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Sean Minor: a Family Man…and a Family Business

Inevitably, the first question of a winery owner is usually about winemaking philosophy.  “What methods do you employ? Tell us about your wines.  What makes them special?”  But when meeting Sean Minor and learning of his business philosophy (rather than just the winemaking), you realize his wines could only be truly understood with the understanding of why he decided to make his own wines.

Quick to say he is all about family, Sean recalls the impetus for Four Bears Winery and Sean Minor Wines, established in 2005. “Not long after Nicole and I were married, we discovered our second largest monthly expense was wine.” In truth, the wine budget the two shared was second only to their mortgage.  Because they so appreciated great wine but also wanted to be responsible financially as their family grew, it became clear. “After a number of years in the industry, I knew there had to be a better and more affordable way to produce great wines without severe consequences on the pocket book.”  And so began the journey of Sean Minor Wines, to create remarkable and consistent offerings affordable for the consumer, without sacrificing quality and terroir. 

But not just family relationships make great wines.  Sean Minor Wines also believes strongly in three others: the relationships with the earth, with wine growers, and genuine relationships with customers.  “The concept of coaxing things out of the earth and bringing them to the dinner table has always been a fascinating aspect”, says Minor, who was born in Kansas surrounded by agriculture and work ethic of Midwestern culture.  The winery’s philosophy on sustainability reflects his upbringing as Sean believes growers get a better product by being stewards of the earth.  Citing his time in Oregon during the resurgence of the sustainability movement as a catalyst for his thoughts in this area, Minor says, “I think they found processes that formed more flavor, more deepness and richness,” resulting in a better product in the end.

Sean’s wine career began after his formal education in finance from Arizona State University, where he met his wife Nicole, and subsequent move to California, working for Napa Valleys’ Beaulieu Vineyard. “I knew right from the start, the wine industry was the right place for me.” What followed were viticulture and enology classes at U.C. Davis to expand his  understanding of grape growing and wine production. 

 

 

 

 


Sean Minor

Seen above, Sean Minor is quick to say he is all about family. After a number of years in the industry, in 2005, Sean started Four Bears Winery (named for the four Minor children) and began producing wines from premier appellations throughout California.

Minor Family Children

The Children of the Minor Family are known as the 4 Bears, from which the 4 Bears brand gets its name. Seen here are Nick, Elle, Jack and Charlie.

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The family relocated to Oregon when Sean was recruited by King Estate Winery (widely renowned  as Oregon’s largest producer  of highly regarded Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris) to manage the Estate. It was here Sean met Will Bucklin, King Estate’s then winemaker, and developed an even stronger knowledge of winemaking and developed a lifelong friendship.  Working side-by-side at King Estate, with Will leading winemaking efforts and Sean leading operations as general manager, Sean “learned firsthand the importance of site-specific viticulture, and ended up leaving King Estate to lead Benton Lane Winery, rounding out my cool climate viticulture experience.”  In 2001, the Minors left Oregon for a return to California Wine Country and the opportunity to manage Renwood Winery.

After a number of years in the industry, in 2005, Sean started Four Bears Winery (named for the four Minor children) and began producing wines from premier appellations throughout California. With the help of family friend and colleague, Will Bucklin, the initial production featured a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast Chardonnay, and Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc. Now, 9 years later, Four Bears has expanded and refined its offerings to selections sourced from premier appellations , with consistent flavors and exceptional quality from vineyards perfectly suited to each particular varietal.  “I wanted to produces wines that people believe truly exceed the price,” Sean said.

Since their 2005 start, the winery has expanded its production to include the Sean Minor tier of wines (in addition to Four Bears), which concentrates on premium appellations, and offers more “bells and whistles” of cellaring and production.  Most recently, the winery has partnered with Oregon friends to produce Point North, a Willamette Valley and Umpqua Valley Pinot Noir.

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Rather than investing in the bricks and mortar of building a winery, Sean’s primary focus has always been on sourcing quality fruit from family growers.“Our winery isn’t unique in that we source grapes from a number of California growers.  But we do concentrate on relationships with them.  We’re in the vineyards with them, learning from them and sharing with them what we are looking for.”  For Sean Minor Wines, these relationships with growers spark long-term contracts forgrapes, further cementing the winery’s ability to provide a consistent product, growing the trust of the consumer over time.  Having experience in the management of wineries with 4,000+ acres under vine in his career  helps further the development of relationships with family growers today

So, Sean.  What is your winemaking philosophy? What makes it special?  “My winemaking philosophy is to offer wines that exude quality and truly represent the appellation, from which they’re produced, yet are affordable for everyday enjoyment.” 

And family made it happen.

Cellar

Sean Minor Wines are currently distributed in 48 states and five foreign countries. The winery has focused on developing relationships with independent fine wine retailers and restaurants, especially by –the-glass programs. As a family owned and operated business it has always been a goal to work with other like-minded companies.

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