Chef Tony talking to guests about the art of dough and topping combinations while they sip Meteor cabernet (look at all of those options!)
There is no doubt Chef Tony is a ten-time world-champion pizza acrobat after seeing this:
Pizza and Meteor Vineyard cabernet: a Saturday well spent at Meteor
Hand selected by the row, by the cluster and by the barrel–this wine represents the absolute finest Meteor Vineyard offers. With just 95 cases, rave reviews and a restaurant list that reads like a who’s who, what leaves our cellar is going to disappear in a flash.
“If Coombsville had an epicenter, it’s Meteor Vineyard…This may, in fact, be Coombsville’s cru.” Patrick Comiskey Wine & Spirits Magazine
“The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is a gorgeous wine layered with mocha, black cherries, and menthol. Warm spiced notes continue to develop in the glass as this extroverted, deeply expressive wine shows off its pedigree and class. This finish is simply striking. ” Antonio Galloni The Wine Advocate
To make these wines a part of your cellar CLICK HERE. Or if you prefer a more personal touch, contact us b y phone at 707.258.2900 or via email at Jason@meteorvineyard.com. We anticipate shipping these wines early April 2012.
From the Vineyard: “The 2008 vintage looked tenuous at the outset, beginning with an extremely dry winter and culminating in frosts that “naturally thinned” nearly 30% of the crop. Erratic weather at bloom led to uneven fruit development, requiring multiple trips through the vineyard and careful thinning throughout the remaining months to ensure even ripeness. When the fruit reached perfect ripeness the first week of October we harvested under near perfect conditions. The results are exceptional.” Mike Wolf, Vineyard Manager
From the Winemaker: “Aromas of pure cassis and sun warmed black berries meld seamlessly with notes of mocha, fennel, sweet tobacco and filberts. The rich, plush mouth feel explodes with flavor and intensity, bolstered by supple tannins and lovely oak integration. Though this wine will benefit from time in the cellar, it is absolutely gorgeous.” Dawnine Dyer, Winemaker
From the Sommelier: “While the press remained enamored with the 2007 vintage, an unsung classic aged gracefully in the cellar. 2008 is proving to be one among a number of legendary vintages in Napa Valley, displaying incredible purity of fruit coupled with supple texture and bold but refined tannins. A classic example of a “shadow vintage” as journalists and wine critics have returned to their early notes where clarity of view was “shadowed” by the tremendous praise for the 2007 vintage. Can there be two incredible vintages back to back? The proof is in the bottle.” Jason Alexander, Sommelier and General Manager
Be one of the few to enjoy our finest.
Yes, 8am is early to start tasting wine, but it is also the time of day when your palate is freshest.
When we sat down to re-taste the 2009 wines from Meteor Vineyard in December we unanimously agreed on a couple of things;
1. The wines are DELICIOUS with incredible purity of fruit, ripe fine grained tannins and the vibrant natural acidity that is textbook Coombsville.
2. Our inaugural harvest of Petite Verdot is growing more interesting by the day. More soon on this, though you may see a sneak peak in a couple weeks at the NVV Premier Napa Valley event.
3. Clone 7 (our “heritage planting on St. George rootstock) continues to beguile us with it’s confluence of aromatics, intensity, depth and length. Once again we felt strongly that our Special Family Reserve bottling should feature and explore this sole clonal selection.
Winemaker Dawnine Dyer and I met at the early appointed hour to taste through all of the individual barrels of clone 7. Our goal was simple – explore the various effects of our individual barrel coopers on clone 7 (the effect on each clone varies in colorful and sometimes unpredictable ways) and pull aside the 6 barrels we found most expressive and refined. A task easier said than done – especially with a vintage as good as 2009.
The following features some highlights from the conversation…
The Kiwi Collection site Wow Travel recently published a really cool article about a day in the life of Meteor Vineyard. Link to it here, and full content listed below.
Not Your Average - Patsy Barich, December 2010
Wine & Dining
Browse organic produce at Oxford Public Market
Sommelier Jason Alexander’s inside look at Wine Country.
As the morning sun’s first rays touch the fruit-laden vineyards of world-renowned Napa Valley, wine sommelier and Meteor Vineyard Manager Jason Alexander steers his car into the parking lot of the Oxbow Public Market to grab his daily cup of joe from Ritual Coffee Roasters. Napa’s Oxbow Market, patterned after San Francisco’s famed Ferry Building food hall, is home to half a dozen restaurants and dozens of specialty food and wine retailers including an outpost of the Hog Island Oyster Company, the just-opened C’a Momi Winery and Enoteca and the heralded Fatted Calf charcuterie.
Meteor Vineyard is located in Coombsville, a lesser-known grape growing region at the southeast end of Napa. It is on the cusp of discovery.
Arriving at the Meteor Vineyard office a short drive away, Jason checks for any early calls and then takes a morning walk through vineyard to taste where the grapes are in their ripening process on the different blocks. He then meets with Dawnine Dyer, Meteor Vineyard’s winemaker, to get an update on Harvest. Dyer is revered in the winemaking community based on her expert vineyard knowledge and veteran experience with many Napa Valley Wineries, including Robert Mondavi, Domaine Chandon and the eponymous Dyer Vineyard.
Meteor Vineyard is located in Coombsville, a lesser-known grape growing region at the southeast end of Napa Valley. It is on the cusp of discovery. Sitting on a plateau under the imposing Mount George, Coombsville has a microclimate that features a unique combination of cool air, consistent temperatures, varied elevations and well-drained, mineral-rich soils.
The glowing sunsets of Meteor Vineyard
Around 10:30 a.m. Jason joins a group of fellow sommeliers at Redd in Yountville to participate in a weekly blind tasting. The group usually focuses on a specific grape or style/year of wine for these events. Today they are exploring the subtle vineyard differences of Puligny-Montrachet.
His extensive wine background includes assembling and managing multi-million dollar rare and sought-after wine collections.
Initially pursuing poetry but soon drawn to the world of fine wines, Jason studied alongside some of the most noted sommeliers in the US and went on to earn a reputation as an internationally recognized, award-winning sommelier with a legacy of wine director positions at prestigious San FranciscoBay Area restaurants, including Gary Danko in San Francisco and Cyrus in Healdsburg, California.
Azzurro Pizzeria E Enoteca
Jason and a sommelier friend escape for an early lunch at Azzurro Pizzeria E Enoteca, a thin crust Southern Italian pizza place beloved by locals and tourists, if they discover it. It’s casual, inexpensive and sophisticated all at once, with great pizzas, bruschette, antipasti and manciata (“handful” of just-baked dough with a salad on top, to fold and eat sandwich-style); owner Michael Gyetvan was well-trained by Northern California chefs Bradley Ogden of One Market/The Lark Creek Inn, and Michael Chiarello of Tra Vigne and the NapaStyle empire.
Take a bite out of this pizza pie. Photo credit: Laura Norcia Vitale
Jason heads back to Meteor Vineyard for an early afternoon meeting with vineyard owners Barry Schuler (technology and education pioneer and former CEO of America Online), Tracy Schuler and the Meteor Vineyard team to review the developing schedule for the release of a new vintage and a new Cabernet Sauvignon called Perseid. “With multiple years of work in the vineyard, we finally feel like we understand its nuances and unique nature. The 2007 Perseid is a perfect example of that, where all of the elements of the vineyard and vintage came together to produce a wine singularly Meteor Vineyard,” Jason says.
Relax at Milliken Creek Inn and Spa
When asked by visitors for a local lodging recommendation, Jason suggests the Milliken Creek Inn & Spa, hidden away on the Napa River yet adjacent to downtown Napa, with its many recently opened destination restaurants such as Morimoto Napa (the latest from Iron Chef/Iron Chef America’s Masahara Morimoto) and Tyler Florence’s Rotisserie & Wine, along with intriguing shops, wine bars and activities. Jason likes the combination of five-star luxury accommodations combined with its lush grounds, intimate ambiance and a full-service spa.
As evening approaches, Jason returns to downtown Napa to speak with Chef Ken Frank of La Toque, confirming arrangements for a wine buyers’ tasting and dinner Jason is organizing which will feature Meteor’s latest release, Perseid. The landmark Wine Country restaurant recently re-opened in a new location, adjacent to the Oxbow Public Market where Jason started his day. La Toque offers a constantly-evolving menu that highlights each season’s finest ingredients, which are supplied by a network of local farms and purveyors. “With its award-winning cellar and focus on creating dishes that harmonize with great wines, this is one of my favorite places to host a tasting with people in the wine business,” says Jason.
Oxbow Public Market in Napa
As the stars rise in the sky over Napa Valley, Jason bids his restaurant guests farewell and begins the drive home to San Francisco, past Marin and over the Golden Gate Bridge. He marvels at his day, which despite long hours satisfies his passion for bringing great wines into the world and helping others enjoy and share it.
Jason Alexander’s Favorite Napa Spots:
Oxbow Public Market
Azzurro Pizzeria E Enoteca
Milliken Creek Inn and Spa
In winemaking we measure our experience not in years, but in the number of vintages. Between Bill & I, throwing in the odd harvest in the Southern Hemisphere and Europe, we count over 80 collective harvests.
In that time we have seen a number of advances and developments, from the vineyard to the winery. Parsing apart what makes truly great wine is to ponder the evolution of these changes, what separates true advances in winemaking & grape growing from trend and fad.
Over the years perception has shifted broadly. Sugar levels at harvest have risen and sunk, only to rise again. The use of oak barrels has carried cries of superiority from France to Hungary to the United States, with ever increasing prices and ever less expensive alternatives like oak chips finding their way into event he least expensive mass market brands. Even how we define and describe varietal character has ranged widely during our time; indeed, many would argue that our perception of quality itself has shifted, with particular wine styles scored highly in the wine press (converting to sales) while other styles are largely left out of the media discussion and left lonely on wine store shelves.
In the 70s growers were rewarded, more directly than today, for high sugars… the higher the better. In the 80s, with the near “death by late harvesting” of Zinfandel (and a growing anti alcohol lobby), we looked to Europe and contemplated the role of wine as food. Then in the fast paced 90s, high sugar again became a major part of the fine wine equation, and, at least in Cabernet, we developed a pathological fear of any plant based character that was green or tannic.
Throughout this time, a profound amount of research emerged from places like UC Davis and the University of Bordeaux. We gained a better understanding of even ripeness in the vineyard and the powerful impact of green seed & stem tannins. Vineyard managers began mapping vineyard sites and matching clones to contour, rootstock to soil type – in addition to developing advanced trellising techniques aimed at tempering the effect of warm climates and maximizing the sun exposure of more marginal regions. Here is Napa, as phylloxera continued its “lousy” march through Napa Valley’s vineyards, many growers took the positive approach and adopted these advances with a fervor.
What starts in the vineyard plays out in our choices of winery equipment. A melange of new “advanced” and cutting edge equipment entered the winery; from destemmers to presses, from multi sized temperatured controlled stainless steel tanks to the now de-rigour sorting tables enabling the hand sorting of fruit.
Yet, with all of these advances, it remains an open question whether or not we have done ourselves any favors with the squeaky clean, virus free plant material and sophisticated winery tools. The great debate about ripeness, and the variation of styles from the 40’s until today, has never reconciled into a cohesive definition of perfect wines. If anything, the “advances” have led to increased debate. Traditionalists, extolling the virtues of the great 28 vintage in Bordeaux, the legendary wines of Inglenook from the 40s and 50s, decry the uniformity of the wines from the great vintages (and here I am thinking about 2000 in Bordeaux and 1997 in Napa Valley). Modernists assert the preference of market driven wines for accesability, for plush tannins and fruit driven styles. The modern wine press, whose scores drive the bulk of the high end wine market, side on the latter.
Yet, in the world of fine and rare wine, are we not all trying to achieve a form of perfection? Whose perfection?
If we prune and farm for even ripeness, identifying the moment of optimal ripeness is a matter of much debate. For some it comes as the seeds begin to harden and brown, for others it is not until the grapes raisin on the vine. Berkeley chef, Paul Bertolli, devotes a chapter in his book Cooking by Hand on ripeness and his philosophical approach appeals to me … in it he says such things as “… the state of ripeness may amount to only minutes, hours or days in the garden (it’s a little longer for grapes). Or a few years in a years in a human life, yielding to the winding down of function, decay, and eventual dissolution.” “…intensity is the hallmark of ripeness, the culmination of growth and experience. But ripeness is not simply the reward for waiting nor is it necessarily guaranteed. The precondition of ripeness is maturity, which in turn can only come about through the right kind of development along the way. Ripeness, then is one of the naturally fortunate outcomes of life.”(p 30)
How do you decide what is right? If you believe in terroir, than it is situational and there will be a “best practice” for each vineyard. But there is the collective aspect as well… how else do you explain Amarone or Champagne, where technique has been raised to prominence over fruit. Do Napa Valley Cabernets now fall into that category where technique (oak levels, jammy, almost sweet fruit) has become an important identifier for wines?
For us at Meteor Vineyard, the final blending of 2008 will unfold this month. The fruit in barrel is the careful amalgamation of best practices from every era. On the modern, is the carefully selected clones and rootstocks planted by Mike Wolf. Purposeful trellising maximizing the long temperate growing season of the Meteor Vineyard hillside, diligent work in the vineyard throughout the cycle farming for uniform ripeness while recognizing the unique nature of each clone, each block, each row – and ultimately each vine. From there we, as wine makers, are largely shepherds, a practice as old as organized community – flagging harvest at a moment when the natural acids of Coombsville meld with the rich fruit characters of Cabernet Sauvignon and the natural tannin structure of the grape. No excessive extraction, diligent use of new barrels (around 50%) and 18 to 20 months in barrel to round out the wines.
Perhaps that is the wisdom of 80 harvests and the ease of working with a perfect site. The great wines have always come from the land, we, as viticulturalists and winemakers are simply here to help them along.
“Vibrant, violet-hued, intense color, blackberry, voluptuous, upfront, ripe fruit aromas & flavors, focused, precise, classic, balance and structure” – just some of the characteristics that we and others report finding in Meteor Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
Well-drained soils impart depth and minerality to a wine. During the critical maturation period warm, even temperatures allow for leisurely ripening that softens tannins and produces lush, bright fruit. Both of those aspects of a great site are amply evident at Meteor Vineyard.
The vineyard possesses another, celestial quality that is uniquely Meteor, something we recognize every time we ferment grapes. It shows up in the wine’s dense but clear violet-edged color, and a trademark Meteor aroma of red cherries and blackberries.
The three clones planted on the vineyard make our 100% Meteor Vineyard Cabernet more complex to create, challenging us to find that precise balance between the three vineyard expressions. There is always a discovery.
Winemaking Philosophy of Meteor Vineyards
We believe that in the perfect viticultural situations – when the right grapes are planted in the right place – that the best wine that can be made is the one that allows the vineyard to speak clearly and forcefully. The winemaking will therefore be simple and non- interventional, like cooking with the finest fresh ingredients and just allowing the ingredients to shine.
That said, our approach is to employ the best of traditional and modern winemaking techniques in teasing out every last ounce of plush fruit and tannin from the grapes. The fruit is harvested when it’s perfectly ripe, generally in late October. Sorting out defective fruit, raisins and sunburned berries is done in the field, and again at the winery toensure that we’re working with beautiful, perfectly clean grapes. These are lightly crushed and then cold soaked for several days prior to fermentation, allowing the extraction of flavors and colors before the alcohol from fermentation changes the nature of the extraction. As the fermentation heats up, pump-overs, the mixing of the fermentor that submerges the “cap” for optimal extraction, is increased from two to three and than reduced as the fermentation slows.
Draining and pressing is based on tasting and our palate for the quality and quantity of the tannins. Only the free run juice is used for Meteor Vineyard wines. The wines go to barrel before malo lactic fermentation, which occurs in the barrel. We use barrels from several coopers: Alain Fouquet, Tarrensaud and D & J are current favorites. The first racking is done after the finish of malolactic and subsequent rackings are performed based on the evolution of the wine. Every stage of growing grapes and making wine contains its own challenges, surprises and rewards. The final blend of Meteor Vineyard wine highlights the strengths of each of the three clones of Cabernet Sauvignon in the vineyard. When we agree that we’ve hit on an expression of the best representation of the Meteor Vineyard, we know that our job is well done, and that the wine has grown into something that others can also enjoy.
Blending from a single vineyard is a very different exercise from blending fruit from throughout a region.
Many fine wine regions are based on blending; Champagne is synonymous with blends (though far more grower champagne bottlings focusing on one estate), Port is often pulled from multiple vineyards from throughout the Duoro, and many wines from California are labeled under larger AVA’s to allow for a particular style to be created. In many cases this style is intended to provide wine lovers with wines that are similar in style from year to year. Fruit from cooler areas is added for brightness and acidity, warmer regions for base notes and mid palate breadth. In Napa Valley, people will also pull in mountain fruit for tannins and structure.
Working solely with an individual site, you are faced an individual interpretation of a vintage. The models here are many as well, with Burgundy remaining the most recognized with clearly defined vineyards delineated since the middle ages. Each vineyards’ minute changes in soil type and exposition manifests in subtle, and sometimes profound differences. (Of course, human influence has a role here as well with a melange of clones and winemaking techniques creating variations within the variations).
The Meteor Vineyard sits atop a knoll at 500 ft elevation. Soils are a fairly uniform blend of volcanic ash, rounded river stone and sedimentary soils. There is a slight “rolling” aspect to the contour, but for the most part the knoll faces west and southwest. The greatest variation lies in the 3 clones planted, each with fairly unique characteristics. This is where the “blending” comes in.
We describe 2008 as the year of fire and ice, with fires peppering the hillsides in the summer and frost affecting bud break.
Clone 337 is always the most delicate of the clones we pull from the vineyard. Historically, the wines are dominated by red rather than black fruit with a distinct floral component and sandalwood. Everyone agreed that the 337 from 2008 was the best “stand alone” 337 that we have harvested to date. More red hued than in 2007, the wine displayed compelling high tones reminiscent of past vintages, with more weight in the mid palate, and a long, vibrant finish.
What clone 4 holds back aromatically, it compounds and compacts into structure. A range of black and red fruits, with firm tannins and focus. Perhaps lacking completeness alone, the wine adds depth and rounds out the 337, and somehow tempers the brooding nature of clone 7.
Clone 7 remains the most precocious of the clones. Muscular and brooding, filled with black fruit and spice, chocolate and coffee bean. Even at this nascent stage, the tannins are powerful, yet rounded, the finish long and firm. Once again the stand out.
The thing that compels me about these wines is their unique melding of new and old world styles. The temperate climate and volcanic soils clearly impart a restraint and elegance, while the California (and Napa Valley) sunshine imparts a fruit character that is unmistakably California. 2008 is clearly more restrained than the previous vintages, yet unique and substantive – another unique example of the character of Meteor Vineyard.
What will the final blend be? That remains to be seen.
Linda Viviani excels at providing her clients access to some of the most exciting wineries in Northern California. In this video she speaks with Tracy Schuler about finding the property that is now Meteor Vineyard and the elements that make it such a unique and compelling place.
We racked the last of the 2009 vintage off ML today… have been racking since Tuesday and everything looks great. Particularly excited about the clone 7 and the Petite Verdot. The Petite Verdot is more of a stand alone wine than most I’ve tasted, with some of the racy, floral top notes of Petite Verdot but with great delicacy and length. Once again, the balance of clones offers and array of aromatics and textures, with the bright berry fruit of the 337 adding the telltale “high tones”. Balances are good. Tannins already controlled. Mike and his team did all the real work in the vineyard. Looking at oak, we’re liking the addition of more Tarrensaud, especially for the 337, but still are partial to the Alain Fouquet barrels. The before and after the rain discussion is a non starter…the only grapes that remained into the rain were Clone 4, and the fruit is close to perfect.
History – A Quick Synopsis
The release of our inaugural vintage in the fall of 2008 marked the culmination of decades of dreams and experience.
For Meteor Vineyard owner Barry Schuler, it marked the culmination of a dream hatched over 35 years ago when Barry, a student with a growing passion for wine, first visited Napa Valley. After roaming the valley and tasting, he was struck with the burning desire to someday live in Napa, grow grapes and make a wine that could take its place among the worlds greats.
Simultaneously, Bill and Dawnine Dyer were launching their careers in winemaking and the history of Napa Valley was being written daily as it emerged as a truly world class wine growing region. Their paths would include some of the most successful wineries in the valley and an exhaustive understanding of the microclimates and potential of Cabernet Sauvignon from many areas of Napa Valley.
Three decades later their paths converged on a small knoll in a unique corner of Napa Valley that was immediately recognized as home to some of the most distinct fruit in the region. Meteor Vineyard was born.
Meteor Vineyard – A Rare Coming of Age
When Barry and his wife Tracy purchased the property that is now Meteor Vineyard in 1998, the comments that it was a “natural” vineyard site resounded. Noted viticulturist Mike Wolf planted the 22 acre vineyard to 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, recognizing that the quick draining soils of white volcanic ash and river stone and the temperate growing season of the Coombsville area would serve as the perfect foundation for world class Cabernet Sauvignon.
The 2006 harvest was far more challenging than the 2005. An uneven bloom set during spring led to a veritable autumnal “fruit cocktail” – green berries and raisins interspersed with perfect, concentrated berries. The result? – careful sorting in the field and even more diligence on the sorting table. Thank goodness we are a boutique operation; hand sorting is intensive and exhausting work! The grapes that passed the gauntlet were as perfect as Cabernet Sauvignon gets.
The palette of clones in the vineyard offered an array of character when it came time to blend. The dark brooding fruit and chocolate tones from clone 7, the structure and intensity from Clone 4 and the bright effusive fruit of 337 resulted in a wine of precocious aromatics, penetrating depth. This, coupled with what is quickly becoming our trademark mouthfeel, show the evolution of a vineyard that is truly coming of age.