Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Silver Oak buys Roshambo

By Jessica Yadegaran
Thursday, December 21st, 2006 at 9:58 am in Uncategorized.

Interesting news today about stalwart, $100-Napa-Cabernet producer Silver Oak Cellars buying Dry Creek’s hipster rebel Roshambo Winery. I profiled Roshambo owner Naomi Brilliant in September and visited her artsy winery the following month. If you haven’t been, imagine a sleek art gallery meets club where the employees have tattoos and patchy facial hair. My friends and I weren’t crazy about the wines, but boy did we admire Brilliant’s business model and marketing savvy: Drag shows, art openings and the slogan, "Fighting for fun in a winey world." After all, it was for us — serious wine drinkers who didn’t wear suits or fanny packs. Well, turns out the world isn’t ready to stop whining, so to speak. Experts have weighed in and I tend to agree on one front: Brilliant, heir to Frank Johnson, went overboard on a showcase winery and tasting room before her brand could build a reputation to cover the costs. Turns out that soon after the winery, which cost $10 million, was built in 2002, the value of the family trust fund behind it began to dip. And dip. What I do not agree with, however, is that Roshambo was too flip, too light and not serious enough for the wines they were making. The wine press is making Silver Oak out to be the Superman of wineries that came and saved little baby Roshambo. After all, they make serious wines for serious people. Well, I love Silver Oak and attend their biannual Cabernet releases but I can tell you that a chunk of their clientele at those parties look and act like anyone at Roshambo. Wine drinkers are getting younger and younger, and they drink everything, gold-trimmed beige labels with cursive writing and wineries named after the rock, paper, scissors game. You can’t blame Roshambo for trying to cement a niche for themselves. I’m just sorry it didn’t work out. I do hope Naomi stays in the wine biz. We need her creativity. As for Silver Oak, it’s been looking for a secondary facility to produce wine following the fire last year that caused $2 million in damages and will put it out of commission for the 2007 harvest. Silver Oak is buying the winery and the acreage surrounding it, but not the brand. So if you have any bottles, hold on to them.

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