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Wine Country Events Newsletter
September, 2000

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"The Grapes are Coming"
The grapes are coming. Itís crush time in Napa Valley, and Miner Family Vineyards( in Oakville is getting ready. Director of sales, Jack Edwards, says "the sparkling wine houses are at full swing, so weíre next." The growing season has been perfect and Jack expects a great 2000 vintage. "Cellar rats" clean wine presses, rack new barrels, and stack grape bins for the crush. The sound of clicking bottles reverberates though the winery as other workers bottle zinfandel for one of the wineryís custom crush clients. Fruit samplers are in the vineyards, testing grapes for ripeness.

Despite the buzz of activity and anticipation, everybody is relaxed. The valley seems to have that effect on people. Winemaker Gary Brookham talks to an East Coast distributor while Jack gives an impromptu tour to two restaurateurs from Colorado whoíve come to see where some of their favorite wines are made. The wineryís owner, Dave Miner, takes time to chat with the tasting room guests.

Every harvest brings a flood of visitors to the wine country, so even here on the sleepier eastern side of Napa Valley, itís elbow-to-elbow at the tasting counter. The staff, festive in their Miner-logo Hawaiian shirts, give visitors a quick rundown on the wineryís history as they pour: Founded in 1998 by Dave Miner, his wife, and parents, Miner Family Vineyards also bottles and sells wines from Oakville Ranch, the vineyard and winery which Dave ran after its founder, his uncle, Bob, succumbed to cancer.

Dave left a high-pressure sales career in Silicon Valley for the more gentle lifestyle of Napa Valley. "Wine is a more human business," Dave says. "The competition is strong, but itís friendly. And itís the type of business thatís a life-long learning process." It's a process that's more fulfilling for Dave than the grind of software sales. "Itís nice to be with a product from start to finish. >From the day you pick to the day you sell that bottle, youíre growing along with it."

In an era when the term "family" on a wine label too often seems like just a marketing trend, the word has real meaning at Miner. Though still making estate wines from Oakville Ranch, now owned by his aunt, Mary, Daveís also working with fruit from his parents vineyard, which will be used for a special bottling honoring the memory of Bob. Dave and his wife, Emily, also have a small vineyard in development on their property, and heís enthused about his brotherís plan to plant his own vineyard.

Acknowledging that it was a risk breaking away from Oakville Ranchís critical acclaim and brand recognition to create his own winery from scratch, Dave say that he didnít want to limit himself to making only Oakville wines. "I believe that if it says Napa on the label, it should be Napa in the bottle." While the winery focuses primarily on single-vineyard wines, the Miner Family label gives Dave the freedom to work with growers from all over California.

Minerís current crop includes a Pinot Noir from the Pisoni Vineyard near Monterey, a Sangiovese sourced from Hopland, and a light, flowery Viognier from -- believe it or not -- the Central Valley. Plans are afoot for a Syrah bottling as well, which would be a natural fit for the wineryís line-up of bold, extracted wines that express the terroir of their source vineyards. Asked to describe the house style in a word, Dave says "In-your-face."

Unfortunately, high demand and short supply may make it hard for consumers to put some of these wines in their faces. The heralded Pisoni Pinot Noir sold out shortly after release; the Wild Yeast Chardonnay and "Oakville" Cabernet go quickly and are subject to per-bottle limits. As well as planting new vineyards and procuring new sources, the winery is making special plans to balance the demands of its distributors and restaurant accounts with the needs of its guests and wine club members. Jack Edwards says Miner will offer two new bottlings, a Central Coast Chardonnay and an Oakville Ranch Reserve Cabernet, exclusively to visitors at the winery. Wine Club customers are also treated to discounts and periodic parties in the wineryís private dining room and caves.

Describing the latest bash, Daveís broad smile makes it clear that he enjoyed the event as much as his guests. Looking out from tasting room deck, with its gorgeous, sweeping view of Napa Valley, Dave explains why he and Emily like to hang out in the tasting room, show people around, and make sure the visitors are enjoying themselves. "We like to treat everyone who walks in the door like theyíre going to be lifelong customers."

more events
For more events in the Napa Valley area for September and the rest of 2000 please look through our extensive Events Calendar:

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