Not many wines are named after children's nursery rhymes. In fact, I can think of only one: the Napa Valley winery 4 Bears.
"4 Bears Winery received its name after my daughter interrupted a tasting session with questions about what I was doing," explains owner Sean Minor. "After a brief explanation of the tasting procedure, she equated the process of finding a wine that was 'just right' with her favorite bedtime story."
While the Goldilocks story has three bears, Minor and his wife have four — including that inquisitive daughter and three sons. Family is an integral part of the business. His children's initials adorn the label of each bottle, for example, and Minor bases many of his professional decisions from a personal point of view.
"We purchase grapes from a mix of small family growers and larger producers," says Minor, "but I tend to gravitate toward smaller growers — with them it's all about family. They are making choices that will ensure that vineyard is healthy enough to pass down to their children and grandchildren. These growers are also more apt to be practicing sustainable farming."
Minor first began working in the wine industry 20 years ago after receiving a degree in finance. His interest sparked, he returned to school for a degree in enology and went on to work at several wineries, including King Estate in Oregon and Renwood in California.
4 Bears started out as a quest for quality wines at more affordable prices. "My wife and I would drink wine every day, but it began to get awfully expensive. We would find ourselves drinking these $30 to $40 wines. One day I said that I really felt I could produce wines of that same quality for half the price. My wife basically told me to put my money where my mouth was."
4 Bears is able to offer their wines at affordable prices due to savings on brick-and-mortar costs. Minor produces his wines at a co-op facility that houses 10 other wineries. Everyone shares equipment, certain staff, and warehouse space. His startup capital went into sourcing the best-quality grapes he could find instead of building his own winery.
"We wanted to focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, because those grapes are the most familiar to the consumer. When I was at King Estate, we had to focus not only on producing good wine but education as well," he says.
"The market wasn't comfortable with — much less understood — Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir from Oregon. Likewise, at Renwood, at the time, the consumer wasn't as familiar with Amador County as a wine-growing region. With 4 Bears, we knew we wouldn't be equipped to educate the market on a fringe region or grape varietal. I knew that I wanted to produce wines from well-known varietals that best express the nature of well-known appellations."
Too many wine labels have come out focused solely on price and ignoring what is inside the bottle. This is a folly that Minor is wary of. "Yes, the wines are price-driven, but at any price you have to give people value for their money," he says. "These wines are focused on the consumer for enjoyment and to be approachable."
4 Bears Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Napa Valley, $15.99
4 Bears Chardonnay 2005, Central Coast, $12.99
4 Bears Sauvignon Blanc 2005, Dry Creek Valley,