Video

Behind the Scenes with Dave Miner of Miner Family Winery

I met Dave Miner by accident, as he was passing around a bottled barrel-sample of Tempranillo on the porch of an Anaheim restaurant after hours.  The wine was good.  Dark and rich.  Miner was talking wine and music with Michael Jordan (the Master Sommelier, not the basketball star) and a couple guys from Fender Guitars were improvising a soundtrack on two twelve-string guitars.  It was the kind of January evening that comes with a pleasant frequency for those of us in the wine business.

The darker side of the business would come a year later when, visiting a famous Napa Valley winery, I would be mocked by an entire tasting room staff who had nothing but derision for wine retailers and (even worse) people from "The Rust Belt."

Driving south on the Silverado Trail, I saw the sign for Miner Family Winery and pulled in.  Dave Miner was his gregarious self.  He stopped what he was doing and welcomed me in.  We spoke about the evening in Anaheim, tasted some wines, and shot some video.  A few hours later, I had produced my first wine video in wine country. 

This is Episode #6 of the Understanding Wine video podcast.  Enjoy.  Transcript is below the video.

Dave Miner:

Hi. I'm Dave Miner with Miner Family Winery. We're here at Miner in Oakville, right in the heart of Napa Valley, over on the eastern side. As you can see behind me, spring has sprung in Napa, so it's a good time to be here. We're getting ready for some bud break and you should come by and see us.

Me:

When you're in Napa Valley visiting Miner, you could visit the tasting room. That would be a great place to start, but we're going to go behind the scenes with Dave Miner. Once you get behind the building, what you notice first are the solar panels.


Dave Miner:

We started doing solar a couple years back. We started the project, and we've been on the solar panels for roughly a year and a half now. We generate our own solar power. We're 100% solar powered. All of the waste that we produce here from wine making, whether it's skins, stems, seeds, all go to compost. All of our water is recycled back into irrigation for our property here. We really try to be very conscious of our footprint and our presence here, and not leave a mess.


Me:

The same care that Miner gives to the environment, they also bring to their wine making.


Dave Miner:

We hand harvest everything that we do and then dump that directly into the hopper. We sort of hand sort, as well, as we go through. We also don't tend to harvest a lot of grapes at one time. We might do 15, 18 tons in one day and that's it, not a huge amount. It really kind of allows us to manage everything in fairly small quantities. Make sure that the quality of every little lot is premium. Essentially, the whites go right into the bladder presses down here. A whole cluster whether it's Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay. We pretty much do all of those, the whole cluster press.

Each of those bladder presses will hold about seven or eight tons of grapes. We'll drop those all in there, rotate and just gently and lightly press them over two hours. Then, the juice will go off into a tank for fermentation in the tank. Although, Chardonnay, we actually ferment in the barrel, but it goes into a tank first. We kind of cold stabilize it, chill it down a little bit, start the fermentation process, and then move it on to barrels.

The red wines would go through the de-stemmer. For the most part, about 95% of our red wines are completely de-stemmed. We do have some wines that we actually do some whole cluster fermentations with, Syrah primarily, or Tempranillo. The rest of them are all de-stemmed, and then the berries are just kind of lightly popped. Then, they go into a tank, or into a bin for fermentation. Pinot Noirs, we actually do all our fermentations in picking bins, with a lid on or off. The punch downs are all by hand, so we mix the skins up all by hand. The fermentations are all natural. Again, in the smaller quantities, it's easier to sort of control the quality of each little bit that we do.

This is essentially 20,000 square foot cave, which we dug in 1998. Took about 14 months to complete. Can probably hold about 5,000 barrels, although it's not that full. We built it a little bit larger than we probably needed, just so that we would have kind of a comfort level room to work. The great thing about the cave is that it's much more energy efficient. It's 60 degrees and about 90% humidity all year, so you lose a lot less wine to evaporation. Above ground, you can lose roughly 5%, 6% of your wine every year to evaporation. Under ground, you lose 1% or less a year. Significant savings in wine loss. Consequently, you have less labor because you don't have to top the barrels off as often. You want to keep barrels full so that the wine doesn't oxidize. The faster it evaporates, the fast you've got to top it off.

We have variety of cooperages that we buy from. We have a couple that we buy a lot from. Then, quite a few other smaller producers that we buy smaller amounts from. That's kind of an ongoing thing. We always kind of experiment with some of the different producers, different types of barrels. See if we really like them. It's a little harder to do that with Cab, because you're racking in and out of those barrels a couple times a year, whereas with Chardonnay, once it goes into the barrel, it stays there, so you can get a much better of a idea of the effect of that barrel on the wine. You can taste the same chardonnay in four different barrels and really get a sense for what that barrel adds to the mix.

This is basically one of our Cabernet lots from Stagecoach Vineyard from the '08 vintage. These will essentially get blended here in the next month or so, and then put back in the barrel as the blend. Then, bottled roughly in August of this year. This is from a block at Stagecoach that we call the bowl, which is about an 11 acre block, 10 acre block, that's basically just kind of a bowl. It's a western facing area up at Stagecoach Vineyard. Stagecoach is just east of the Oakville Appelation. It's a fairly large vineyard. It's 550 planted acres. On the north end it kind of butts up against Pritchard Hill, runs along Oakville, and goes pretty much all the way down to Atlas Peak. It's a huge vineyard, great, rocky, volcanic soil, roughly around 1,500 to 2,000 foot elevation. It's kind of an ideal vineyard for the Bordeaux varietals. Keeps the yields low. Keeps nice acidity in the wine. Gives the grapes just fantastic intensity. It's also, because it's higher up in the valley, it tends to not get as cold, and not get quite as hot. You get a nice kind of breeze effect off the the bay up there. It's kind of ideal growing conditions for a number of these grapes.

Everything we do is in really small batches, very hand crafted. Quality really is kind of the key thing for everything that we do. Balance. We like to makes wines that are very well balanced, that go with food well. Also, lack of pretension. We like to have people come here and have a good time, no matter what their experience level with wine is. We want them to feel comfortable that they can come here, have a good time, learn some things if they want to, taste good wines, and just enjoy themselves. I think those are kind of the themes here at Miner that we try to promote all the time. You'll get to taste a lot of different kinds of wines, which is unusual, and I think really good, quality examples of every varietal that we do. I think you'll have a really good time, so come visit.

Talking German Wine with Dirk Richter: The Complete Interview. Max Ferd Richter.

One of the great ambassadors of German Wine is the erudite and passionate Dirk Richter of Weingut Max Ferd Richter.  I was very lucky to be able to meet him often in the early years of my wine career and talk German Wine in one of my video interviews.  We discuss the meaning of wine, recent vintages, the role of Riesling at the dinner table, and the positive effects of global warming.  Parts of this video appeared as an early episode of Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman, but it is collected here for the first time in its entirety.

Transcript:

Part One:  What Does Wine Mean to You?

Dirk Richter:  "That is good question, what does wine mean to me? Wine is ... let's put it that way, wine accompanies human civilization since there is human civilization. Wine is cultural heritage. Wine is gift from God. Wine is legacy. Wine is totally different from any other drink. When you invite guests to you home and they enjoy the wine, then you are proud to have chosen the right bottle. If they don't enjoy the wine, then you will tell your wife, "I knew that this wine is far too good for these people." That is a kind of reaction you would never have with any liquor or beer whatsoever. That is a personal emotion.

Wine is emotion. That's the reason why we all like to drink wine, to experience wine, because we learn and we know exactly that wine has a total different identity in history. To me, it's very important, I like history.

I think, we all should know where our roots are, we should know where we come from. So is with wine. When I go back in history and when I open the Bible, and the gospel, there from the first to the last page it's wine talk. The first thing Noah did, after the great flood, he planted a vineyard. Why did he plant a vineyard? He could have made a dairy farm or something. No, he planted a vineyard. It is important. It interacts our doing here with a blessing from Lord, himself. I think that's very important. Another example, in the gospel, when Jesus went public, so the first miracle that is reported from Jesus Christ was not the healing of the wounded or people that had physical or mental problems, no, it was the wedding of Cana, in the Gospel of St. John. Why is that reported as the first miracle? My explanation is because that story attracted attention to the public, to the audience. Wow, someone was able to turn water into wine, let's listen what he has to tell.

When we go to the old Egyptian cultures, for example, people were drinking red wine, but the Pharaoh was drinking white wine. That could be seen from the tomb of Tutankhamen, this young king who passed away at the age of nineteen years old, they found remnants of white wine in his tomb chamber. Or when we go to the old Sumer culture, in Iraq now-a-day, in Mesopotamia, wine. Wherever we go, wine. In the Black Sea cultures, the old country cultures, which is now Georgia there, wine. Everywhere is wine. I think that's so important.

To me, wine is part of my family identity. Wine is the history of the landscape I come from. There is so much knowledge and wisdom involved, given from one generation to the next. I think it's really important to learn about wine, to learn more, as people who like to drink wine are always people who are really savvy and interested and go a step forward.

Part Two: On Growing Riesling in Mosel, Germany.

Dirk Richter: 

As most wines, gains its elegance by the long vegetation season and not a hot, short growing time. Subsequently, we have the model country, climatic wise, to grow these refined, versatile, and sometimes fragile white wines. Apart from that, we grapes on slate stone, Devonian slate stone. That is a stone that was created some 500 million years ago. It's not a grown rock but a sediment rock. It was created for millions of years the sediment has been pressed to ground. When the landscape was built, as we know it today, the shift of the continent, some of these layers were brought up, came to surface, and create the Slate Mountains. It is very easy for the blondes to penetrate the terroir, the soil, and take out nutrition. That is very mineral driven.

We have coolish climate, we have got slate stone, the terroir, and that ends up with a low PH level in the wine and as we have got the long vegetation season.   All Rieslings, and that is something really special with a Riesling from Germany, are driven by tartaric acid. The longer the grapes ripen on the vine, the more delicate and the higher the finesse in the acidity. Riesling is something that is seen from the backbone taste. My duty, as the wine grower, is to produce wines taste around that dry lingering finish. That is the secret of the Riesling production. Particularly in the United States, people like acid, subsequently Mosels are so much distributed in this country.

The other reason why we are successful at producing Riesling in Germany is that a kind of German character is precision. If you want to make a top Riesling wine, you have to do it with precision. It's not the art other than other grape varieties, some other grape varieties, to make a blend. In white, a fine winemaker, with his special cellar recipes, take a little bit here, a little bit there, a little bit there, mix it and then you have a nice brand. No, it is precision. Show back the fruit on a given spot, picked at a certain time, back into the bottle. That is the Riesling story.

Part Three:  But isn't Riesling Just Sweet and Cheap?

Dirk Richter:

Cheap Riesling can be simple and sweet, but there is cheap wine everywhere that has no higher match or criteria to fulfill. The great Riesling wines, of course they have got residual sweetness, but they also can be bone dry. Rieslings have an uncounted number of faces. They can go from bone dry to super sweet and everything in between, every step is possible.

But what makes it so special is that the sugar that might be in that particular bottle shows on the tongue and on the palette in quite a different way. It tastes as if you were to bite in a fresh fruit, in an apple, pear, apricot, peach. When you eat that kind of fruit you never speak of sweetness of that fruit, you just speak how refreshing that fruit is, because it is balanced by acid. The same occurs to Riesling, we have, initially on the lips, on the tongue, we have some amount of sugar, that might be in a lower or in a higher percentage. But, it's always balanced against backbone acid. The wine never tastes sweet, the good Riesling wine, but fruity. That is terribly important. That is so important, particularly in the food process, as it helps to reanimate your taste buds, to cleanse or to rinse you mouth, it works like a sorbet and it helps with digest. Riesling is the ideal food wine.

Part Four:  On Aging German Riesling

Dirk Richter:

White wine ages, particularly when it has some residual versus acid. What makes the wine aging is not the amount of alcohol, it's the balance of sugar versus acidity. The Riesling has got, generally, most of the sugar, subsequently it can age much better, provided the acidity is not too low. But, good Riesling from the Mosel, from the Nahe, Rheingau, Pfalz, have got acidity, subsequently they age. There are the white wines that age Chinon Blanc, Bonnezaux in the Loire, Vouvray ages well. There is little bit similarity, they have got residual sweetness as well. It's always that balance that make the wine age. Once these wines start to age, they get more complex, you get much more texture, and slowly they start drying out. A 20 year old wine has no longer the sweetness the wine had when it was young, but it has a lot of richness and complexity and you don't miss that kind of sweetness. It tastes dry, but it tastes, still, very round and has kept it's freshness. That's really important. I can only encourage people to look for vintage bottles to show how well these Riesling wines age.

Part Five:  The Effect of Global Warming on Recent German Vintages

Dirk Richter:

The vintages you see mostly on the market right now is 2005, to start with the older one. That is a great vintage in any corner of the wine hemisphere on this globe, glorious vintage.

2006, a difficult vintage, very small in quantity but a lot of botrytis. The concentration of the '06 is enormous and when you look on the label and you read Kabinett or Spatlese, you can always be sure that this is heavily downgraded. Actually, you get much more wine for what's written on the label. It's a typical example of under exposed, over delivered. The '06 really has a rich, pungent, opulent, creamy character. It has great fruit and great acid and great density. You get oily flavors from the botrytis, you get very quince and rhubarb flavors on the more cleaner or more less botrytised grape wines. That, you find in the '06 vintage.

The next, '07, is very elegant. It's a very elegant, lush elegant, has not the top end style that '05 has got, but in the QBAs a Kabinett and Spatlese, and even the Auslese is a classy vintage. Very elegant.  A vintage to age perfectly.

Now, '08, we are a little bit more crunchy and spicy and zesty than '07. '08 has got a higher acid and a little bit lower alcohol than '07, though if you are looking for light-style Kabinett in German wines and you didn't see it recently, go and find '08, you will have it.

Now, '09, we are already a year further on. '09 is just starting ascending. We are tasting, and sampling, and preparing the first bottlings of '09. It's highly concentrated. It's relatively small quantity. It comes close to '05. I don't know whether it will be similar to '05 but it goes in the direction of '05.

Whatever we see from German wines, on the shelf, be sure you will never run into an off vintage. Whatever vintage the importing agent, the distributor, the restaurateur, the retailer, or the customer picks he can be sure, or she can be sure, always to have a great, good vintage above average. That is so far, the positive effect of global warming as we can see in the Mosel, so far. But we haven't seen the end yet.

Matias Sanchez-Nieto of Eral Bravo: Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman Episode #3

One of the great perks of working in the wine business, as buyer for a retail store, is the many invitations to meet winemakers and taste their wines.  This often happens during large trade events.  I've often taken the opportunity to interview winemakers for the Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman podcast.  This interview with the winemaker of Eral Bravo - Matias Sanchez-Nieto - was shot in Summer 2009 and became my third podcast episode in 2010.  Enjoy!

Transcript:

Okay. My name is Matias Sanchez-Nieto. I am from Eral Bravo Winery. We are placed in Mendoza Province in Argentina, in the western part of Argentina, which is very close to Chile. Actually, we are in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Our vineyards are about close to 3,500 feet high, so that let's us produce wines with some complexity, very interesting complexity, very nice colors, very nice possibilities of aging the wines and very elegant.

My family has been in the wine business for more than 30 years. We used to have one of the most important wineries in Argentina. We sold it just a few years ago to a very important group. Now, because we've always been related to this, we decided to develop this new product, Eral Bravo product. We have just three years selling our wines, but we are in about 50 markets, in different countries, I mean. Here in the States, we are covering, in the short period, we are in about 12 states. Some of them, like Ohio, we've been working for one year and a half, which was a surprise for us because the results have been really, really good.

We have the highest average altitude in Mendoza, actually in Argentina as well, I think it should be the highest in the world because we have ... As I said, our vineyards are very high, but even in south and the very north, our vineyard's much, much higher at about 2,000 meters or some more, which is about 6 or 7,000 feet high. They are really extreme ... Those vineyard extreme compared to other locations.

We produce different ranges. In our winery, we have the Urano range. We are offering a rose, Malbec, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Soon we'll have some white wine, either Viognier or Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, which are grapes that we produce ourselves. Then we have the Erales range, which is a little higher in terms of segmentation and pricing. Here, we have a Malbec and a Cabernet Sauvignon. I brought this Erales we have the YBS. We call it the YBS because it's our year's barrel selection. Every year we select barrels and we choose the barrels that we think have the best potential to be more time, to keep more the ones inside so then we decide the best way according to our opinion to offer something very, very special. It's been a very successful wine. Allocations are very ... You know, it's tough for us to allocate in different markets, but it's very, very good for our image and very good to make understand that Argentina has all the capabilities to show great wines.

There are many wineries that are working very well and I think the American consumers are realizing about these that we can offer great quality at fair prices, not overpriced wines. That's an advantage that we have and the results are on the way because we are growing, Argentina I mean is growing a lot in the American market. Currently it's the most important market and it's going to be ... It is continue growing, for sure. Everybody's looking for United States.

It's worth it to try our wines because they offer nice fruit, very good colors, you can see here what deep colors. We have very clean wines, very balanced wines in all senses, in fruit, without treatment, but also nice acidity, smooth wines, structured but smooth wines, very round tannins. We try to get complexity in our wines and we want them to be elegant, so I think we have accomplished that and we invite you all to try them.

Video: Inspired to Discover New Terroir (with St. Innocent Winemaker Mark Vlossak)

Without the established rules of Europe, how do American Winemakers discover great new terroir?  For St. Innocent's Winemaker Mark Vlossak, it is all about inspiration.  In this short six minute video, Vlossak talks about the different subregions of Oregon's Willamette Valley and what he find so inspirational about each of them.

This is Episode #50 of the Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman video podcast and the fourth of five videos from my interviews with Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent Winery. Click below to see the other parts of the interview.

A Video about Italy's Great Sparkling Wine .... and it's not Prosecco! It's Franciacorta

If I ask you to name Italy's great sparkling wine, you'd say Prosecco.  Right?  Sorry, wrong.

There is no denying that Prosecco has exploded throughout the wine-drinking world, conquering the category of 'value-priced sparkling wine.'  But it didn't have to be this way.  The region of Franciacorta in Northern Italy produces some of the world's greatest sparkling wine - and have for a long time.

This four minute video, produced in Franciacorta by Ben Shapiro and Jeremy Parzen in Franciacorta, gives you a brief look at the people, place, and food of the great Italian Sparking Wine Region.  Enjoy.

Video: Going Deeper into Willamette Valley's Terroir. With St Innocent Winemaker Mark Vlossak (part 3)

Get ready for a master-class on the specifics of terroir in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  If you ever wondered why Oregon is so exciting a wine region, this video will make it very clear.

Join us for eleven minutes with St. Innocent Winery's Mark Vlossak.  It's well worth your time!  Vlossak discusses the intricacies of terroir and how New World Wineries - such as those in Oregon - deal with discovering and using it.  The focus is on why factors influence terroir.

This is episode #49 of Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman.

This is part three of a five part video with Mark Vlossak.

Video: Anne Amie Vineyards - Winemaker Thomas Houseman

The first winery in Oregon that I visited was Anne Amie Vineyards in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA of Willamette Valley.  I got to the tasting room around closing time to find only the winemaker - Thomas Houseman.  We had a quick interview and talked about the distinctiveness of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Anne Amie Vineyards, current trends in wine, and the meaning of wine.

Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman. Episode #45

Download the video in HD by clicking here.

The complete podcast is available in iTunes here.

Barossa Valley Tourism Video Wins Cannes Grand Prix

It's an incredible video.  Lusty.  Sensual - in ever sense of the word.  It is a wonderful two minute introduction to the terroir of the Barossa Valley.  And now it has won the Cannes Grand Prix for 'Best Tourism Video in the World.'  Check it out. 

For more information on the video's production and the circumstances of the award check out this link to a news article at Adelaide Now.