Winery Spotlight: Miura Vineyards
Born in the United States and raised in Spain and England of Greek Cypriot and Spanish parents, Emmanuel Kemiji is a graduate of the University of California Davis. During his second year at university, he went to Spain to visit his uncle and immediately became hooked on the philosophies and history of wine, much of which was influenced by the consumption of old Rioja. In addition to his Economics and Spanish Literature degrees, Kemiji studied Viticulture and Oenology. In the late 1980s he became the 12th American and 58thperson overall to pass the Master Sommelier exam in London, England and one of the very few to pass on his first attempt.
Kemiji moved to San Francisco after graduation and became Director of Wine and Spirits at the Ritz Carlton, organizing openings for Ritz worldwide. The idea behind Miura Vineyards started out in December of 1994. Kemiji and a group of friends and chefs gathered for drinks after work one night, including Gary Danko, Laurence Jossel, Gerald Hirigoyen, and Carlos Blythe, amongst others. They suggested that it would be a great opportunity to experience a harvest firsthand, and from here a new partnership was formed. Kemiji was put in charge of the project, and the challenge they called Muira began for him. He became the first Master Sommelier to commercially make wine in the U.S. and Miura received placements in prominent NYC and SF restaurants. The first truly commercial vintage consisted of 3,000 cases in 1998. After that Kemiji realized he was working two full time jobs. Before the 1999 harvest he made the tough decision to leave the Ritz and dedicated himself solely to his winemaking.
While at Davis he met Byron Kosuge, who ultimately would become Miura’s winemaker. The term “Miura” (myu rä) is derived from Don Eduardo Miura, the most famous breeder of Spanish fighting bulls; for the Spanish, Miura is a legendary name signifying nobility, boldness and power. Miura focuses on what, Kemiji feels, are the best regions in California for the growing of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Within each of those regions he has selected the vineyards that best exemplify that area stylistically and qualitatively. Kemiji sources grapes from four top tier vineyards throughout California: Gary Pisoni’s vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands, the Rochioli Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, the Morning Dew Ranch in the Anderson Valley, formally owned by Burt Williams of Williams & Selyem fame, and from the McIntyre Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands.
In 2003, Kemiji was enjoying an afternoon lunch at the renowned SF restaurant, Piperade, with chefs Gerald Hirigoyen, Sylvain Portay and Laurent Manrique. As before, they became mesmerized by a new dream of owning a vineyard in Spain and producing wines that exemplified their personal standards of excellence. This new venture was called Clos Pissarra, a name derived from the Catalan word for slate and the soil that covers the regions of Montsant (Sacred Mountain) and Priorat (priory) about 85 miles southwest of Barcelona. By 2005, the venture grew to include vineyards from both of these areas, and by 2010 they finally completed the winery itself allowing for the production of just 2,500 cases per year.
The wines ultimately found their way to California and the Napa Valley Winery Exchange is now proud to introduce Clos Pissarra and Miura to our customers. Given the quality of these wines, we’re sure you’ll be hearing more about them in the near future. Interestingly, their motto says it all…
“Live, Love, Honor, Dream, Fight, and let others attend to mediocrity.”
As previously mentioned, the small production of all of these wines makes them extremely limited. Take advantage of the introductory pricing while supplies last.
2016 Miura Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands
NVWE Notes: Miura has always shown a deft hand with the fruit from this notoriously powerful and exotically spicy vineyard and that skill is on display here. Grand scale all the way, this wine opens with Bing cherry galette, red boysenberry, mulberry, dry dark rose, dark tobacco, dried herb, mineral and forest floor scents. It is rich in body and notably gutsy on the palate, with plenty of tannin beneath its veneer of savory spice and deep core of dark cherry and blueberry fruit. The finish is very long and palate-coating, with highlights of cherry, berry, sandalwood and star anise at the end. Certainly, four years or more from its full expression, it is best served at this stage with darkly caramelized meats.
2018 Miura Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands
NVWE Notes: This is a surprisingly distinctive and complex appellation bottling. The nose counterpoints elegant scents of bottled red cherry, whortleberry, pink rose and pink peppercorn with minerality and smoky and savory accents. On the palate, bottled red cherry, wild cherry, grenadine, red apple skin, red licorice, watermelon, star anise, sandalwood, canela and baking-spice flavors combine to create a racy, lingering, harmony. Mineral notes, fruit zest and tannin bring balance and the promise of greater pleasure to come, so don’t be afraid to give this already lovely Pinot some cellar time.