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Hi everyone –
Happy Black Friday to all, and I hope your Thanksgiving was full of delicious turkey, awesome stuffing, and gulpable wines. Many thanks again to those that jumped on our Thanksgiving four and six packs.
It’s Black Friday, a time for getting a great deal, and we have a doozy here for you at the best price you’ll ever find. One of the top bang-for-the-buck Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons around, even at regular price. In fact, I’ve always believed it should be more expensive than it actually is. (Note: this is the best price you’re going to find on this wine, period.)
The other thing I love about Miner Emily’s Cabernet is that it’s a big time Napa Cab made to drink now, not ten or twenty years down the line. The winemaking techniques used here make for a stunning bottle to pop during this upcoming winter. More in the tasting notes below.
Let’s get to it.
The border into Napa County and Napa Valley, on the top of the Mayacamas range heading east.
A quick review of Napa Valley geography
When I teach a Napa Valley class, there are a few points I make right out of the gate.
This is Napa Valley 101 info for you, but you’ll read in a bit why I include it here.
Temperature: hotter to the north, cooler to the south. The temperature band that is perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon runs from roughly St. Helena to Yountville, with particular perfection found around Rutherford and Oakville.
Rainfall: wetter to the west, drier to the east. The Mayacamas range (west side), which includes the Spring Mountain AVA, can see 30-60 inches of rain during the winter. At the same time, the Vaca Range (east side, and only a few miles away as the crow flies) will see 3-9 inches of rain.
Soil types: I heard this offhand from a geologist friend of mine, so I don’t have the exact numbers. But he said there’s something like 350 soil types in the world. Often a region (or in the case of Washington State) will have maybe six to ten of the soil types. Napa Valley has over 175.
Alluvial fans: Because Napa Valley is a true valley with north-south running mountains on each side, there are historic creeks that have run down the hills for millennia. These creeks carry stones, and the stones get deposited on the valley floor, fanning out on top of the soil. These alluvial fans make for perfect spots for Cabernet Sauvignon in particular.
So when you combine temperature, rainfall, soil types, and alluvial fans together you get the opportunity to plant almost anything in Napa Valley, but only a few spots are PERFECT for particular grapes.
What makes truly GREAT Cabernet in Napa Valley?
There is a ton of debate about this question, which is obviously subjective in nature.
Some people dig on softer tannins and plump, juicy, concentrated, and round fruit.
Some people dig on the valley floor, with lush aromas and dusty tannins.
Some people dig on the laurel and bay leaf aromas of the western flank, specifically Spring Mountain.
Some people dig on the hyper-concentration of the Vaca Range (where berries are often harvested that are the size of peas), specifically Howell Mountain.
There is no one answer. But this wine comes close to a perfect representation of what Napa Cabernets should be. Let me explain.
Image from Napa Valley Passport, a worthwhile program to look into for your next trip west.
What we have here
This is Cabernet Sauvignon from a wondrous range of top-quality vineyards: Vyborny, Crossroads, Bonny’s, Newton, Volker Eisele, Attelas, Dalla Gasperina, Rafael, Pillar Rock, Krupp, Stagecoach and Dalraddy Vineyards.
It truly is a Napa Valley amalgamation, showcasing the best Cabernet of many of the best vineyards and AVAs.
A few details on some of these top grade vineyards:
Vyborny – Alex Vyborny’s legendary half-acre vineyard of “mixed blacks” located on the eastern flank of Napa Valley. Learn more.
Bonny’s Vineyard – The legendary family vineyard of Justin and Bonny Meyer of Silver Oak fame. Three acres, and as historic as it gets. Learn more.
Newton Vineyard – The iconic and famous Spring Mountain property. Learn more.
Volker Eisele – All the way over in the Chiles Valley AVA on the far eastern side of Napa Valley (up, over, and beyond the Vaca Range). This is an incredible and historic property and I’ve always loved their wines. Learn more.
Attelas Vineyard – Little known top-grade vineyard at the very end of Soda Springs Road, just over one hill from Pritchard Hill (some of the most expensive fruit in all of Napa), owned by cult-status Acumen Winery.
Dalla Gasperina – Organically farmed vineyard on the valley floor, in the heart of Rutherford AVA.
… and many more, including the legendary Krupp, Stagecoach, and Dalraddy Vineyards. In other words, this wine from Miner is kinda like having one great chef make one great dish with arguably the very best ingredients you can find at peak season. It’s an accurate analogy.
The famous Stagecoach Vineyard in fall colors
Remembering Emily Miner
Emily (a Minnesota transplant and graduate of Santa Clara University) was the co-founder of Miner Family Vineyards along with her husband Dave. I first met Dave and Emily in 2002 when I worked for their Minnesota wholesaler, and over the years ahead we had some incredibly good times. For a bit in the late 2000s, whenever Angela and I went to Napa, we stayed at their place. Long evenings with far more bottles involved than should have been allowed made for incredible memories. We laughed all night long, many times over.
One night stands out. Halfway through dinner with many friends, Dave said it’s time for more wine. He told me “Just head down to the cellar and grab anything other than the DRCs.” I’m pretty sure I tapped into some top-level Burgundies as well as Northern Rhones, but I honestly don’t remember what we consumed. All I know is that many, many bottles were enjoyed. What I do remember, though, is waking up the next morning with a sandwich on the pillow next to me, with one bite taken out of it.
Apparently, at the very end of the night, I begged Emily to make me a delicious sandwich because I was still hungry. She did, and I put it on a plate and stumbled to the guest house where I promptly had one bite and crashed.
It made for a delicious breakfast, and I didn’t even have to move an inch.
When I eventually was vertical and walking, I was able to properly thank Emily for what turned out to be one of the most delicious sandwiches of my life. I don’t remember if it was roast beef, peanut butter, or a BLT. Doesn’t matter. Wow it was good. And the memories are even better.
In 2011 Emily lost a four-year battle with lung cancer which Dave has said “she fought with dedication and conviction.” The diagnosis was a shock having never smoked cigarettes. Her loss shook all who knew her as she was one of the warmest people in a wine industry. In 2016, Miner released “Emily’s Cuvee” made in tribute to her and to continue the fight against cancer.
Via Miner Family Wines: 10% of all sales go to The V Foundation for Cancer Research. More than $1 million has since been raised in Emily’s name. “Throughout her fight, she lived by the mantra ‘Never Give Up’ and was a passionate spokes-person for cancer funding. A wonderful person inside and out and her spirit will live on in us as we continue to fight for a cure.”
Please visit The V Foundation at v.org.
Learn more about the Miner Family Winery story here: https://minerwines.com/about/story/
Tasting note: Miner Emily’s Cabernet Sauvignon
So I mentioned earlier that this wine is made to drink now, not ten or twenty years down the line. That’s done intentionally through careful winemaking. A number of (simple) techniques can be used to increase or decrease tannin, to increase or decrease viscosity, and to increase or decrease what we may perceive as “power” in a wine. And just because a wine is approachable/drinkable now, as opposed to later, doesn’t have to decrease its awesomeness.
Tasting note: Plum, cocoa, and “cabby,” i.e. exactly what Cabernet Sauvignon should always be but often falls short. Aromas of dark chocolate and cassis with friendly-but-smart waves of goodness. Angela: “A REALLY nice drinking cab. Big full fruit and smooth style without being a ‘Napa-bomb’ … incredibly smooth finish. And a touch of parsnip, of all things.” Jason: Seamless and elegant, but still full bodied. No drop off in the mid-palate. This is 14.2% ABV but doesn’t show it at all. One thing I really like about this is a wee touch of dried tobacco in the aromas without going overboard. Everything is in check.
This wine is stylish and polished, like a guy coming out of the clothing store with a newly tailored, fashionable, well cut suit that is timeless in style.
When a single wine combines incredible quality with a personal story and a charitable element plus a great price, it’s one to grab. Could we ever want more in a wine?
(Also, think about gift-giving for the coming weeks. This makes for a WONDERFUL present for the wine lover in your life.)
Sommelier and founder/owner of Twin Cities Wine Education
Offer and special pricing are available through Monday, or as inventory lasts