality area pays tribute to our historic legacy and has a friendly, familiar feel, but we also wanted to offer our guests something new. With the materials we used and the craftsmanship throughout, we’ve tried to create a very memorable tactile experience, where people use all of their senses to experience the wines and the winery.”

Silver Oak Cellars was co-founded in 1972 by David’s father, Raymond Duncan, and Justin Meyer. Dedicated exclusively to producing cabernet sauvignon that is aged and drinkable upon release, the winery makes two wines at two separate facilities: Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon at its winery in Oakville and Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon at the company’s winery in Geyserville, Sonoma County. When Justin Meyer retired in 2001 he sold his share of Silver Oak to the Duncan family.

Today, Silver Oak Cellars is operated by Raymond’s two sons, David and Tim Duncan, who adhere to the principles of continuous improvement and high quality first established by founders Justin and Ray many years ago.

The new timber-framed tasting room features reclaimed stone, oak and redwood plus a soaring, sky-lit fermentation barn containing 43 fermentation tanks.

The tasting bar was crafted from stacked American White Oak 4x4s reclaimed from an 1820 barn in Missouri. Behind the bar there is a distinctive hand- crafted carving, made from the same American White Oak and executed by Master Woodcarver Boris Khechoyan, depicting vineyards and the Silver Oak water tower.

Outside visitors are drawn to the courtyard, fountain and reflecting pool surrounded by sweeping views of the vineyard anchored by Silver Oak’s iconic water tower, which had to be repainted, re-roofed and moved approximately 12 feet from its former location.

These features provide an entrance to the tasting room area where guests will find a huge stone fireplace and the Glass House wine library with a display of vintages dating back to the 1970s.

A History Gallery – lined with redwood salvaged from Silver Oak’s original winery – contains memorabilia from the original facility. A stainless-steel-covered time capsule buried in the floor is filled with photos, letters and other historical documents from Silver Oak and its customers.

The interior of the tasting room and the exterior of the winery were built using hand-quarried limestone reclaimed from an 1893 flour mill in Coffeeville, Kan., that was about to be demolished. The chipped face and subtle color variations of the limestone are reminiscent of the stone found in the original structure.

A new state-of-the-art kitchen is situated at the rear of the hospitality building, where winery chef Dominic Orsini creates food and wine pairings and meals using whatever is fresh from the gardens. A meeting room adjacent to the kitchen, used for entertaining guests and visitors, has giant sliding wood and glass doors that open onto the courtyard and vineyards.

Spacious walls in both the hospitality and administration buildings provide ample display areas and niches for fine art paintings and sculpture.

The collection represents the finest in traditional American art depicting California from the high Sierra to the coast, as well as works of contemporary life, the environs and historic creations highlighting California’s heritage.

Silver Oak Cellars will celebrate the grand opening of the new Oakville winery at its upcoming Release Day on Feb. 7, 2009.

A Silver Oak tradition for nearly two decades, Release Day heralds the release of the winery’s newest vintage with an entire day devoted to savoring wine and food while reconnecting with old friends. For more information about Silver Oak Cellars and Release Day, visit the Web site at www.silveroak.com.