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Snooth User: Really Big Al

Sad News at Silver Oak Winery

Posted by Really Big Al, Oct 10, 2015.

I received this e-mail today which documents the passing yesterday of Raymond Duncan, co-founder of Silver Oak Winery:

Raymond Twomey Duncan
October 23, 1930 - October 9, 2015

Family & Friends,
 Raymond Twomey Duncan, American entrepreneur, vintner and our founder, passed away this morning at his home in Denver, CO, surrounded by his family. He was 84.

 Ray, we raise our glass to you.

A pioneer in the wine, oil, ski and golf businesses; as well as wildcatter, rancher, investor, citizen, father and patriarch, Mr. Duncan is best remembered as a hands-on leader across his community, family and businesses. "There's a lot of fun to be had in developing something and making it the best you can to the limits of your ability," said Duncan to The Denver Post in 1986. "I function as a fully committed partner in both concern about the operation and pride in the result." 

 Born in South Bend, Indiana in 1930, Mr. Duncan attended the University of Notre Dame, graduating in 1952 with a degree in Philosophy. He joined the Marine Corps and served in the Korean War, ending his military career as a Captain. In 1958, the Duncan family moved to Durango, CO, a center of the growing oil and gas business where he founded Duncan Oil and Purgatory Ski resort in the San Juan Mountains. Mr. Duncan and his family moved to Denver in 1967 to further pursue the oil and gas business. 

 In 1970, Mr. Duncan accepted an invitation to visit the Napa Valley from college friends Jack and Mary Novak, founders of Spottswoode Winery. The opportunity he envisioned from that trip would shape the course of his life and the burgeoning California wine industry. He would later go on to say of the visit, "Don't go to Napa in the springtime, you will buy too much land!" 

 By 1972, Mr. Duncan had acquired several vineyard properties in the Alexander and Napa Valleys with the goal of planting vineyards to grow and sell grapes. Through a chance meeting with winemaker Justin Meyer, they soon became friends and founded Silver Oak "over a case of beer and a handshake." Duncan and Meyer's shared vision for Silver Oak was to devote their resources to the single-minded pursuit of Cabernet Sauvignon, indeed a novel approach at the time. 

 As founder of Silver Oak, Mr. Duncan is known for implementing a philosophy of constant improvement to "preserve Silver Oak's heritage for future generations." Under his leadership, the company grew into "one of the most iconic California wineries, helping burnish an image of high quality for the region." Today, the winery maintains that vision under the leadership of Mr. Duncan's sons, Tim and David Duncan. 

 Together with his four sons, the family founded Twomey Cellars in 1999, named after their father and Mr. Duncan's mother, Velma Twomey Duncan. 

 On July 4, 1988, Ray married his soul mate and love of his life, Sally, at the family's Diamond Tail Ranch in Colorado. 

 In 1998, Mr. Duncan was named Wildcatter of the Year by the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, and in 2004 was inducted into the Rocky Mountain Oil & Gas Hall of Fame. In 2006 he was inducted in to the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame. In 2012, Mr. Duncan was inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame. He has been involved in numerous philanthropic pursuits, including the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, The Denver Art Museum, Kent Denver School, Saint Helena Montessori School and Sonoma Academy, as well as many others. He also served as one of the founders of Castle Pines Golf Club, and worked for years to make it the best golf club possible. 

In 2008, he endowed a men's residence hall at the University of Notre Dame, Duncan Hall, to epitomize his values of community, brotherhood and respect. This year, with support from Mr. Duncan and his family, the university broke ground on the Duncan Student Center, a nine story, 400,000 sq. ft. focal point of student life at Notre Dame to be completed in 2017. 

 As of August 2015, Mr. Duncan was still signing autographs at Silver Oak Release Day. He is survived by his wife Sally, their six children and 16 grandchildren. 

 "Life is a Cabernet"



Reply by dvogler, Oct 10, 2015.

His wine enriched many people.  Rest in peace Raymond.

Reply by MJET, Oct 12, 2015.

My first higher end wine (many moons ago). Thanks for the memories Raymond, RIP

Reply by outthere, Oct 13, 2015.

RIP also to Walter Schug.

Reply by dmcker, Oct 13, 2015.

Thanks for the post, OT. I've had lots of wine that both men produced, most of all Schug's early efforts at Phelps with their Insignia and the first encounter I had with CA syrah back in the early '80s. Duncan's wines were a recognizable milepost on many wine drinkers' evolutionary paths, while Schug definitely helped anchor pinot noir north of the Bay to many people's later benefit.

Both of these passings seem worthy of spurring a grad-school research project or at least in-depth magazine feature on a) business magnates who then wove a major CA wine thread into their lives, and b) Europeans who came to CA in the 20th (as opposed to 19th) century and helped the wine industry rise further.

Schug seems to have dressed a bit (at least for photos) like my maternal grandfather who did all sorts of real estate and orchard crops in southern and central CA--seemingly everything except grapes--while also teaching college, though my grandfather was of a generation earlier.

Reply by zufrieden, Oct 16, 2015.

A good, long life contributing to the pleasures of those nearby and those afar.  I lift a glass to thee!

Reply by Really Big Al, Oct 17, 2015.

Yes, thanks for sharing the information on Walter Schug.  I had never heard of him before, but I'm relatively new to wine anyway.  I hope I make it past 80 years of age.

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