Myriad Cellars was founded by winemaker Mike Smith with his first vintage released in 2005; today the brand is operated by both Mike and his wife Leah. The name “myriad” has its origins in Greece and one of its translations means “innumerable” which can directly equate to wine making based on the “innumerable” aspects it takes to create a great bottle of wine.
Myriad Cellars is Napa Valley artisan wine making at its best; extremely small production (even by artisan standards), hands on wine making, use of limited production premium French oak barrels and a clear and focused attention to detail. Mike does all the cellar work himself; as he says, by doing all the cellar work himself, he is “closer to the wines” and has complete control of the entire wine making process from start to finish.
Mike grew up in Medford, Oregon. As a long time, consumer with a strong interest in old and new world wines he made a career change after a family courier business in Oregon sold; he then moved to Napa Valley in 2004. Mike had met well-respected winemaker Thomas Brown on an online wine bulletin board in the mid 1990s. Such was his passion for learning winemaking that while still living in Portland, Mike would visit Napa Valley for several weeks at a time during harvest and assist Thomas for free.
Ultimately Mike spent three harvests helping make wine for Napa Valley notables including Schrader Cellars, Maybach and Outpost. The Napa Valley wine industry often attracts winemakers who did not grow up in the industry; fueled by curiosity, passion and a willingness to learn these individuals move to the valley and become winemakers. It is always admirable when we meet producers who are in this situation including those who have changed directions mid-career and have become successful winemakers after taking a risk to follow their passion.
Mike describes his wine making as “purist” in style. He is not tied into one type of wine making, rather he bases his efforts on each particular vintage. One constant in the cellar is his approach at the end of fermentation and with barrel aging. He ferments the grapes until the residual sugar is typically between 8 g and 30 g/L before transferring to barrel while sweet to finish its fermentation. This process helps round out the oak influence from the new French oak barrels and in part helps make the oak a contributing component to the wine rather than a dominating one. And he does not use optical sorters preferring to work with what comes in from the vineyard including both ‘raisins’ and slightly under ripe grapes (each balances the other out).
He is a versatile winemaker having already built up a resume of making various styles of wines for boutique producers. Myriad sources grapes from a variety of premium vineyards including in the Stags Leap District, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga. Myriad creates Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard designate wines from some of the most prestigious vineyards in Napa Valley including several Beckstoffer Heritage Vineyards, among them, To Kalon and Dr. Crane.
His vineyard sources and wine making efforts have been rewarded and validated over the years by some of the most respected wine critics, wine writers and wine publications. Myriad maintains a printed and ever growing Score Card of such awarded scores; it is an impressive and dizzying showing with well over 600 such scores listed above 92 covering a period of time ranging from 2012 through the present.
The Myriad wines showcase expressive and layered aromatics which need time to fully evolve in the glass. These bottlings are built with the ‘Mike Smith gentle textural touch”, where tannins are felt as a seamless integration into each wine, but never dominate. Common descriptors we find ourselves using to describe his wines include: balanced, seamless and layered.
The 2021 Myriad Rosé of Pinot Noir is from the Sangiacomo Tallgrass Vineyard. Mike never makes any color adjustments with this wine, as a result the color of each vintage will vary. This site is located in neighboring Sonoma County on both valley floor and lower slopes of southwest Sonoma Valley. This vineyard was first planted in 1993. This wine is salmon color in the glass with aromas of citrus including grapefruit, crushed dry rocks and a watermelon nuance. Shows white raspberry, wild strawberry, red guava, apple and cut grass on the palate. It is very refreshing from start to finish; this is a clean crisp showing. We enjoyed it very chilled. Love the label? So do we! It was created from a photograph of Lake Tahoe by Leah and a small portion of proceeds from the sale of this particular wine are donated to the Keep Tahoe Blue foundation.
The 2022 Myriad Rosé of Pinot Noir is from the Sangiacomo Tallgrass Vineyard is a medium to deep salmon color; the aroma we quickly identified initially on this bouquet was strawberry, but there are also notes of raspberry, watermelon, citrus blossom and delicate touches of ruby grapefruit. It smells fresh and fruity along with some mineralities. Its bright, youthful and vibrant across the palate with flavors of red cherry, strawberry, pomegranate and currant. The mouth watering acidity is complemented nicely with a creamy and rounded texture. It finishes lively and begs another sip. We wish this wine was being made 20 years ago when we were still vacationing in Tahoma on a lakefront property at Lake Tahoe every summer. It would have been ideal to enjoy chilled on a warm Tahoe evening, savoring the fresh mountain air while sitting at the end of the red pier with friends watching the sun slowly fade from the evening sky.
The 2021 Myriad Cellars Napa Valley Sémillon Tofanelli Vineyard is medium yellow in the glass; the bouquet shows aromas of honeysuckle, lemon zest, elderflower and green apple. As the wine evolves in the glass the aromatics become a bit more tropical. The palate is crisp with bright acidity and flavors of green apple, honeydew melon, gooseberry and lemon drop candy. This wine is intensely flavored, complemented by a creamy texture and persists with a long fruit filled finish. There are not many 100% varietal Napa Valley Sémillon bottlings; this is one of the nicest we have tried. The Tofanelli Vineyard is a historic family owned and farmed vineyard located just south of Calistoga with a diversity of grape varieties not often growing in today’s Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux red centric vineyard sites. Mike has been working with the Tofanelli Vineyard for many years.
The 2021 Myriad Sangiacamo Syrah was picked into 1/2 ton plastic bins and then 100% foot treaded for about 45 minutes. Fermentation occurred in each of these bins. This wine is deep ruby and fairly purple in color; the bouquet offers distinctive and appealing aromatics including of sage, white pepper, dried herbs and an Asian five-star note. One of our favorite climatic zones are deserts; over the years, some of our most memorable trips are camping in middle of nowhere, Panamint Valley in California. During mid spring the creosote bushes are always blooming and the leaves in particular are covered in a sticky resin which seems especially prevalent before the hot weather begins. We enjoy crushing these leaves and smelling them; some of these scents are present in the bouquet of this wine and bring back extremely fond memories. This wine is fresh, savory and lively due to its bright acidity. It lingers with flavors of red fruits including red cherry and currant without any accompanying tartness along with a lingering note of both thyme and oregano. The tannins are light gravelly in texture and are slightly dusty with a note of dark pepper. This is a captivating bottling.
The 2020 Myriad Sangiacamo Vineyard 100% whole cluster fermented Syrah is deep ruby with an amaranthine rim; the bouquet is darkly fruited including of Santa Rosa Plum (reminds us of this particular fruit at the peak of its ripeness, harvesting plums in our youth which had recently fallen on the ground from our neighbors’ trees), ripe blackberry, dark pepper, a light cedar spice and olive tapenade; shout out to our favorite retail olive store, the Olive Pit in Corning, California. Deeper in the aromas are very subtle hints of Graham cracker and vanilla. This wine is juicy across the palate with flavors of plum, currants and an almost rusting iron like note; we don’t recommend, for example, licking old rusty railroad spikes – we’ve found a number of these in our time metal detecting around old mining camps in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada. This wine lingers savory, with herbs de Provence, crushed black peppercorn, a persistent dryness, gravelly textured tannins and a red plum flavor/bright acidity character.
Beckstoffer’s George’s III is a 300 acre Vineyard of which 250 acres are planted in Rutherford. In regard to its soils, not all parts of this vineyard are created equal. Mike has access to some of the choicest sections within the vineyard including its eastern bench land soils just below Silverado Trail which are among the rockiest sections of the overall site. The 2020 Myriad Beckstoffer, Georges III Empyrean is deep ruby in color and opaque in the glass; the bouquet is dark fruited along with a sweet tobacco spice, chocolate, mocha, and cocoa. The palate offers flavors of plum and cherry, supported by a dusty, earthy finish with a light drying character. The tannins are dense yet rounded and are felt more on the front of the palate, than on the finish. This is a robust wine with plenty of layers and overall character, yet it is still balanced, even in its youth.
Dr. Beldon Crane was one of Napa’s earliest wine pioneers; he moved to Napa Valley in the mid 1850s and was the first to introduce European grape varieties to the region. At one point he owned more then 300 acres of land here. Incidentally his first vineyard in St. Helena is now the site of St. Helena High School. And his magnificent former home is located on the Salvestrin Winery property and is currently used as a Bed and Breakfast. A sizable portion of the Beckstoffer owned Dr. Crane Vineyard in St. Helena sits on alluvial deposits from the nearby Mayacamas mountains. Approximately 2/3 of the vineyard shares a similar rocky profile to its neighboring vineyard, Las Piedras, although the Dr. Crane Vineyard soils are not quite as rocky.
The 2020 Myriad Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is opaque and a deep ruby color. The purity of fruit is especially expressive in this wine’s bouquet, and even more so as it evolves in the glass. There are also notes of darker desert spices, tobacco and brown chocolate. The palate offers a perceived sweetness of fruit without being sweet. The finish shows darker with a light dryness which continues to persist along with integrated tannins. We continue to use the word balanced to describe these wines and this bottling is no different.
The 2017 Myriad Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend from seven different vineyard sites including Georges III in Rutherford. It offers a powerful and inviting bouquet with a diversity of aromas including black fruit, toasted cedar, darker olives with more subtle notes of mocha and chocolate. There is also a slightly savory note with hints of sage. It shows a darker fruit profile on the juicy and mouthwatering palate with lingering notes of toffee and coffee grinds. It sports a depth of flavor without an accompanying punch of tannins and for such a youthful wine, the tannins are surprisingly mature, well rounded and well-integrated into the long supple finish.
Myriad’s Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is an excellent choice for those looking for a mouth filling hillside grown wine available at an affordable price considering the quality of the vineyard source and attention to detail with the wine making. The vineyard sits at about 900 feet and has provided the grapes for Myriad’s Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon since Myriad’s inaugural vintage. The site is extremely steep and rocky with only 1 to 1.5 tons produced per acre. With a small production like this, it is not necessary to drop any grapes; the grapes are already extremely concentrated and intense in flavor, which directly translates to the wine.
The 2006 Myriad Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon begins with an elegant bouquet featuring ripe blackberry and boysenberry, a dustiness and a delicious hint of vanilla in the background. Some of the earthiness on the nose continues to the palate which also shows some unique mineralities. The mid palate is rich, layered and focused. The long finish is intensely flavored supported by some noticeable structural weight from the tannins.
Myriad Cellars also produces canned wines witch catchy and colorful labels (250ml bottlings) including of a #keeptahoeblue still wine, a sparkling rosé and a sparkling Chardonnay bottled as CAN IFORN ICATION.
Over the years, Mike has built a successful career consulting and providing winemaking services to a number of very small premium mostly Napa Valley based brands. He also makes a Cabernet Sauvignon for Quivet Cellars which was sourced from the same Spring Mountain vineyard as for Myriad, but based on the wine making style and aging program it is interesting to note its differing characteristics (when compared to the Myriad Cabernet Sauvignon).
Because production is so limited their wine is selectively distributed and vintages tend to sell out rather quickly. For the extremely small production, quality of the vineyards and wine making, Myriad’s wines are priced very well. Several wine shops in Southern California carry Myriad and locally V Wine Cellars in Yountville and ACME Wine Shop in St. Helena sometimes have it. However, the best way to acquire their wine is via the mailing list through their website.
From 2013 until 2022 Mike was in partnership with vintner Mark Carter and produced Pinot Noir bottled under Ancillary Cellars. These wines are no longer produced. However, Mike continues to produce Pinot Noir from select vineyards in neighboring Sonoma County and a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in a partnership with Patiné Cellars.
And Mike and Leah own a small property just south of the town of Calistoga. Less than an acre is planted to clone 169 of Cabernet Sauvignon; the first harvest was in 2023. This wine will most likely be blended into a Myriad Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon bottling.
Myriad does not hire a designer to create their wine labels, rather the designs are all created by Mike and Leah.
The wines can be tasted by appointment; as of our latest update to this review visits are hosted at Tamber Bey Winery in Calistoga, usually by Leah but sometimes with Mike. For more information, to schedule a visit or to join their mailing list visit: www.myriadcellars.com
Heron House, Yountville
Myriad was a member of the Heron House in Yountville until December 11, 2022, when the Heron House closed permanently. We keep these notes and photographs for historical reference. The Heron House opened the day after Thanksgiving 2019 and was a retail wine tasting space in SoYo (South Yountville) which featured a select number of premium small-brand producers who did not maintain their own tasting rooms.
The Heron House was setup to feel like walking into someone’s living room – comfortable, cozy and inviting. The retail portion of the space was open during normal business hours and includes mostly locally crafted products including select works of art. Select pieces of art from South America, primarily Uruguay was also featured. Two private tasting rooms were available by reservation. Several curated flights were offered, each containing wines from the various producers represented. Allow up to 90 minutes for a visit. Hours are subject to change, but as of our latest update to this review, this space is daily from 10am until 6pm with the last tasting appointment at 5pm. Weather permitting, tastings can also be held outdoors at one of several tables in the courtyard.
Bruce Smith says
Hello nephew! Nice to see u both do so well,wish u all the best.
Myriad Cellars says
what a great article to come across! – thank you for enjoying our wines –
Warm regards- Mike and Leah Smith
Thanks Leah – its been years since I’ve met with Mike, but I try to keep all of my reviews updated, which of course is very challenging based on the scope of this project! I’m trying to get out to Quivet Neck on the east coast this year among numerous other domestic places connected in some way to Napa wineries/brands. Currently in Okanagan Valley visiting a couple of wineries with strong connections to Napa. Enjoy your travels in Italy! ~ Dave
Whew, just made to it Quivet Neck – now I need to get hold of some Quivet wines to update my tasting notes under that review.