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Miner Family Vineyards
By Kylene Keith

Sometimes we don't choose our careers, they choose us. In the case of Dave Miner, President of Oakville Ranch Vineyards and owner of Miner Family Vineyards, a career in the wine business began not with a deliberate decision to leave his job in the software industry, but with a desperate plea from his uncle. He needed someone to help run Oakville Ranch Vineyards after being diagnosed with cancer, so Dave devotedly accepted the challenge.

A simple favor for his uncle eventually turned into a permanent career for Dave and his wife, Emily. Today, they not only manage Oakville Ranch Vineyards, but they also operate their own Miner Family Vineyards label. With help from his parents, Ed and Norma, Miner Family Vineyards has been producing small lot, hand crafted wines since 1998.

They produce limited quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc using a combination of old world winemaking techniques and modern technology.

The focus of the Miner Family label is to produce high end, reserve style wines that reflect the unique characteristics of individual vineyards or "terroir" where specific varietals grow best. Ten years ago, Dave Miner never would have imagined a career in the wine business, but he has certainly more than accepted his life's role. He has not only maintained the high standards of Oakville Ranch Vineyards set by his uncle, but he has surpassed all expectations receiving numerous accolades for his wines. Miner Family Vineyards was never a dream for Dave Miner, but his success proves that in becoming a great winemaker a dream is strictly optional.

Interview with Dave Miner
By Kylene Keith

Kylene Keith: What are your first memories of wine?
Dave Miner: I was born in Chicago and we moved to California when I was a teenager. My first memories of wine are at family dinners and get-togethers. The kids always got a small amount of wine mixed with water. It was always an integral part of our meals.

KK: I know that you originally worked in the software industry, but having family in the wine business, was the idea of owning a winery always in the back of your mind?
DM: No, it wasn't. I was always an avid collector, but the idea never really dawned on me until my uncle asked me to run his label. I really just fell into it.

KK: You produce both Miner Family wines and Oakville Ranch wines at your winery. Explain the difference in style between these two labels.
DM: This will actually be the first year that the separate labels will be produced by different winemakers. Gary Brookman will continue to make the Miner Family wines while Ashley Haizee has taken over the Oakville Ranch wines. So, the styles will be dramatically different this vintage. In terms of philosophy, Oakville wines have always been small production wines using 100% estate-grown grapes. They're made in the traditional Napa Valley style-if it's Cabernet, it's 100% Cabernet and we only use French oak. With Miner Family wines, we do more blending of grapes. We've been experimenting with American oak and some of the grapes are sourced from vineyards outside of Napa Valley.

KK: With so many wines now coming out of Napa Valley, how do you distinguish your wines from the rest?
DM: The most important factor is the terroir, meaning the actual vineyard site. Some of our wines are made from grapes sourced from outside Napa. For example, we have a Pinot Noir from Monterey and a Viognier from Madera. What makes winemaking so interesting is bringing out the character of a particular site. Even more interesting is to find the site that is perfect for each varietal, then to let that site have an expression in the wine.

KK: When you're interested in transporting your taste buds to a different wine region, where do you turn?
DM: Burgundy, Rhone, I love Alsatian wines.

KK: Your wines have received numerous accolades from very well respected publications. How do you feel about the whole wine rating business?
DM: From a marketing perspective, it's really a double-edged sword. It's great when you get great press, but bad press can be very damaging. As a benchmark for people who are beginning to appreciate wine, it's somewhat useful as long as you understand that the reviews are one person's opinion. To me, some of the systems are more reasonable than others. I'm not a huge fan of the 100-point scale, but it is what it is. To me, wine is like a painting or a book. When you analyze something like that it can have really good characteristics in one regard or bad characteristics in another regard, but all in all, it's an enjoyable thing.

KK: I realize that each of your wines must hold a special place in your heart, so I won't ask if you have a favorite, but which wine do you find yourself reaching for on a daily basis?
DM: Pinot Noir. It's very versatile. It just keeps drawing me back. Even when it's sitting in the glass, I find myself smelling it over and over. It opens up like a flower. Hour after hour it keeps changing.

KK: From the tasting notes on your website, it's clear that you are a strong believer in producing food-friendly wines. Do you have a specific food and wine pairing that makes your mouth water?
DM: Classic combinations like foie gras and dessert wine, Cabernet and filet mignon, Pinot Noir and duck. You can have a different glass of wine with each course and it's like different movements in a symphony. It's all one piece of music, but they each have different characteristics.

KK: How does the 2002 harvest look so far?
DM: Looks great. Quantities are lower than average, but the quality is fantastic. We had a tremendous amount of hangtime this year. Things started early and ended late. That gave the grapes great maturity and the colors are just beautiful.

Miner Family Vineyards Wines:

  • 1999 Napa Valley Chardonnay
  • 1999 "Garys' Vineyard" Pinot Noir
  • 1999 "Oakville Ranch" Chardonnay
  • 1998 "Oakville" Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1999 "Wild Yeast" Chardonnay
  • 1999 Zinfandel
  • 2000 Viognier
  • 1998 "Oakville Ranch" Merlot
  • 2000 De Mayo Chardonnay
  • 1999 "Stagecoach Vineyard" Merlot
  • 1999 Petite Sirah
  • 2001 Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville
  • 2001 Rosato
  • 2001 "Simpson Vineyard" Viognier
  • 2000 Zinfandel
  • 2000 "Gibson Ranch" Sangiovese
  • 2000 Napa Valley

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