David R. Duncan
President/CEO, Silver Oak Cellars Managing Partner, Twomey Cellars
It’s a rare day that you find David Duncan, family-owner of Silver Oak & Twomey Cellars, sitting in his office. Instead, you’ll likely spot him between vineyard rows, sporting a hard hat at a winery construction site, or chatting with customers at the tasting room bar. He chuckles, “I’d rather be driving a forklift than writing emails.” David’s hands-on commitment to continuous improvement, coupled with his characteristic approachability and good humor, have fueled Silver Oak and Twomey’s evolution over the last two decades.
Early-on his father, Ray Duncan, co-founder of Silver Oak Cellars in 1972 with Justin Meyer, introduced David to the family business. David got his first taste during his MBA at the University of Denver (’94), when he built a financial model for the company. Soon after, in 1999, David, his father and brother Tim Duncan founded Twomey Cellars, the Duncan Family’s brand and producer of Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. In 2002 David officially joined Silver Oak and today leads both Silver Oak & Twomey Cellars as President & CEO. Along with his brother Tim Duncan, who oversees domestic and international sales as Executive Vice President, David has advanced the company to become one of Napa Valley’s most recognized and renowned producers.
In 2006, a fire destroyed Silver Oak’s Oakville winery, leaving the family with the decision to either salvage the facility or rebuild from scratch. David saw the silver lining: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a space ideally suited for the production of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon and the enjoyment of visitors. The new winery – the first commercial winery in the world to be LEED Platinum certified – crystallized the pillars of David’s leadership approach and set the stage for Silver Oak’s culture of industry leadership and firsts.
From the fire also rose David’s unwavering focus on quality and continuous improvement – “We’re not in pursuit of more, we’re in pursuit of better.” David constantly seeks out prime vineyard sites to add the portfolio, and encourages employee innovation, like the development of Berry Sensory Analysis, a pioneering and rigorous approach used to determine when grapes are at peak ripeness. The same attention to producing exceptional wines also applies to sustainability: all of Silver Oak and Twomey’s vineyards are certified under Napa Green and The California Sustainable Winemaking Program, a criterion viewed as central to both land stewardship and wine quality.
In 2015, David’s commitment to excellence was a leading factor in the company’s decision to purchase The Oak Cooperage in Higbee, Missouri, making Silver Oak the first North American winery to own and operate an American oak barrel cooperage. Owning a cooperage gives Silver Oak complete control over the quality and supply of the American oak barrels that are a key factor in the style – aroma, flavor and texture – of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon.
Never resting on his laurels, David has his eyes set on the future of the company, most notably the building of Silver Oak’s new winery in Alexander Valley, opening in 2017. Inspired by the re-build of the Oakville winery, David and his brother Tim set out to find the perfect site to grow exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon and provide a first-rate, unrivaled customer experience. Like Oakville, the new winery will use cutting-edge technologies and will be applying for Platinum LEED certification.
Even with his hands-on commitment to Silver Oak & Twomey, David finds time to be a community leader. A Napa Valley Vintner (NVV) board member, David was Chairman of the NVV Board in 2015 and co-chaired Auction Napa Valley in 2014 – it’s highest-grossing year. In 2008 David and his brother Tim also co-chaired the NVV’s Premiere Napa Valley, a wine auction for the trade. He served as board member and past Chairman of the St. Helena Hospital Foundation; in 2016 his fundraising efforts led to a banner year for the St. Helena Hospital Gala. David was co-chair of the Capital Campaign for the St. Helena Montessori School, is Board Member of the First Western Trust Bank in Colorado, and is past Chapter Chairman and member of the Northern California Chapter of the Young Presidents Organization. When not making wine, David plays guitar and sings with the Silverado Pickups, a band he co-founded with his friend and fellow vintner Jeff Gargiulo of Gargiulo Vineyards.
An industry spokesman, David appears on behalf of Silver Oak & Twomey and the California wine industry on CBS This Morning, CNBC, Bloomberg News, FOX News; his quotes appear in national publications including Entrepreneur, Associated Press, Wine Spectator.
David lives in St. Helena with his wife Kary, an MD with a private dermatology practice, and their three children.