Patrick Comiskey’s December 2011 article in Wine and Spirits Magazine is one of the most thorough articles written about Coombsville. Capturing everything from the historical foundation of the name (Nathan Coombs’ farm, which he called “Willows”, forms the central part of what is now the town of Napa) to an exploration of the complex geologic nature of the regions soils.
A couple of favorite quotes;
“If Coombsville has an epicenter, it’s Meteor Vineyard…”
“When marine incursion layers snake in the Napa Valley from San Pablo Bay, they arrive here first and leave last, resulting in one of the valley’s longest growing seasons.”
“Almost all of the soils of the area are some combination of two components: accumulated landslide debris, something (Jonathan) Swinchatt calls colluvium: and layers of light, flaky volcanic ash, from Mt. George eruptions.”
“In addition to to the colluvium and tuff melange, Meteor’s soils have a high proportion of cobble in the mix. No one is quite sure where this cobble comes from, but the landslide activity may have pushed it there, the way glaciers push debris from one place to another. The drainage that cobble affords the soil, in addition to the air drainage down this west facing slope and the prominent exposure at the top of the knoll all combine to set this site apart. This may, in fact, be Coombsville’s cru.”
The rumors have been rumbling for days about the imminent news. Today it is official – Napa Valley’s Coombsville area has been granted it’s own AVA.
Meteor Vineyard’s own Barry Schuler noted, “Today’s news shines a spotlight on what industry winemakers have known for years. This quiet corner of Napa is capable of producing some of the region’s most exquisite wines.”
The Coombsville Vintners & Growers have announced the approval and designation of Napa Valley’s newest sub-appellation, the Coombsville Appellation. The official Coombsville Appellation designation was made official by the United States Department of the Treasury TTB on December 14, 2011, and makes Coombsville the Napa Valley’s 16th AVA, or American Viticultural Area.
The Coombsville Appellation consists of approximately 11,000 acres and is bound by the Napa River to the west, to the rim of Vaca Range on the east, with altitudes ranging from near sea level at the western edge of the City of Napa, to approximately 1900 ft at Mt. George in the north. The horseshoe-shaped west-facing ridge of the Vaca Range partially encircles the Coombsville area, helping define the north, east and southern boundaries of this newest viticultural area. Coombsville AVA is a sub-appellation of the larger Napa Valley AVA and the multi-county North Coast AVA.
Coombsville Vintner Tom Farella of Farella Vineyard, who co-authored the AVA petition with fellow vintner Brad Kitson, said, “It’s a great day for all of us that have been growing grapes in Coombsville for decades. Coombsville now has its proper place in the Napa Valley lexicon and on the appellation maps. Since the Coombsville name has been in use for so many years, having it placed among the great wine regions of the world feels a little like coming home.”
The Coombsville Appellation is an incredibly distinct area that differs from nearby AVAs in soils, geography and climate. The soils are primarily dominated by the volcanic rhyolitic tuff that comprises the Vaca Range on the eastern side of the Napa Valley.
“I think when people see it on the map they will wonder why it wasn’t there all along because of how it fits into the puzzle pieces of the Napa Valley as a whole. It may have taken awhile to happen, but now it’s locked in and we are very proud of that,” Farella added.
Most of Coombsville’s vineyards are located in the wide alluvial deposits created by the wearing down of the hillsides. These soils are abundant with rock and gravel and, in some areas, are also layered with volcanic ash deposits from Mount George. Separately and in various combinations, these two components provide a variety of planting options specific to each site.
In addition, the close proximity to the San Francisco Bay contributes to the temperate climate of Coombsville. The cooling effects of marine fog occur earlier and last longer than in the more northern regions and temperatures are less extreme during the winter frost season. Bud break is often sooner and harvest is usually later, leading to a longer growing season. These differences impart unique characteristics in the wines that are produced in this region.
Coombsville wines can be recognized by their soft, but significant tannins, which provide excellent structure and mouthfeel, along with underlying layers of earth and mineral flavors. They are quite often approachable yet sophisticated, complex and layered. Primary varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals, Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
“The members of Coombsville Vintners and Growers welcome the newfound attention to our little corner of Napa Valley. We are excited to showcase the amazing vineyards in Coombsville and the distinct and beautiful wines that are being made in the 16th AVA of Napa Valley,” stated Rebecca Sciandri Griffin, Sciandri Family Vineyards, President of Coombsville Vintners and Growers.
The “Newly Recognized, but Long Established” Coombsville Vintners & Growers welcome visitors to one of the Napa Valley’s historic and most relaxed regions. Coombsville Appellation wineries are primarily family-owned and operated, producing limited quantities of super-premium quality wines. The Coombsville Appellation is a mere one-hour drive from San Francisco, and only minutes from Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury hotels, spas, and B&B’s in the city of Napa.
For more information on the Coombsville Appellation, and the Coombsville Vintners & Growers, please visit http://coombsvillenapa.org/.
For information about Meteor Vineyard please contact General Manager Jason Alexander at 707.258.2900 or Jason@MeteorVineyard.com
2008 Perseid Release
With the 2011 vintage harvested and fermenting slowly in the winery, I wanted to drop you a quick personal note about some news that is sure to excite our entire Meteor Vineyard family.
More than a decade ago we planted Cabernet Sauvignon in a very old, quiet corner of Napa Valley known as Coombsville. No one outside of Napa knew much about this area, but we thought it held a lot of potential.
The micro-climate and rocky, volcanic soil promised to produce some very special fruit and in retrospect, we just might have laid spade to the very last great unplanted property in Napa. A lot has happened since then, and the attention to the unique wines coming from the area has exploded. So much so, that the region of Coombsville is about to take center stage as Napa Valley’s newest AVA or appellation.
Much has already been written recently about the unique characteristics of Coombsville and there is more to come. We will keep you posted on our website and Facebook page (and of course our relentless yacking on Twitter). The bottom line is your Meteor Vineyard collection is going to really appreciate in value.
I do have a sense of urgency to convey since we just released our 2008 Meteor Vineyard Perseid Cabernet. We think it is our most superb vintage and are flattered that it is being lauded as the best the region has to offer. We want to take care of all of those who have supported us historically, but I fear with all of the positive attention it will be difficult to fill all of the demand for our very limited release.
If you can take a moment to let us know if you will be taking possession of your allocation, we will make sure we can fulfill your order. Click here for details on the 2008 Perseid.
Thanks so much, for your interest and make sure you contact us if you are visiting Napa anytime soon.
PS – for further reading on Coombsville check out our Media page.
Meteor Vineyard recently poured our 2008 Perseid Cabernet Sauvignon to rave reviews at a lunch held for attendees of the third-annual Innovation Forum hosted by L2 and NYC Stern School of Business in New York City. L2 Forums are the largest gatherings of prestige marketing professionals in North America. The Innovation Forum addressed innovation in digital marketing and implications for luxury brands.
We have commented several times lately that the 2007 Perseid is finally beginning to blossom. The youthful cacophony of fruit, acid and tannin have started to meld and mature, producing a wine of incredible balance and purity. A wine to hold for years to come, but if you have to pull the cork, you will find an incredible expression of Meteor Vineyard.
Vinography’s Alder Yarrow takes a look at the wine in his recent article.
Barry Schuler may know a thing or two about running multi-billion dollar technology companies, but what he really wants to talk about, given the chance, is food and wine. The former CEO of AOL, Schuler often gets credited along with Steve Case (who preceded Schuler as CEO) for the company’s success in the late Nineties. But while his colleagues and most of America’s top technology executives were returning home at the end of their long days to comfortable suburbs near major metropolitan areas, at the end of the week Schuler was making his way back to Napa, California. Schuler may have been one of the country’s top technology executives, but now he spends as much time thinking about wine as he does anything else.
Schuler says that he can remember wanting to live in Napa as early as the age of 18. In addition to dabbling in photography and filmmaking as a teenager, he says, “I was really into cooking. And drinking.” His obsession with food and wine, led him to the altar of Alice Waters’ restaurant Chez Panisse, which he visited for the first time in 1974 on the pretense of considering a graduate degree at UC Berkeley. Instead of attending his interviews and exploring the campus, however, Schuler dined at Chez Panisse, and drove to Napa, where he spent days wandering around in a daze. “It was like mecca,” he says, “like I was hit by a lighting bolt. It truly was amazing. I decided then and there that I had to figure out how to live [in Napa] someday.”
By his own account, Schuler spent the next 15 years “chasing French wine” and working out the math that would get him back to the Napa valley. While he wasn’t in his own kitchen dreaming of his future Napa estate, Schuler was busy making a name for himself in the emerging world of digital interactive media. He founded an early advertising agency to serve the emerging home and business computing market, then ran one of the first successful Macintosh software companies, and finally ended up founding an interactive design agency called Medior, with several colleagues, including Tracy Strong, who is now his wife.
Schuler finally moved to Napa in 1989, settling closer to the town of Napa than to the centers of culinary and wine activity farther up the valley, because he was attracted to the change he saw underway in and around the city of Napa. “It was a train wreck in those days,” says Schuler, but he saw something of a diamond in the rough in the scrabbly area to the east and north of town known as Coombsville. When he finally decided he wanted a bit of land on which he might one day plant some grapes, “mostly just to sell, I was thinking,” he says, “I started looking in Coombsville.” Good lots were not immediately forthcoming, so Schuler would spend several years poking around the area until in 1998, when someone told him that a 35 acre parcel was due to be sold in the area, and that he might want to take a look at it.
After rounding the shoulder of the hill and seeing the view of a green cow pasture roll out from underneath the mossy shade of oaks all the way to the San Francisco Bay in the distance, Schuler purchased the property on the spot, thinking he’d figure out whether it could grow grapes later.
What Schuler ended up with is an interesting geologic and climatologic anomaly in the region. The hilltop of ash and clay soil is layered thinly on a deep base of round river stones, and sits up higher than most surrounding points in the traditionally cooler region of Napa. This makes the property a little island of heat that misses much of the fog influence that creeps up from neighboring Carneros and the wind patterns that sweep through the rest of the region.
With the help of vineyard consultant Michael Wolf, Bill and Dawnine Dyer, (of Dyer Vineyards) and occasional advice and moral support fromTony Soter (of Etude Wines) the Schulers set about carefully establishing their 22 acre vineyard, still with the idea that they’d sell the grapes, and perhaps make just a tiny bit of wine for themselves. After some struggles, the vineyard began yielding grapes in 2003, and by the time the 2004 grapes were going into bottle, it was clear that the fruit was on track to being exceptional. The folks who had purchased the initial lots of grapes were clamoring for more, and new requests were constantly being made.
“At that point,” says Schuler, “we couldn’t resist.” Barry and Tracy enlisted the Dyers to make them 40 cases of wine from the 2003 harvest, and asked them to become equal partners in the winery. For the name of their project they selected a rephrasing of Medior, the company that had brought them together, and arguably made possible the fulfillment of Barry’s teenage dreams. For their label they chose the silhouette of the solitary, ancient oak tree that anchors the center of their vineyards.
A good portion of Meteor Vineyard’s grapes are still sold to select wineries around the valley, but the family holds back enough fruit to make a little more than a thousand cases of wine. Originally, the Meteor project only included a flagship Cabernet and a minute bit of a wine known as the Family Reserve, both priced north of $225 per bottle if you could find them. But in 2008 as the economy headed south, and yields increased slightly, Schuler and the Dyers decided to make a wine they called Perseid, which would be more widely available, and more affordable.
At $125, more affordable is all relative, of course, but Perseid isn’t meant to compete on the grounds of price. It’s just meant to be what it is: a luxury wine that makes a reasonable case at being worth the price, for those in a position to pay it.
The wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, made from a mix of clones, and what I believe is a combination of both estate and purchased fruit. After a long maceration and fermentation using commercial yeasts, the wine is aged in French oak (65% new) for 22 months before bottling.
I’ve been tasting Meteor Vineyards wines since their first release, and they continue to improve, as winemakers and vineyard learn to live with one another. The 2007 vintage was an excellent one, and I highly recommend it.
Full disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample.
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of rich graphite, cedar, and tobacco aromas. In the mouth it has a wonderfully silky texture and flavors of pencil lead, tobacco, cherry fruit, and cedar, along with excellent acidity. The oak is restrained, and the wine quite elegant, even in its obvious power. Muscular tannins ripple under the wine like a bodybuilder in a silk shirt. Compelling. 14.7% alcohol.
With a wine like this, it’s hard not to think of steak, but I had some fantastic lamb sausages earlier this evening that would have been amazing with this wine.
How Much?: $125
This wine is available for purchase on the Internet.
As I write this the 2008 vintage of this wine is being released to mailing list customers and will shortly appear on the market. I have not yet had the chance to taste it.
Posted by: Alder on November 14, 2011 9:48 PM
When people ask me who the greatest chef in the Bay Area is, it is always a loaded question. Clearly there is an incredible amount of culinary talent, from the foundational Alice Waters to the cutting edge Daniel Patterson to the mainstays Michael Minna and Gary Danko; however, my answer is immediate and unwavering – Stuart Brioza. There are few chefs working anywhere in the world as passionate about ingredients (ask him about hearts of palm from his guy in Hawaii), as driven about creativity while maintaining the integrity of those ingredients, and, perhaps most importantly, as ardent in his pursuit of pairing the perfect wine with each dish.
We are incredibly excited about the upcoming opening of his new restaurant State Bird Provisions on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. Think dim sum with an upscale twist, and every bite distinctive and near perfection.
In thinking about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and the sharp shift towards fall ingredients, we asked Stuart for his thoughts on a great autumnal dish that would work well with our 2008 Perseid. We hope you enjoy!
Roasted Aromatic Rack of Lamb
Lamb & Pork Sausage Fried Farro & Grapes
From the Kitchen of Stuart Brioza & ‘State Bird Provisions’
For Meteor Vineyard
For the Marinade
1 each Rack of Lamb
2 ounces each of: Olive Oil, Soy Sauce, Honey, Red Wine
1 teaspoon Chili Flakes
1 Tablespoon Toasted Fennel Seed, crushed in a mortar
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1” chunk Ginger, minced
As needed Salt & Pepper
Lamb & Pork Sausage
8 ounces Lamb Leg Meat
4 ounces Pork Shoulder Meat
2 ounces Pork Fat Back
1 ounce Red Wine
2 tsp each of Salt, Chili Flakes, Toasted Cumin Seed
½ Pound Fresh Lamb & Pork Sausage
1 cup Fennel, small dice
½ cup Onion, small dice
3 cloves Garlic, crushed
1 large branch Rosemary
2 Tablespoons Whole Butter
2 cups Cooked Farro
As needed Salt & Pepper
1 pound Small Red Grape Clusters
As needed Smoked Sea Salt
For the Lamb Pre-Heat an oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Evenly disperse the marinade for the lamb with all of the above ingredients for up to 24 hours. Remove lamb from the marinade (reserve excess) & season well with salt & pepper for about 20 minutes prior to roasting. Roast with the fat side up for about 20-30 minutes basting with the remainder of the marinade. Roast the grape clusters in the lamb pan renderings for about the last five minutes of cooking the rack. Remove lamb & grapes from the oven and rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing & serving.
For the Lamb & Pork Sausage Dice each of the meats in approximately 1” cubes, keep all the meats very cold & season with the red wine & seasonings. This can marinate up to 24 hours. Separate the meat into 2 batches. Grind the first batch through a Kitchen Aide meat grinder into the bowl using the largest dye & follow with the second batch through the smallest dye. Remove the grinder attachment & use the paddle attachment to whip the meat for about 15 seconds. The sausage meat should feel tacky to the touch.
For the Farro In a large sauté pan, place the butter, crushed garlic & rosemary branch in the pan and turn the heat on high. When the butter begins to brown, the pan will be hot, and the rosemary aromatic. Add the sausage, diced fennel & onion together, render & brown the sausage crushing as you go. When the sausage is cooked and starts caramelizing on the bottom of the pan add the cooked farro, and fry as you would to fry rice. Brown and toast the farro for a few minutes on high heat stirring continuously until nutty! Season as needed.
To Plate On a large platter, set the fried farro as a base, place the lamb chops & grapes on top & drizzle over the reserved pan juices. Sprinkle a bit of smoked sea salt over the meat & serve.
I woke up in a cold sweat the other night. Perhaps remnants of the graphic pictures in Nathan Myrhvold’s epic Modernist Cuisine were etched in my psyche. But my hand was clenched around my 25-year-old boning knife. Bits of flesh were everywhere.
Is it possible in anyway that another Thanksgiving is here already? Time is flying like so many Tweets, and it seems we just can’t deny another holiday season is looming. Perhaps the late harvest has thrown off our sense of timing. Happily the fruit (very small, but beautiful crop) is safely in the tank.
With a wrap on the 2011 growing season we can indeed turn attention to the most wonderful time of the year. Not that we can avoid the rum-pum-pum-pum that advertisers already have drumming in our ears, but the aroma of Turkey, the sounds of family, and the nose of some great wines loom large. What to make this year? Can I top last years’ extravaganza?
We were sad to hear that fellow Vinter and artisanal farmer/rancher Lee Hudson was not breeding his heritage Turkeys this year. They were very special. However it was understandable, since he endured great losses to his flock in the last two seasons. But the local area is rich in sources of free range, organic and humanely raised heritage birds, so two freshly killed await.
Our sourdough “mother” created from the natural yeast bloom on our cabernet is percolating away ready to play its role in the fresh baked goods. Carbs be damned (at least for a few days).
Frankly, the best part of the Thanksgiving feast is the classic “Friday” Sandwich of Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mayo all piled on very moist home-baked sourdough white bread. Yum. (Save the whole grain for Monday).
I am contemplating little molecular gastronomy this year, most likely as garnishes and accompaniments.
Last year I played Mr. Wizard and banged out a dessert of spherized mango on a thickened crème anglaise, composed to look like a sunny-side up egg. It looked pretty but I found it to be a bit of a disconnect between the eyes and the taste buds.
Preparing the dish was far more like a chemistry project than cooking. How it can be integrated into a traditional meal is some real food for thought. But it’s new and some fun culinary experiences are being created by the likes of Chef’s Grant Gachatz and Ferran Adrian. Wonder how they are preparing their Turkeys? Myhrvold recommends removing the skin, immersing in liquid nitrogen, then deep frying. Once crisped, it is reapplied to the finished bird with Activa meat glue. (sigh)
On second thought, maybe we will stick to the good old-fashioned basics.
As families gather around the country to take a little break from the white noise of life, we’d like to say thanks to those who are supporters of our wine project. The 2005’s are drinking spectacularly right now and would be a great accompaniment to any part of your Thanksgiving feast.
Peace and best from Barry and the rest of the Meteor Vineyard gang.
Oh PS – here is a special treat: A spectacular new restaurant will be opening soon in San Francisco called State Bird Provisions. We asked celebrated chef Stuart Brioza, the genius behind the State Bird Provisions if he would share a special recipe. Enjoy!
With the imminent release of our 2008 Perseid at the end of the week (coinciding with another of the great yearly Meteor showers – the Orionids – this Friday) we were rereading Stephen Tanzer’s recent review. It certainly validated our own view that 2008 is a vintage whose potential rivals, if not outstrips, the much lauded 2007’s. Where 2007 is the powerhouse, the 2008 vintage is defined by perfume and an incredible depth of fruit.
By Stephen Tanzer
This well-placed property in cool Coombsville, with 22 acres of cabernet sauvignon planted on mostly rocky volcanic ash, began bottling wines under their own label in 2005. The owners still sell off 80% of their fruit, to the likes of Etude, Robin Lail, Arietta and Favia. Dawnine and Bill Dyer, who are partners in this project and make the Meteor wines, were out of town at the time of my early March visit. So I tasted new vintages with general manager Jason Alexander, who told me that the team finished harvesting in 2009 the day before the heavy rains began. He’s a big fan of 2008, the “fire and ice” vintage that brought a small crop with what he described as great purity of fruit. He believes 2007 is a more structured wine but I had the feeling that evolving winemaking technique and increasing vine age have produced steadily better wines here in the last few years.
2008 Meteor Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Perseid Napa Valley
($125) Good red-ruby. More refined on the nose than the 2007, offering redcurrant, violet and tobacco. Then energetic and light on its feet, with subtle rock and tobacco flavors perfuming the mouth. Rounder and more pliant than the 2007, seemingly with every bit as much extract. Very sexy, vibrant wine.
2008 Meteor Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Special Family Reserve Napa Valley
($300) Bright red-ruby. Reticent but very pure nose hints at flowers, licorice and dark chocolate. Dense and sweet on the palate, but with an almost painful impression of energy leavening the lush middle palate. Dark berries are currently dominated by powerful rocky minerality. This saturates the entire mouth and spreads out impressively on the very long, ripely tannic finish. A superb example of this vineyard–and of the vibrancy of Coombsville cabernet.
The inaugural Los Angeles Food and Wine has been over the 48 hours and I have yet to recover.
4 days, 100 famed (and infamous) chefs, over 300 wines and over 70 events spanning from the Santa Monica pier to the entire center of the gargantuan L.A. Live complex. It was simultaneously exhilarating (many of the chefs out did themselves with some of the greatest dishes I have ever tasted at large event, let alone one attended by nearly 3000 people (Bouchon’s raw bar alone was enough to demand a ticket), exhausting (sampling 50, yet alone 300 wines in 80 degree heat is an exercise in palate fatigue and the importance of consuming vast quantities of water) and inspiring. Take every other wine event in the U.S. and amplify it exponentially – this was the experience of LA Food and Wine 2011.
Meteor Vineyard took part in several of the key events of the weekend including the Red Carpet Premier on Thursday night, an exquisite lunch with Michael Cimarusti and Richard Reddington and the Saturday night Lexus Live in the Plaza. We look forward to being back next year!
The Taste of Coombsville
Coombsville may be Napa Valley’s best-kept secret. For decades, this small region has quietly provided fruit to some of Napa’s most sought after wines. No longer our little secret, recent accolades from The World of Fine Wine, San Francisco Magazine, 7×7 and JustLuxe have made it official. Coombsville is Coolsville. Meteor Vineyard is proud to be at the epicenter of the region defining THE Taste of Coombsville. We think you’ll agree our 2008 Meteor Vineyard Perseid exudes the highest level of taste yet.
2008 Meteor Vineyard Perseid Cabernet Sauvignon
Meteor Vineyard Perseid Cabernet Sauvignon marries the elements of our clonally diverse planting in one singularly expressive wine. Meteor Vineyard is a collaborative project of vineyard proprietors Barry and Tracy Schuler and longtime Napa Valley winemakers Bill and Dawnine Dyer. Located on a knoll in Napa Valley’s Coombsville region, our unique combination of elevation, aspect, and stony, rich volcanic soil produces some of Napa Valley’s most distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon. While the vintage is small with just over 500 cases, the quality and purity of the 2008 vintage is truly spectacular.
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 ripe blackberry, wild cherry and currant meld with hints of smoky sweet tobacco and clove. The palate displays rich mouth watering fruit with ripe tannins and a soft silky texture. The finish is heady and long, with an impression of warmth that carries the aromatics and suffuses the senses. Though youthful, this wine is showing beautifully!” Dawnine Dyer, Winemaker and Partner
From the General Manager – “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.” Jason Alexander, General Manager
Secure your Allocation – Release Date October 20, 2011
Of limited production, the quality and purity of the 2008 vintage is truly spectacular.
We invite you to secure your 2008 Meteor Vineyard Perseid allocation beginning Thursday October 20, 2011 (coinciding with the Orionids meteor shower) by visiting our website at www.meteorvineyard.com and selecting “ Shop”. We are also available to assist you with your order by phone at 707.258.2900.
We hope you enjoy the wines!
The Meteor Vineyard Team