How long have you been with Miner and what is it like working at a family-owned winery?
I started with Miner Family in 2008 as assistant winemaker and was named head winemaker in 2013. Working for a family-owned business is generally a more self-directed and less structured work environment. I love having the freedom to design and carry out experiments and the input to make changes in our wine offerings or styles.
You’ve got quite a range of grapes and styles at Miner. What are your favorite wines to make? And do you have much opportunity for experimentation?
I love making wine at Miner because of the opportunity to experiment. Working with 24 different varieties from 30+ vineyard sites over the years, I get to try making both leaner and riper styles of wines, and find the right balance over time for each of the wines we make. Chardonnay is one of the most malleable varieties, and therefore the most fun to make and experiment with.
Chardonnay and Cabernet remain unwavering in their popularity, with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir right behind them. How do the Rhône-style wines fare in such a consumer climate? Are they a hand-sell or do customers come to Miner because you make them?
It’s true that most visitors come to Napa because of a love of Chardonnay and Cabernet. However, our beautiful Tasting Room right on the Silverado Trail gives us the chance to introduce consumers to lesser-known varieties. Lovers of Pinot Noir often delight in Grenache and other red Rhône blends, and Chardonnay fans find something new and exciting in our Rhône whites
What traditions and innovations are employed in the cellar at Miner Family Winery?
Winemaking is full of traditions, and the phrase “What’s old is new again” constantly applies. Our newest experiment in the cellar is working with amphorae, made from ground Italian terracotta and cement. The first winemakers were fermenting wine in stone pottery in Georgia almost 8,000 years ago! The newest innovations in the wine world have been in the laboratory, where we can keep a closer eye on the daily changes and health of the wines from the moment the grapes hit the crush pad.
When did you discover your love of wine? How did you decide to become a winemaker?
I studied abroad during college in Spain. Learning about the culture, I became interested in wine and food and how integrated they are in the daily life of many societies. After some post-graduate stints in healthcare and IT, I was hired on with a wine and beer distributor doing sales administration. There I had access to wines from all over the world and was able to hone my tasting skills, and truly fell in love with wine. I also had a chance to chat with many visiting winemakers and realized their jobs sounded like a lot of fun! So I set my sights on California and a career in winemaking. After earning my Master’s Degree from the UC-Davis’ Viticulture and Enology program in 2004, I worked harvests in Burgundy and Australia before returning to the Golden State.
Given concerns over climate change, drought, and a changing ripening period, where do you see Napa Valley wines in the next forty years?
Napa Valley is already leading the charge to adapt our practices and “intuition” to a changing environment. The laboratories, trade groups, and research enterprises have for years been offering classes and seminars, sharing data, and leading roundtable discussions on how we can be in front of environmental changes both on an individual and industry-wide level. I think Napa will still be thriving in forty years.
[Image Source: Napa Valley Life Magazine]