Myriad Cellars and the Myriad of Reason to Love 100 Point Winemaker Mike Smith.
Winemaker Mike Smith is on a qualitative roll, garnering 100 point scores everywhere he turns. This past season alone, he added up five more perfect 100 points scores to his very impressive resume.
On Smith’s 20th vintage, 15 wine brands under his watch, a passion for crafting Napa Valley wine and being known as one of the nicest guys in Napa Valley, he has worked his way up to being one of Napa Valley’s top winemakers.
Smith’s wines are silky, sexy, new world and have a level of flavor and fresh- ness that customers clamor for. His brand Myriad Cellars is one of the top wine labels in California selling swiftly through mailing list allocation – likely due to his Cabernets being ranked among some of the top in the world.
Born and raised in Sonoma Valley, Smith’s roots are set in the soils of wine country. Smith remembers his young years of visiting wineries with his parents, and riding dirt bikes through the vineyards with his dog. Smith feels that it was “such a beautiful and simple place to grow up.” Attending Oregon State for a bachelor’s degree in International Business, he was surrounded once again by vineyards and wine in Oregon’s Willamette Valley where he began to explore Oregon Pinot Noir.
“I was always drawn to wine….it has interested me my whole life,” Smith said. “My college roommate had a job at a local wine shop, he would bring home the leftovers after a day of tasting, and you know, at that age ‘free booze’ was very appealing. We eventually started to research the wines we were drinking in the Wine Spectator…and from there I was hooked.”
Smith met his wife Leah in college. Leah recalls, “Mike has always been into wine, he stored wine under his bunk bed in his fraternity when I met him. Our first dates were to the Oregon wine country discovering Pinot Noir and then driving our beat up old mini van from there to Napa Valley to taste California wines. Wine runs through his veins.”
The Smiths continued their passion for wine and winemaking, traveling to Napa Valley from Oregon several times a year, and in 1999 Smith placed an ad in the Wine Spectator online for trading wine. Many people answered, but one person in general stood out: Thomas Rivers Brown, one of Napa’s most accomplished winemakers according to Wine Spectator (November, 2018). The two met over trading Turley wines for Smith’s Oregon Pinot collection. Then Brown extended an offer for Smith to come work a harvest.
Smith indeed came down and slept on Brown’s couch working free of charge to learn the craft of commercial winemaking from 1999 to 2003. In 2004 he accepted a fulltime harvest position from Brown. Leah recalls jokingly, “It was for $12 an hour and we never thought twice as I’ve never met someone more meant to make wine than Mike Smith!”
The Smiths sold their house, quit their jobs and moved with their two young daughters to St. Helena to follow this dream. After working for Thomas for four years, Smith branched out on his own. He started his own label, Myriad Cellars, in 2005. He began making the wines for Tamber Bey and Constant Winery in 2007, and was offered the Carter Cellars winemaking position in 2008.
Choosing the right vineyards is key to Smith. Focusing on single vineyard designates allows him to create wines with a beautiful collection of story and soul. He challenges himself to show a sense of place by letting the vineyard speak first in his wines.
Smith believes that having a great relationship with vineyard managers and owners is one of the important aspects of great winemaking. He relies heavily on their expertise to cultivate the fruit he wants to work with in the winery, and then works with his own winery team to develop his premium handcrafted wines. He loves to make wine, and just likes to get his hands dirty.
Smith said, “I was given a great piece of advice from vintner Les Behrens when I first moved here, ‘Never take your hands off your own wines.’ As he said this to me I looked down at his shoes and they were covered in lees. I’ll never forget that moment.”
Smith’s wines have been on the cover of the Wine Spectator twice and he has received the most 100 points scores per vintage – twice – from Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate. He took what he calls a rare ‘Double Hundy’ just this year, with two separate top wine critics giving one of his Cabernet Sauvignons a perfect 100 point score.
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ARTICLE BY EVE BUSHMAN | PHOTOS BY JASON LEE