Vintner Chuck McMinn to Retire from Vineyard 29

After more than 20 years leading boutique Cabernet Sauvignon producer Vineyard 29, Chuck McMinn has announced his retirement.

Vice President of Winemaking and Viticulture Keith Emerson, who has been with the winery since 2005, has been promoted to President and CEO. The ownership of the company will remain with the McMinn family.

“In 2000, I connected with Vineyard 29 at just the right time – I was ready for a new challenge, and Vineyard 29 needed to grow. The previous owners were ready to wind down, it made sense for us to wind up,” said Chuck McMinn. “Now, we are ready to step back and let new leadership grow the winery’s legacy even more.”

Chuck McMinn was already a successful creator of technology companies in the Silicon Valley when he and his wife Anne started attending Napa Valley auctions in 1999. At one of the first, Chuck bought a large format wine for the first time, a six-liter of Vineyard 29, owned at the time by Teresa Norton and Tom Paine. It wouldn’t take long before the search for a weekend home in the Napa Valley turned into a new career altogether as the McMinns became owners of the Vineyard 29 wine brand and its seven-acres of St. Helena vineyards.

In 2000, he also purchased the historic Aida Vineyard which gave McMinn the high-quality estate grapes he needed to expand the portfolio. He hired Philippe Melka to make the wines and help build a state-of-the-art winery on the Vineyard 29 property; the 2002 vintage was the first to be made in-house.

Melka stayed on through 2017, bringing in a young, up-and-coming winemaker named Keith Emerson as associate winemaker in 2005. In 2011, Keith Emerson was named director of winemaking and viticulture and in 2018 vice president of winemaking and viticulture. Having worked with Emerson over 17 years, McMinn could think of no one more qualified to take on the additional responsibilities as president and CEO of Vineyard 29.

“Keith is the right person at the right time and ready to take on all the challenges of the company,” McMinn said. “We’re putting in place great management for the next generation to keep it an important part of our family legacy. We see the opportunity to grow it even more.”

At Vineyard 29, Emerson has not only shepherded the Estate and Aida Estate series but also been instrumental in the launching of the Cru portfolio wines, which represent classic blends in both the Napa Valley and Willamette regions.

“I am very thankful to Chuck and Anne McMinn for trusting me and allowing me to take the reins at Vineyard 29,” Emerson said. “I am confident that we will do great things and I will work closely and cohesively with the Vineyard 29 team to make sure we do just that. I plan to take Vineyard 29 to another level.”

Emerson plans to continue to honor the corporate culture McMinn instilled, built around an open-door policy and profound humility, where every member of the team is considerate, respectful, and willing to get their hands dirty. A wine grower and winemaker at heart, who prefers to wear shorts 365 days of the year, Emerson’s vineyard and winemaking responsibilities will not change for the foreseeable future and he will continue to call every pick and sign off on every Vineyard 29 blend. Emerson is also excited about two new estate vineyards in St. Helena that will come online in 2023, the Railroad Estate and Winner Estate, adding 12 acres of additional grapes to the portfolio.

Emerson earned an enology and viticulture degree at U.C. Davis in 1999, spent a year at Cakebread Cellars and then became the enologist and associate winemaker at Gundlach Bundschu. In 2005 he launched his own label, Emerson Brown. As a highly sought-after consultant, he helps make the wines at Robert Craig Winery, Knighton Family Vineyards, Sang-Froid Vineyards, Vinoce Vineyards, Labry Vineyards, Martin Ray Winery, atLarge Wine and Vineyard 36.

McMinn earned degrees from Syracuse University and Brown University in addition to an MBA from Harvard Business School. In his professional life he served as chairman and founder of Covad Communications, president and CEO of Visioneer Communications and general partner at the venture capital firm, InterWest Partners. Philanthropically, McMinn has been a board member of St. Helena Hospital and the St. Helena Hospital Foundation, and chairs the nonprofit Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition, Rail Arts District Napa (RAD) and NapaLearns, which merged with the Napa Valley Education Foundation in 2021.

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