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
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
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
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