Brett Keller has been a busy guy this summer. A bit more than a year after launching his wine label, Mineral Wines, Keller is deep in the trenches of business ownership – traveling the country with his wines during the week, trying to be back at the tasting room on weekends, staying on top of production – in fact, the only reason we were able to catch him recently is because he had to cancel another business trip due to an earlier than expected grape harvest.
Last week, he was making room for incoming bins of fruit and testing the Petite Sirah grapes at the Cherokee Creek Vineyard on Dogtown Road, the property that houses Mineral Wines and is also the home of Brett, his wife Andrea Keller and their two children. Originally established in 1993, the vineyard supplied Merlot grapes to other Calaveras wineries up until 2005. It now produces the different varietals Brett uses in his wines – Merlot, Viognier, Roussanne and Petit Sirah. He also sources grapes from other boutique Calaveras County vineyards.
While Mineral Wines is one of Calaveras’ newest labels, Brett is a veteran of the local wine industry. After earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Viticulture and Enology at Fresno State in 2003, Brett immediately went to work for several companies, including Twisted Oak, Val du Vino, Renner and Bodega del Sur.
As the list of wineries in Calaveras grows, differentiating oneself in the region’s wine industry is just as important as making a great product. Keller seems to have hit upon a gem of an idea, however, by combining his passion for wines with an equally passionate love of minerals. A lifelong collector and amateur geologist, each of Keller’s wines is represented by a mineral from his collection, and each label features a watercolor painting by famed gem and mineral artist Frederick C. Wilda.
For Brett – the rocks, soil, grapes, science, the art of winemaking – have all become part of a very natural continuum expressing his personal vision. That kind of authentic branding has begun to resonate with a certain niche audience, and this summer Mineral has been the featured winery at gem and mineral shows around the country.
Back on the family property on the outskirts of Angels Camp, running Mineral Wines is a team effort. Whether it’s pouring weekend tastings, bottling or harvest time – family and friends roll up their sleeves to help make it happen. The visitor experience is meant to be low key, guests are encouraged to relax on a “tasting patio” rather than huddle in a tasting room. There’s a tranquil five-acre pond and plenty of space to take a stroll. Currently they are open for tastings on weekends, but also offer tasting by appointment. Visit their website for all the details, as well as a special section for the rockhound!
769 Dogtown Rd, Angels Camp, 95222
Open Saturday: 11am – 5:30pm
Sunday: 1pm – 5:30pm