In the course of telling stories about the wines that I taste and feature here on the site, I’ve come across a few themes that seem to echo in the stories of many of California’s small producers who have entered the market in the last couple of decades. Most common are folks who have owned vineyards for years and finally decided to make their own wine. Less common are folks that have worked in the vineyards for years as managers, cellar rats, or even laborers who are now making their own wine. Perhaps least common of these themes are the people who start off in the restaurant serving the wine, and then decide to leave the coats and ties behind and start making their own wines.
That’s precisely, though, what Emmanuel Kemiji has done. Kemiji is trained as a sommelier, with a degree in Viticulture and Oenology from U.C. Davis, and with the distinction of being only the 13th U.S. citizen to become a Master Sommelier and one of only seven ever to pass the exam on his first try. His accolades as a sommelier and wine director are too numerous to mention, so I won’t bother, but he was most recently the director of wine for the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco.
in 1995 he started making small amounts of wine on the side under the name of Miura vineyards. These bottlings were given to friends and family, and a few select restaurants (Kemiji is part owner of Gary Danko and is good friends with Danko, Piperade chef-Owner Gerald Hirigoyen, and MECCA owner Gene Tartaglia). In 1999 Kemiji left the Ritz to concentrate fully on Miura and another small label he started called Candela.
Miura currently produces a Pisoni vineyard Pinot Noir and Pisoni Vineyard Syrah and two Chardonnays, one of which is this wine from Carneros, the other of which is from Talley Vineyards in the Arroyo Grand Valley near San Luis Obispo. In the past he has also produced Merlot and Cabernet. One of his first wines ever was a 1995 Cabernet which, last I checked, was still available on the Piperade wine list at a quite reasonable $85 a bottle.
Kemiji obviously has the connections to get great fruit for his wines, and lacking serious formal training in winemaking, he works closely with a friend of his, Byron Kosuge who is a winemaker at Saintsbury.
Future releases of his wines will be based on whim and availability of grapes. Rumor also has it that Kemiji will be collaborating with Hirigoyen on a Spanish wine, also to be released under the Miura label.
Unfortunately I don’t know much about the winemaking for this wine, other than what I can taste, which is that at least some of it has gone through malolactic fermentation in oak but probably not all. As mentioned below in the notes, it is clearly unfiltered, and I would put the alcohol in the high 13% range low 14% range.
This wine is a substantial and beautiful milky gold with hints of light brown in the glass and is clearly unfiltered. The nose is filled with aromas of soft, maybe over-ripe Bartlett pears, butterscotch, and a hint of sweet oak. On the palate the wine has a gorgeous silky (but not oily) mouthfeel with flavors of heavy butter cream, honey, and golden delicious apples. This is a very well balanced wine that has a bright acidity to it as well as some buttery and oakey weight that lingers through a very nice, long finish.
Overall Score: 9
How Much?: $38
This wine is available for purchase online, and can also be found (along with the Pinots and Syrah) at a couple of San Francisco retailers such as the Castro Village Wine Company, Napa Valley Wine Exchange, and the California Wine Merchant. Tastings on Main in St. Helena will be also be pouring their wines in the next couple of weeks and presumably you can purchase the wines there. If all else fails, give the nice folks at the vineyards a call at 1-707-566-7739.