July 2011

Dave Miner

Author: Courtney Hampson | Photographer: John Brackett

He loves grapes and his girls. And if you throw in a little jazz guitar, Dave Miner is in seventh heaven. The stories of his three great loves intersect often. In fact, it kind of makes you believe that some things are, indeed, meant to be.

Music was his first love. Miner’s aunt was a musician, and guitars were always lying around the house for his amusement. He was also known to fiddle with the ivory keys on occasion. But practicing music was much less interesting than playing sports. So music remained something he did “just for fun.”

Wine came next. In his 20s, Miner began collecting wine with his uncle, the founder of Oracle Software Company. He would visit his uncle in San Francisco. They’d get to talking. Then they’d get to drinking. And as Oracle continued to take off and more money was rolling in, they started buying to satisfy their ever-evolving palates.

Soon, Dave was working in the Oracle sales department, seeking a closer connection to his uncle and the undulating Napa Valley. Then the stars aligned, and his uncle bought a vineyard. There he fell even deeper in love with wine. He made a break from Oracle, started his own technology company, sold it, and was pondering his next move when he got the call.

His uncle was sick, and Miner was asked if he would take over operations of the winery. “I needed less than five minutes to make that decision,” he quipped. To his uncle he said, “I’ll be there tomorrow.” That was 1993.

By 1996, the first vintage of Miner Family Wines was available. But not until after he met his third and true love, Emily. As he told me the story of the first moment he saw her, he paused to catch his breath, and tears formed in his eyes (and in mine). With wistfulness, he admits that he was “diggin’ her from day one.” Emily was his first employee, and after she spent six months trying to set him up with someone else, she finally “got it” and agreed to go out with Miner. After a whirlwind romance, and in a “how-cool-is-that” moment, Emily’s father hired the celebrated jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli to play their wedding reception. Talk about a perfect match!

Today, Miner Family Vineyards is a labor of love. True love. Dave’s jazz guitar collection (all crafted by the legendary Bob Benedetto in Savannah) adorns the winery’s tasting room. And, appropriately, a painted portrait of his wife and two daughters (and the vineyard) adorn the back of one of those guitars.

When you meet this man you are immediately drawn into the warm embrace of his laughter. He is funny, and sassy, and ever so sarcastic. He’ll tell you how it is. And then he’ll ask you if want to share a bottle of wine. The next time you meet him, he’s an old friend. Indeed. Chances are you have met him.

Miner makes the journey from the wine country to the South Carolina Lowcountry multiple times each year. “There is an allure to the Lowcountry,” he said. The first time he visited our fine area was to meet with the guys at Benedetto Guitars and make a little music. Six years later, we are a frequent destination for this vagabond, where he has forged many relationships via his wines.

Yet Miner’s reach is truly nationwide. When talking to his pal, Jason Carlen, sommelier at the renowned Spiaggia in Chicago (and former “wine geek” at Palmetto Bluff), his thoughts are sincere toward Miner. “Golly, I love that man,” said Carlen. “He and Emily are some of my favorite people in this crazy world we live in. His wines emulate him beautifully. They possess the ease of someone you want to know, the class and sophistication that only comes from being so well-rounded and worldly, and something un-definable and a little bit dirty that makes you want to do naughty things. I can’t get enough of him or his wines. I am honored to know him and call him a dear friend.”

As for the wine, Miner said, “You can collect it, but I’d much rather you open the wine with your friends and family and create some memories. I mean, the best part of my job is hearing that Miner was at someone’s wedding or family milestone. We were there. What’s better than that?”

Now, I’m no wine connoisseur, but I can tell you that Miner—the wine and the winemaker—are easy to fall in love with. They are both pretty darn smooth.

Miner will tell you, “Pull the cork and drink it. If you get lucky, then I’ve doubly done my job.” He may have the best job ever.

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