Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Miner Family Winery Revisited

We always love to visit Miner Family Winery.  Not only do they have excellent wines, but, in addition to the usual Napa Valley varietals, they have varietals less commonly found at Napa Wineries, wines such as Marsanne, Viognier, Sangiovese, Grenache, and Tempranillo. Of the several hundred wineries we have visited, it has also always been one of the friendliest.  Combine that with a lovely scenic view, a very pleasant setting and reasonably priced premium wines that begin at only $20 a bottle, and you have a winery that is very high on our short list of "must visit" Napa Valley wineries.

Miner Family Winery front entrance

Miner Family Winery was founded in 1998 by Dave and Emily Miner.  After working for years in the software industry, Dave turned his love of wine into a career in 1993 by becoming President of the Oakville Ranch Vineyard, owned by his uncle, Robert Miner, co-founder of the computer technology company Oracle. (The Miner Family Winery's signature wine is called "The Oracle" in honor of Dave's uncle and mentor.)  Five years later, Dave started his own winery. Family owned and operated, Miner Family Winery is located on the east side of the Silverado Trail in the Oakville District, with a scenic view of the valley in the front and a wine cave and mountain in the back.  A large stone entry gate with an ancient Assyrian winged sun god symbol marks the location as do the numerous solar energy panels that allow Miner Family Winery to run exclusively on solar power.

Miner Family Winery
upper deck patio

Most of the wines produced by Miner Family are sourced from grapes from vineyards owned by others, but these are some of the finest vineyards in California and Miner Family controls the farming practices.  These include the famous Stagecoach Vineyard in Napa Valley, where some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in the world now grow in the area where Black Bart use to rob the stagecoach that ran from St. Helena to Monticello.  In addition to four vineyards in Napa Valley, Miner Family sources grapes from three vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands,  a vineyard in Mendocino and another in Madera.  One of the vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands is Garys' Vineyard, named after Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni, and famous for its fabulous Pinot Noir grapes.  Dave Miner knows that about 80% of the quality of a wine is determined by the quality of the grapes, and spares no effort in locating the finest grapes available.  Their annual production is around 25,000 to 30,000 cases per year, making them a about a medium sized family winery.

Miner Family Winery
tasting bar with Cory

Our tasting began with the lovely Miner Family 2010 La Diligence Marsanne at $30.  This white wine varietal originated in the Northern Rhone region of France and is rarely found in Napa Valley.  (Interestingly, 80% of the world's Marsanne grapes are now grown in Australia.)  It is often blended with Roussanne or Viognier, but this Miner version is 100% Marsanne and from Napa Valley grapes from the famous Stagecoach Vineyard.  It saw seven months in French oak with 40% of this being new oak.  Only 380 cases were produced.  "La Diligence," by the way, means Stagecoach in French.  This Marsanne is a lovely light straw gold in color with an intense and appealing aroma that is a sheer joy.  I got mostly pear with some melon, honeysuckle and minerality.  You would have to have a bad cold not to appreciate the wonderful aroma of this wine.  I was just as delighted upon tasting this wine because Marsanne by itself can sometimes be rather bland and lacking in acid.  This one had some very pleasant, lively acid to complement the fruit but was still smooth and very well balanced.  I got mostly pear, cantaloupe, honeysuckle and some spice and minerality on the palate.  I could imagine pairing this with seafood or simply drinking it on its own.  It was one of most pleasant and interesting California Marsannes I've tasted!  Marsanne is one of the few white wines that can improve and become even more complex with age so it would be interesting to taste some earlier vintages. 

Miner Family Winery wine cave entrance

Miner Family is justly proud of its Wild Yeast Chardonnay and our host, Cory, made sure I tried some, so next up was the Miner Family 2010 Wild Yeast Chardonnay at $50.  They use grapes from vineyards in Oakville, Carneros and Stagecoach to compliment each other and also to provide different wild yeasts for the fermentation.  This vintage saw 16 months in French oak with 70% new oak.  It also underwent 100% malolactic conversion (sometimes called MLF or malolactic fermentation).  2,050 cases were produced.  I generally prefer Chards that are only lightly oaked and with little or no malolactic conversion because I do not like excessively fat, buttery or oily Chards that exhibit few varietal characteristics; but this was a big powerful Chardonnay with ample fruit, acid and intensity and the new French oak and malolactic conversion complemented it perfectly and brought out the best in it.  Cory referred to this Chard as one for Cab lovers, and it was certainly full bodied and intense; but it was also impeccably balanced. It had a good nose of green apple, pear, melon and citrus.  On the palate I got pear, apple, melon, apricot and citrus with good minerality and good well balanced acid.  It had a touch of butter and the oak was evident, but it was not excessive in any way.  Finish was medium plus in length.  This was a complex, full bodied Chardonnay that I really enjoyed.

Miner Family Winery

I moved on next to the reds, beginning with the Miner Family 2012 Sierra Foothills Grenache at $28.  It is 100% Grenache, was aged for six months in neutral French oak and 330 cases were produced. I had heard really good things about their Grenache on previous visits but had never tried it because it was always sold out.  We were in luck this time.  The grapes are from the Sierra Foothills near Auburn, California.  I love GSMs (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blends) but sometimes find California Grenaches alone to be too simplistic and light bodied for my taste.  This one was an exception.  It had a good nose of raspberry, strawberry and red cherry. I got some chewy tannins and good acid with red currant, cherry and black pepper on the palate. If you want to try a more interesting California Grenache or want an ideal BBQ wine, give this a try.

Miner Family Winery entry sign

My fourth pour was the Miner Family 2011 Garys' Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir at $60.  This saw 15 months in French oak with 70% new oak.  790 cases were produced.  This Pinot began with a great nose of strawberry and red cherry.  On the palate I got an amazingly elegant and well balanced Pinot that was simply divine.  The texture and mouthfeel were incredibly indulgent and sensuous.  I got strawberry, red cherry, subtle spices, and a touch of oak with a long finish.  This was one of the very few American Pinots that was as interesting and refined as a really good French red Burgundy.  It was so well balanced and beautifully textured that it was a pure physical pleasure to hold in the mouth. No wonder the Santa Lucia Highlands is gaining such a great reputation for wonderful Pinot Noirs.  If you really love Pinots, give this one a try.  I think it is heavenly!  I might do a detailed individual wine review of this exceptional Pinot.

Miner Family Winery
view from upper patio deck

My friend had bypassed the Chard and Pinot and had been ahead of me in his tastings, raving about the Syrah so I was looking forward to trying it next.  This was the Miner Family 2009 La Diligence Syrah at $40.  It is 100% Syrah from Stagecoach Vineyard, saw 15 months in French oak, with 40% of it in new oak, and 880 cases were produced.  I love really good Syrahs (called Shiraz in Australia) but find many of them to be too fruit forward or jammy, lacking the spice, character and complexity that a good Syrah should have.  (Some inexpensive Australian Shiraz are prime examples.)  This one, however, was excellent.  It had a lovely aroma of blackberries and spices.  On the palate it was beautifully balanced and complex with velvety tannins, blackberries, black pepper, violets, smoky notes, and a medium plus length finish.  It was very expressive, multi-layered and an outstanding Syrah in every respect.

Miner Family Winery entry gate

My next pour was the Miner Family 2009 Napa Valley Petite Sirah at $40.  This is 100% Petite Sirah sourced from the Sutro family of Palisades Vineyard in Calistoga.  It was aged for twenty months in French oak with 40% of it new oak.  Only 359 cases were produced.  I love good Petite Sirahs and this one is outstanding.  It had a substantial aroma of black cherries and blueberries.  On the palate it was full bodied but exceptionally well balanced with dark fruit, mostly blackberries, and plenty of black pepper and spice, and some toasted oak and forest floor.  Tannins were very well integrated, and the finish was medium to long. An exceptionally good Petite Sirah that my friend loved as much as I did.

Miner Family Winery tasting room

The seventh pour was the Miner Family 2010 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon at $75.  It is 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc and 2% Merlot and was aged for 21 months in French oak with 60% of it new oak.  1130 cases were produced.  After a good nose of black cherry and toasted oak I got a rich, lush, full bodied Cab with black fruits, mostly black cherry and blackberry, and firm tannins.  Finish was medium plus in length.  Although quite drinkable now, this mountain Cab should cellar nicely and continue to improve.  Highly recommended.

Miner Family Winery stone building

My friend was so enamored with the Miner Family Syrah and Petite Sirah that I did not expect to hear any more exclamations of pleasure from him, but he had skipped some tastes and was ahead of me so while I was agreeing with his very positive assessments of those two varietals he was going on about how wonderful the The Oracle was.  It was with much anticipation then that I moved on to my last taste, the Miner Family 2009 The Oracle at $90 which they refer to simply as a Napa Valley Red Wine.  This vintage is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, 5% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot.  The grapes came from Stagecoach Vineyard and the wine was aged for 21 months in French oak with 55% being new oak.  1380 cases were produced.  I got black cherry, black currant and spice on the nose.  What struck me immediately on the palate was the gorgeous balance of this wine along with its complexity.  It was full bodied and lush but had great structure and many subtle nuances.  On the palate I got a lot of black currant, black cherry, and black berries with some pepper, forest floor, spices, toasted oak and mocha with a long finish. There was so much going on!  My friend's sample had been poured from the end of a bottle and mine from a new bottle so I tried some of his and it had opened up very nicely.  This is a wine to spend a lot of time with and to try at different temperatures and with various exposures to air.  I'd love to sit down and spend several hours carefully tasting and evaluating it.  I might even pair it with some cheese or something simple, but it is so darn good, I'd mostly drink it by itself.  Frankly, at $90 this exceptional Cabernet blend seems under priced.  Very highly recommended!

Miner Family Winery

Miner Family has a great line up of wines that  have a lot of character and complexity and are incredibly well balanced. They obviously have access to some exceptional grapes and know how to bring out the best in them. My friend loved their wines so much he plans to join their wine club. We highly recommend that you visit Miner Family Winery if you really love premium wines. Because of their license, you will not even need an appointment, unless you have a party of six or more or want a tour of the wine cave or some special tasting.  It is a great place to visit!  Much thanks to Cory for hosting us in such a friendly and professional manner.

Miner Family Winery
upper deck patio

Minery Family Winery
7850 Silverado Trail
Oakville, CA 94562
Phone: 800-366-9463
Date of revisit: February 18, 2014

Miner Family is open to the public without an appointment. For special tastings, tours or parties of six or more, however, you will need an appointment. The tasting on the day of our visit was $25 and one received a pour of the Marsanne and then one's choice of five of ten other wines which included the The Oracle.  The tasting menu indicated that one tasting fee was waived with a $75 purchase.  Miner Family is also in the Napa Neighbor Program. By the way, Miner serves their wines in Riedel glasses with a special glass for each varietal. These glasses do not have stems so the can be washed easily. 

"MINER TASTING ROOM Oakville Napa Valley
Located in the heart of Napa Valley along the scenic Silverado Trail in Oakville, our Tasting Room is open to the public daily 11am to 5pm. Visit us and enjoy a tasting of current release wines and sweeping vineyard views.
No appointment necessary for tasting only (flights starting at $25).
Groups of 6 or more require an appointment.
Private tasting experiences, barrel tastings and cave tours are available by appointment. Please call 800-366-WINE"

Miner Family Winery olive trees

Miner Family Winery view

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