I bought it impulsively, in a moment of weakness. We were having our annual Wine Country getaway in Healdsburg and rode our bikes past Geyserville to Silver Oak. We were just going to taste and ride back. We did. But during the tasting I purchased a 2005 3 liter, and Julie a six-pack of mixed vintages. Next day, we had to return by car and collect it all.


Silver Oak is a label with a cult following. They only make a Cabernet Sauvignon. They have two wineries and tasting rooms, one in Napa, the other in Alexander Valley. We were visiting the latter, one we’ve always favored.

Every 3 liter I’ve ever purchased has posed a problem. When and where do I open it?

This monster is the equivalent of 4 regular bottles (750 cc) of wine. It cannot be opened for a casual dinner at home. I have learned over the years that if intended for a party, the group needs to have the right combination of drinkers. If cocktails and beer are involved, it takes a larger number of party-goers to consume a 3 lt.

One advantage of a large format bottle is that it ages slower than regular ones. I stored the Silver Oak in a closet amid a few other 3 liters I own. While this is not as good as a temperature controlled cellar or a cooling unit, it has worked fine for me in the past.

Another challenge I had was that my Friday night Wine Wizard’s tasting group does not like Silver Oak. They eschew Napa Cabernet in general and oaky wines in particular. Who else could I open it for?

The wine stayed in my closet for years, waiting for an occasion.

It came unexpectedly earlier this year when Julie’s oldest son Bobby, recently divorced, announced that he was getting re-married. The wedding was to take place in Cabo San Lucas. In another moment of impulsiveness, I offered the 3 liter Silver Oak for the ceremony. Surprised and flattered, Bobby immediately accepted.

Now I had a new problem. How do I get the bottle to Mexico?

Silver Oak presents their 3 liter bottles in a coffin-like wood box. The whole thing is fairly heavy. When we inquired about shipping it to Cabo the price was steep. We decided to place it in its own dedicated suitcase and check it into Alaska Air. We inquired with the airline in advance and received a green light. We placed countless Fragile stickers on the suitcase, said a prayer and parted with it.

The suitcase came out of the conveyor belt in Cabo, intact. Then, another surprise at customs. No one left the airport without an interrogation. “Do you bring any meat, fruits or alcohol with you?” asked the officer.

We answered truthfully. “Wine.”

“How much?”

“One bottle.”

“Oh, just one?” The officer cleared our way. “You’re free to go.”

How do you explain a 3 liter to a foreign customs agent?

The bottle was slated for the rehearsal dinner. I took it to the restaurant several hours ahead and requested that it be poured into several decanters an hour in advance. I figured one hour was a safe start. Most of the wine would air out longer since it would not all be guzzled immediately.

Now, the final concern. After years in the closet would the wine be any good?

No concern. It was excellent. Silky and elegant, well balanced, still packing good fruit and with understated oak, typical of their Alexander Valley version.  We drank it with a lengthy multi-course dinner for a group of about a dozen, some non-drinkers.

I would have considered these insufficient numbers for a 3 liter. I was wrong. We finished every last drop, Bobby – my stepson and groom – and I consuming more than our share.

Bobby & Susan, groom & bride, and I at the rehearsal dinner.

A happy ending on a happy occasion. Now I have look for new ones for the others still in my closet.