Since the 1980s the Milam family has had an on-going flirtation with wine. Late night wine tastings with friends, engaging dinner parties centered around a particular wine varietal, educational vineyard tours in noted wine regions, collecting wines that got hidden away under beds and in dark closets, but then it all changed when we moved into a home with a small vineyard in the backyard. I’ll never forget the day that our real estate agent showed us a potential house and asked us a very unusual question: “Do you like red wine?” That was November 2013. Shortly after moving in, the excitement of owning our own vineyard turned to anxiety — what do we do? Are we going to screw it up? We were very fortunate that in the Northern California Bay Area there’s a tight community of home vineyard owners and passionate winemakers.
Our extended Milam family members have become field-tested farmers, working through the seasonal details to produce the highest quality fruit possible. The axiom: “High-quality wine starts in the vineyard,” underpins every vineyard decision we make, engaging an amazing network of individuals that support us throughout each season. To feed our creative expression, we grafted Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot cuttings onto seven year-old Malbec stalks. We now have a full range of varietal characteristics to choose from for our Milam Family Vineyard blending parties; the full-body savory taste of Cabernet Sauvignon, the medium acidity and fragrance of Cabernet Franc, the inky high-acidity plum aroma of Malbec, the smooth tannins of Merlot, and the bold flavors of Petit Verdot.
Winemaking – Wow, the learning curve is crazy intense. We learned to lean on those that have walked this same path before us. Fortunately, through successful networking, we have developed several deep friendships with individuals that share a passion for making incredible wine. They have been critical to helping us work through the intense winemaking process and numerous mistakes we have made along the way. We also joined a local wine group, the Contra Costa Wine Group, an organization of home winemakers dedicated to making and drinking good wine by improving their craft through education and fellowship.
Each year, we reflect on events that occurred during the year that we want to celebrate through the design of our label. Last year, we imagined a free-spirited canine design that celebrated the life of our vineyard dog, Mocha, who passed away shortly after harvest. It incorporated design elements of our vineyard and Mocha’s enchanting personality. This year, we dedicated our 2015 vintage to the birth of our first granddaughter, Lucy, and all the joy she brings us. The design includes a profile of her face, her actual feet imprints, and incorporates elephant images that remind us of the monthly anniversary photos her mother takes of Lucy with her favorite stuffed toy, an elephant (you can find that label on page 28 as a 2018 Label Contest Honorable Mention).
Our journey from wine drinkers, to vineyard farmers, to budding winemakers could not have happened without the support of an amazing set of relationships. The Milam Family Vineyard wine is truly the result of an extended network of family and friends that share an all-in passion for wine.