Oakville Ranch is a beautiful hillside estate property located in the Oakville appellation in the hills on the east side of Napa Valley at an elevation of about 1,000 feet. Their location is among some of the most premium vineyard real estate in the valley – with several prestigious wineries as neighbors (including Ovid and Dalla Valle). They are not open to the general public due to the isolated location and restrictive permit use. The 330 acre ranch (at the latest update, 70 acres are planted to vine) was purchased by Bob & Mary Miner in 1989. The name Oakville Ranch predates the Miner family ownership (the earliest we can find reference to the name Oakville Ranch was in the early 1980s; the ranch was purchased in 1980 by five different ownership parties including John Scully and Don Kelleher (the owner of Kelleher Family Vineyard and whose family owns Brix Restaurant just north of Yountville). For several years in the early 1980s the property was rented out as a retreat.
The property has been owned by a number of families prior to the 1980s; in the 1970s it was owned by lawyer William (Bill) McPherson of the Fairfield based firm, McPherson & Barnett and his wife Kim; in 1973 Bill unsuccessfully ran for state senate. An article in the October 30, 1973 issue of the St. Helena Star referenced Bill managing existing vineyards on the property. We need to conduct more research but this is the earliest we have found records indicating grapes growing on the property.
In the early 1940s the property was associated with Mert E. Robertson and a J.P. Twomey. An article from the Napa Journal in 1942 references the U.S. Army placing a rare Remount Stallion on the property for the purposes of improving the quality and quantity of riding horses in the county.
Bob Miner was one of the four co-founders of Software Development Labs in 1977 along with Ed Oates, Bruce Scott and Larry Ellison who joined the firm soon after it was founded. This company later transitioned into Oracle; Bob remained with Oracle until 1993. The auditorium inside the SFJAZZ Center is named in his honor, the Robert Miner Auditorium. After he passed far to young at age 52 in 1994 from a rare form of lung cancer, Mary took over the management of the property.
In addition to overseeing Oakville Ranch, Mary is also actively involved in the Baker Street Foundation, a non profit that over the years has offered numerous grants to various organizations in San Francisco including to arts, education and medical.
Of note, the Miner’s also used to own the property that is now home to Miner Family Winery and made their own wines here and operated it as a custom crush facility (Miner Family Wines was one of their clients). The owner of Miner Family Winery, Dave Miner is Bob’s nephew and for some time managed the operations at Oakville Ranch. There is no physical winery on Oakville Ranch, rather the wines are produced at a state of the art cellar in the Oak Knoll District.
Oakville Ranch is a highly regarded location for growing Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux red varieties. However they also have two somewhat unusual varieties growing on the property (especially for a hillside location in eastern Oakville). A small block of Grenache grows towards the eastern side of the property and a 1.2 acre block of Chardonnay is planted on the western side of the property.
We have been driven through the vineyards in an ATV several times; this is a vehicle ideally suited for navigating the often steep terrain of the property. The views are stunning from parts of the property especially on the western edges with intimate views overlooking much of Napa Valley. On a clear day one can see all the way down to the glistening waters of the San Pablo Bay (which connects to the San Francisco Bay). Views of their property are of vines, rocks (Napa’s “2nd most popular crop” after grapes), beautiful red soils and chaparral. The elevation is around 1,400 feet. Most of the property is in the Oakville sub appellation but part of the property is in Pritchard Hill.
Much of the fruit produced on the property is sold to a select number of premium winery clients and noted winemakers including Rosemary Cakebread, Helen Keplinger and Andy Erickson. Oakville Ranch sources from specific vineyard blocks for their own wines.
The soil is shallow here, low in nutrients red and very rocky – ideal growing conditions for producing small bunches of grapes with higher skin to juice ratios, with yields extremely low compared to valley floor grown fruit. While these soils are not the best for other agricultural crops, they are ideally suited for wine grapes which produce intensely flavored wines. Their vineyards are certified organic by CCOF. Well known organic farmer Phil Coturri founded his own viticulture company in the late 1970s – Enterprise Vineyards and oversee vineyards in both Sonoma and Napa Valley. He has overseen the management of the Oakville Ranch vineyards since 2007; one of his primary axioms is establishing soil diversity and increasing its organic material. We have seen him several times over the years during our visits to the property. He seems most at home when he is out in the vineyards. He is also the founder of Sonoma based Winery Sixteen 600.
The estate is absolutely stunning with incredible views of Napa Valley below and some interesting sculptures including one by Henry Moore. Solar panels provide 100% of their daily electrical needs. Other features of the property include gardens, an old home built in the early 1900s as well as another building that dates from the later 1800s. A beautiful Lord & Burnham conservatory dating from 1937 was reconstructed on the property in the late 1990s and is home to orchids, palms and various tropical plants. This conservatory previously was located on a property owned by Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison. Lord & Burnham was founded in 1849 and was in business until 1988 until they were acquired by Under Glass Manufacturing Co. Over the decades the company became well known for their conservatories including the Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.
The 2015 Oakville Ranch Chardonnay was produced from yields that were much lower than in a normal vintage. In addition these grapes were harvested the earliest on record for the vineyard block – picked in August. The wine was fermented entirely in barrel and underwent full malolactic fermentation. It is very aromatic with notes of citrus (orange) and citrus blossom with some spicier notes as well. Despite the full secondary fermentation, this wine shows plenty of acidity which is tempered by a noticeable weight. This bottling is a rich representation of this varietal. The finish is extended but very lively due to its brightness.
The 2014 Field Blend was is a nod to early wines in the valley where multiple varietals were grown, harvested and fermented together – a blend from the vineyard rather than from the winemaker. This field blend is composed of 73% Zinfandel and 27% Petite Sirah. Ripe notes of blackberry (think blackberry jam) show on the bouquet; it has a noticeable Zinfandel bouquet, offering a bit of pepper spice as well. Ripe on the palate, this wine drinks very well by itself in its youth.
The 2012 Oakville Ranch Robert’s Cabernet Franc is made in honor of Bob Miner; this wine initially shows a smoky characteristic on the bouquet but as it opens this is replaced by plenty of fruit including red and black cherry, blackberry and a more subtle floral component. Fairly supple on the palate it finishes with earthy slightly drying tannins.
The 2013 Oakville Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon is fairly dark in the glass revealing appealing aromatics including blueberry, cassis and a hint of vanilla. Ripe on the palate it shows good ‘food’ tannins; they are robust and slightly chewy. The finish lingers with hints of mocha.
Oakville Ranch has been extremely supportive of the Napa Valley Vintners and their charity efforts including in the past, the Napa Valley Auction. One of their former General Managers, Paula Kornell chaired one of the auctions. Oakville Ranch donates 1% of their total gross profits to an organization called 1% For The Planet – funds from businesses who participate in this are distributed to organizations protecting the environment worldwide.
Total production is around 800 cases annually. For more information, to schedule a visit to the property, to purchase wines or to become a member through their Terrace Club, visit: www.oakvilleranch.com
Oakville Ranch, Historic greenhouse
The “signs” of Oakville Ranch
Our crew is so fast and efficient!
Posted by Oakville Ranch Winery on Thursday, September 19, 2019