The winegrowing roots run deep for Brad Petersen, Vineyard Manager for Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars. Brad grew up in Sonoma County, having spent most of his time in the heart of beautiful Alexander Valley. Brad’s family has been farming here for (at least) four generations on both his Mother and Father’s sides of the family. This legacy, especially the hard work of his father who was a great role model in the vineyard, has played a big part Brad’s decision to pursue farming today.
From childhood, Brad enjoyed working on the family ranch. As he got older, he became interested in the mechanical side of farming. He studied Ag Engineering at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. After college he began working on repairing and maintaining farming equipment before moving into irrigation, spray programs, fertilization and all aspects of managing a vineyard.
Today, Brad manages and grows Cabernet Sauvignon for Silver Oak, and Pinot Noir for Twomey Cellars. He works primarily in the Alexander Valley AVA, but his team oversees properties in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Oregon. He enjoys working with his talented team consisting of Vineyard Managers and Winemakers for both wineries.
“Being able to help preserve a way of life that we are losing on a daily basis makes it easy to get up and go to work every day. ”
Brad is incredibly proud to work for Silver Oak. The operation is incredible committed to sustainability, going above and beyond not only in their vineyard operations but in their winery facility and business. Silver Oak is a family-run operation started by Ray Duncan and Justin Meyer with the purchase of property in Alexander Valley in 1972. Multiple generations of the Duncan family work in the business today. Brad finds it incredibly rewarding to work for a family-owned business with people that care deeply about the land they farm and the people who work there. As Brad puts it, “Being able to help preserve a way of life that we are losing on a daily basis makes it easy to get up and go to work every day.” With the challenges of rising land prices and the constant battle with regulations, he feels lucky to be part of something so special.
“There is so much misinformation being circulated about how farmers operate. That can be easily sorted out if you have facts documented. ”
Brad began doing self-assessments through California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) back in 2003 to get familiarized with the vineyard practices at Silver Oak. He had taken on an Assistant Vineyard Manager role and needed to get up to speed with what was happening in the vineyards. The assessments helped him understand every aspect of the vineyard operations and how important sustainability is to the Duncan family. Brad believes that being able to document what is being done and how it's being done, along with having these practices verified by a third party has been a huge benefit for the whole county. “There is so much misinformation being circulated about how farmers operate.” Says Brad. “That can easily be sorted out if you have the facts documented.” With the huge increase in rural residents who are not involved in farming we need to be sure we have facts about farming and are sharing them with our new neighbors.”
All of the vineyard properties and winery facilities under Silver Oak and Twomey are certified sustainable through CSWA. In addition, their Napa vineyards are certified through the Napa Green program, and the wineries have worked with Fish Friendly Farming on some of their Sonoma County properties. Both of the wineries are also LEED Platinum certified. The Silver Oak (Oakville location) received the highest level of certification granted by the U.S. Green Building Council as it was the first production winery in the world to earn this recognition.
Most recently, Silver Oak earned Living Building Challenge certification on its Alexander Valley winery. It is only the world’s 25th fully certified project, the largest facility to earn the distinction and only the second winery. To earn this certification, it had to document a full year of operation, while attaining net positive energy and net positive water.
In addition to his big responsibilities with Silver Oak, Brad volunteers his time in the community. He has long served on the board of Sonoma County Winegrowers and was Chairman from 2013 to 2015. Today, Brad lives in Cloverdale with his wife, Lori. Their son, Jacob, serves in the U.S. Marine Corps.
We asked Brad a few fun questions during our chat with him!
What is your favorite part of farming and why?
Every year is different. To grow the best quality year after year a farmer must take everything they’ve learned over the years and apply it to what’s happening in the vineyard right now and make their best guess at what might work for tomorrow. What didn’t work last year may be perfect this year or may be worse. Every day you have to evaluate what is working, what mother nature has thrown at you and where you are along the path to delivering excellent fruit to the winery.
If you weren't in farming, what other career would you choose?
I’d be restoring something, somewhere. It might be a vehicle, a house, equipment. I’ve always had a passion for the history of the area and preserving it.
What is your favorite type of wine?
While I like Cabernet and have spent the past 20 years helping produce it for Silver Oak, my favorite has always been Zinfandel. The majority of the grapes that my grandfather grew in Dry Creek were head-trained Zin. I prefer the fruit forward wines that were made back in the 80’s and 90’s before the trend toward over ripe, jammy, high alcohol wines took over.