Mike Smith’s roots as a winemaker stretch back to his college days at Oregon State University — no, we’re not talking about boxed wine and frat parties — OSU’s location near the heart of Oregon wine country sparked a genuine interest and passion that fuels Mike to this day.
After graduating college, Mike went into the family business. He would focus his efforts there for more than a decade, but he never lost his love of wine. He became an avid collector, buying wines from classic regions of Europe and California, and got to know Thomas Rivers Brown — one of Napa’s most highly regarded winemakers — as a fan and buyer of his wines. In 1999, Mike volunteered to work the harvest for Brown, free of charge. He would do the same each summer for the next few years, travelling down to Napa from his home in Portland to further his wine knowledge and learn from one of Napa’s best.
In 2003, Mike was faced with a dilemma. His family had sold its business, leaving him with a lot of free time and the question of what to do next. His answer came in the form of a job offer from Thomas Rivers Brown — he wanted Mike to pack up his things and join him full-time at Schrader Cellars. Mike jumped at the chance, moving his family to St. Helena, but only for what he thought would be a short stint. “I never came here thinking I would be able to do what I have done,” Mike said. “It wasn’t like I was thinking I would become the next Thomas Brown or anything. I had worked for my family straight out of school for 11 years. I thought I was taking two years off while I figured out what the next thing would be — probably moving back to Oregon and starting another business.” Fate had a different plan, however, and Mike was able to stick around. His list of clients grew, and he soon found himself working with Thomas at some of Napa’s toniest addresses, including Maybach, Outpost, and Rivers Marie — things were beginning to pick up speed.
A cosmic shift happened In 2005 when Mike and his wife Leah had the opportunity to buy a large quantity of grapes from Spring Mountain Vineyard, where Leah worked. At that point, Mike had learned the ropes, but he still hadn’t taken the reigns. “I was doing a little of everything,” he said, “not making the calls of course — Thomas made everything. I was working alongside him, but I hadn’t made anything on my own.” Mike decided to give it a shot anyway, and, as he tells it, “The Robert Parker board started blowing up when a couple of guys who were really influential there with Cabernet Sauvignon got a hold of my wine and made a bunch of noise about it. The next thing you know my 50 cases were sold out.” From that point Mike and Leah never looked back. Myriad now produces 1,500 cases annually, sourcing grapes from some of Napa’s top sites, including Beckstoffer’s Dr. Crane and Georges III vineyards.
In addition to owning and operating Myriad, Mike also consults at Carter Cellars, 12C, Scarlett and PATINÉ, is winemaker and partner at Quivet Cellars and Ancillary, and still finds time to work with his mentor, Thomas Rivers Brown. Not bad for a guy who became a cellar rat during his mid-life crisis! Looks like he won’t be moving back to Portland after all.