Lunch With Silver Oak

By Kara Busselen


“Nervicited” is a word concocted by our daughter when she was five trying to describe how she felt about her upcoming ballet recital. Nervous and excited = nervicited.

That’s how we felt being invited to lunch with Silver Oak.  This is a wine and brand we’ve always admired, and with whom Woodhawk Vineyards is in a long-term contract to purchase our grapes. We wanted them to like us and want to continue to work with us. Were we trying to impress them? Were they going to be there to impress us? 

We drove to meet them for lunch at Diavola, a quirky restaurant in downtown Geyserville (absolutely worth a visit). As we stood on the old-fashioned wooden sidewalk in front of the restaurant, up walked our vineyard manager Tyler Klick from Redwood Empire Vineyard Management. 

Covid be damned, we shook hands with Tyler, Silver Oak’s Nate Weis (VP of Winegrowing) and Nick Filice (Head of Grower Relations).

Behind them approached a fabulous woman. This was Christiane Schleussner, Silver Oak Alexander Valley Winemaker. I have to be honest here: I was trying not to fangirl all over this lady. I took a deep breath as she shook my hand and offered me a warm smile. I immediately felt much more at ease and it wasn’t long before we discovered we both have twins. She loves wine AND has twins? I had discovered my soul sister.

We settled in for lunch and started chatting like old friends. Commiserating about kids, work, the drought, wildfires and the next vintage. Before being a winemaker Christiane had been a beer brewer in Germany.  She told us she loves our fruit and because it is some of the first to ripen each year (the benefit of a southern-facing hilltop vineyard) she uses it to help gauge how the rest of the vintage will go.

We told Nate that so many of our friends have asked if we need “help” with the harvest or working in the vineyard. He laughed. “Tell them to get up at 3am, put on long pants and long sleeves, and start picking grapes, then finish at noon when it’s already 100 degrees.” We thought about that a bit and concluded that very few of our friends had intended to make an offer that generous.  The vineyard management team’s jobs were secure.

I think what’s so fun about meeting important people is that they’re just… people. We got to ask a lot of questions about our vineyard, Alexander Valley and Silver Oak, and they patiently answered.  They wanted to know about our backgrounds, what had led us to acquire Woodhawk, and what our plans were for the future.  We told them about our dream to someday make some of our own wine — and they told us we had a great foundation to build upon.

They were so awesome. They welcomed us into the Silver Oak family with open arms and we couldn’t have been more thrilled. 

There is a saying in wine country that it takes a lot of beer to make good wine.  In case you’re wondering, every last one of the Silver Oak people had beer with lunch.  Michael had no problem fitting in.

4 thoughts on “Lunch With Silver Oak”

  1. Woodhawk Vineyards will undoubtably continue to produce great grapes for Silver Oak under your stewardship, since you both are meticulous and unrelentingly focused on quality in all you do. Great to hear the partnership with Silver Oak is proving to be a strong one, and again, congratulations on all you have already accomplished!
    With warm regards,
    Frank and Judy Jesse

  2. Jennifer and I just aren’t “3am friends” when it comes to harvesting! But we will try Diavola and buy more Silver Oak Alexander Valley to indirectly support Woodhawk! Also loved that the Silver Oak folks and Michael ordered beer at lunch – but did Kara?

  3. Beth and I are hoping to get back out to California – hope we too can dine with the Woodhawk Vineyard Royalty.

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