Meteor Vineyard

Meteor Blog

Jason Alexander
October 4, 2010 | Jason Alexander

2010 Harvest; Patience, Experience and the Importance of Site

Three things come to the forefront in a vintage like 2010 – experience, patience and the incredible importance of that elusive term terroir.

The classic “indian summer” conditions swept in the first weeks of October to provide PERFECT conditions to finish up the growing season.  Mike Wolf crew swept into the vineyard at 230am on October 14 and started to harvest.

The cool temperatures in the early months of the growing season were a major topic of conversation.  You couldn’t walk past winemaker or vineyard manager without stopping for a few minutes of careful consideration about when, exactly, we had seen an early season so cool (1999 seemed to pop up often as a reference).  Bloggers and critics immediately went to work denigrating the vintage as a whole, rarely recognizing that months of potential summer heat lay ahead.

At Meteor Vineyard we had bud break on March 19 and had 50% bloom by June 3.  Not unusual, particularly as we are a slightly more temperate climate than other areas of the valley.  Post bloom the cool conditions continued.  This was really true throughout the state of California – even Los Angeles experienced one of the coolest summers on record!  Verasion began in early August in pockets of the vineyard but progressed slowly, with only 50% complete in the middle of the month.

I started spotting Mike Wolf’s truck in the vineyard several times a day and would catch glimpses of him scratching his head as he strolled the rows.  Elsewhere in the valley, rumors of extreme green harvesting began circulating.  Vineyard managers narrowed their range of options to two; extreme harvesting, often to one cluster per shoot – and pulling the leaves from around the clusters to ensure maximum sun exposure, or diligent and considered green harvesting which recognized that many more degree days lay ahead.

Anyone who has spent any time in nature understands that the logic of the natural world, while identifiable on a molecular level, is unstable and downright confusing on the macro level.  How many times have you scratched your head in wonder while or your local weather person proclaims a likely rainless day as the showers pour down?  While Mike can’t predict the rain (though he can exhaustively gather and analyze data on pressure systems, moisture levels, etc.) his experience and patience were tantamount to pushing us into September with healthy fruit, perfect clusters and room for introspection.

As should have been predicted, the thermometer crept up into triple digits several times over the week in September and into October.  Those who pulled leaves were left with substantial sunburn (I have heard rumors of upwards of 50% of peoples crop destroyed by sun).  We largely missed all of the damaging effects from these high degree days and the temperate nature of Coombsville and the unique situation of Meteor Vineyard once again proved fortuitous. There will be tremendous variation in the 2010 Cabernet based wines from Napa Valley.  What to look for?  Sites tempered by elevation or breeze, winemakers and vineyard managers with experience, and owners dedicated to producing only the best in every vintage, particularly the challenging ones.

A quick recap of phenology;

March 19 Budbreak

June 3 50% Bloom

August 16 50% Verasion

Anticipated harvest?  Second week of October?

Time Posted: Oct 4, 2010 at 11:23 AM
Jason Alexander
September 24, 2010 | Jason Alexander

Whether Weather? It’s not over until the grapes come in…

3 things come to the forefront in a vintage like 2010 – experience, patience and perseverence. In a meeting with Mike Wolf yesterday he displayed and comforted with all 3.

Anyone who has spent any time in nature understands that the logic of the natural world, while identifiable on a molecular level, is unstable and downright confusing on the macro level.  How many times have you scratched your head in wonder while or your local weather person proclaims a likely rainless day as the showers pour down?  While Mike can’t predict the rain (though he can exhaustively gather and analyze data on pressure systems, moisture levels, etc.) his experience and patience were tantamount to where we are now in the vintage cycle.

A quick recap of phenology;

March 19 Budbreak

June 3 50% Bloom

August 16 50% Verasion

Anticipated harvest?  Second week of October?

Time Posted: Sep 24, 2010 at 11:20 AM
Jason Alexander
September 8, 2010 | Jason Alexander

2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Every time I taste wines from the 2007 vintage in Napa I am wowed.

I taught an introduction to wine class at the San Francisco Wine Center last night.  Though the content was aimed at fundamentals, the wines were anything but basic, including 2007 Chablis Grand Cru Clos from Brocard, 2006 Ermitage L’Ermite from Chapoutier and a just released bottle of 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford.  What struck me, and the entire group (some of who had little business being in an introduction to wine class at all but came simply to taste the wines) was the absolute deliciousness of the 2007 Cabernet.

It is no secret that 2007 was an incredible vintage throughout Napa Valley, in fact, it is one of those vintages where making a bad wine indicated a winemaker or viticulturalists need to return to school, or accounting, or some other profession where they can’t fail to capture natures gift of a near perfect vintage.  What I liked best about the wine we tasted last night, and THE defining character I find in the top wines, is balance.  Yes, there are some over the top fruit bombs reminiscent of a certain vintage in the late 90’s whose wines have become a caricature of full bodied “over the top” wines from Napa Valley, but on the whole the wines retain a symmetry between ripe fruit character, firm but silky tannins and a fresh acidity that remains the essential component for graceful agability in wines from any region.

Working with an estate vineyard forces an intimate understanding of the land.  With each harvest our knowledge of the Meteor Vineyards’ potential and how to best work in and around it has grown exponentially.  Now into our third vintage, we believe we have found the perfect expression of Meteor Vineyard.

In 2007, warm spring temperatures led to early bud break with very little rainfall.  The summer remained mild with few of the heat spikes typical seen and dry conditions leading to small berries of intense fruit.  After a brief interlude of cool the second week of October, Indian summer prevailed, affording us plenty of time to consider the optimal moment for harvest. What crossed the sorting table was as close to perfection as Cabernet Sauvignon gets. Our first glimpse of the wines post fermentation confirmed this. We knew we had something special.

Like the Perseid meteor shower that that paints the northern hemisphere sky for a short time every August, Meteor Vineyard Perseid, the new bottling from Meteor Vineyard, will be visible October 14, 2010.  Don’t miss it – pictures can’t do it justice.

Time Posted: Sep 8, 2010 at 11:17 AM
Jason Alexander
September 2, 2010 | Jason Alexander

The Design Decision; Or How 9 Years of Work Takes (a) Shape

Design: To conceive of, fashion, invent.

Scan the shelves at any wine shop and you can’t help but be slightly overwhelmed by the sheer diversity of – you thought I was going to say selections (countries, grapes, appellations, etc) – no, design.  I am the first to admit that as a sommelier my taste tends towards the simple and the classic (ok, it helps if it says Domaine de la Romanee Conti or Coche-Dury on the label and I take great if sadistic pleasure in the arcane specificity of German labeling law). I am also quick to condemn the use of fuzzy critters, iconic film stars (Marilyn Merlot????), derogatory off handed snipes (Fat Bastard, Cleavage Creek) etc. I am also now keenly aware of the tremendous amount of work that goes into the simplest of labels.

The considerable amount of time it takes to produce a bottle of wine demands careful consideration of it’s final appearance. From planting to first harvest? 4-5 years (Though in Meteor Vinyard’s case it was 6 years). From harvest to bottle? 22 months.  From bottling to release? 1 year. Throughout this process myriad decisions are made from clone to rootstock, from pruning time to green harvest, from tonnage to harvest date, from maceration (cold soak or not?) to pump over of punch down, from barrel selection (and quantity of new versus old) to length of time in said barrel….

So what bottle do you put a wine you have invested 9 years into?  The weight of the glass affects shipping weight and the amount of glass that goes back into recycling (if we are lucky).  Too light and it feels cheap, too heavy and it feels ostentatious. Length of cork? Cork at all? Wood or carboard for packaging? 3 bottles? 6? 12? Design for the boxes, corks, capsules and labels?

With the release of our Meteor Vineyard Perseid mid October, the culmination of these decisions will be complete.

After speaking with a number of designers, we were taken with the work of Chanda Williams.  Her innate understanding of the unique nature of Meteor Vineyard immediately translated into a label tone that captured the tone of the earth.  The lone oak, a sentry in the vineyard (we did not remove any oaks during planting so this reference is always a little confusing – there is actually a native oak preserve on the property) needed to remain as the focal point and continuity between the two wines.  To reconcile the astral connotation of Perseid’s direct reference to the impressive meteor shower that appears in August each year, while maintaining the earthy feel, Chanda introduced  a series of stars and “fading light” into the background as well as a richer copper tone to the foil stamped name.

Want to see it?  Soon enough.

Meteor Vineyard Perseid Cabernet Sauvignon Release October 14, 2010

Time Posted: Sep 2, 2010 at 11:15 AM
Jason Alexander
August 30, 2010 | Jason Alexander

Verasion Underway

Nature is in control. That is the undeniable reality of the wine business.

When the sun broke through the fog this morning around 1030a, it immediately drew me outside for a stroll around the vineyard. In the 10 days since my last post about cool temps and rising concerns about ripeness, the blogobabble has continued to bubble.  Some critics have noted the likelihood of lower alcohols, not neccesarily a bad thing, though in more temperate Coombsville one of our struggles is finding the magic balance between fruit and acid which often means a little extra hang time on the vine.  Others have already written off the vintage for late harvesting grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon.  Talk to industry veterans though and they seem much less fazed. Vineyard Manager Mike Wolf is waiting for verasion to proceed a little further before sending the crew back into the vineyard for some “draconian” thinning.  In the meantime, the color transformation continues…

Time Posted: Aug 30, 2010 at 11:11 AM
Jason Alexander
August 13, 2010 | Jason Alexander

Green Harvesting Pass #2

When the vineyard crew took to the vines last Thursday I quickly grabbed my camera.

Mike Wolf’s team was en mass in the vineyard last Thursday in pass #2 of what we anticipate to be multiple passes through the vineyard. The technique is pretty simple – wait for the beginning of verasion and then thin the clusters that are most delayed.  We are currently carrying 2 clusters per shoot.  If Mike is right about taking “draconian” measures, we could see this cut back even more.

The current projection for the week is continued moderate temperatures with morning cloud cover burning off to afternoon sun.

Time Posted: Aug 13, 2010 at 11:07 AM
Jason Alexander
August 9, 2010 | Jason Alexander

70+ Rare and Fine Wines at Staglin Music Festival

Join us September 11 for one of the premier wine charity events in the U.S.

The Staglin Music Festival for Mental Health is one of of the premier events in the world of fine and rare wine.  In addition to being the largest fundraiser for mental health in the U.S., it also features one of the greatest concentrations of top flight wineries of any event in the U.S.  Taste Abreu, Bond, Dana, Harlan, Scarecrow and the new Perseid release from Meteor Vineyard, listen to country music star Dwight Yoakam and enjoy the exquisite food of rockstar chef Richard Reddington of Redd in Yountville and Jon Bonnell’s FIne Texas Cuisine.  See you there!


Time Posted: Aug 9, 2010 at 11:03 AM
Jason Alexander
August 3, 2010 | Jason Alexander

If it’s green, cut it off…

What a difference a week makes.

While many continue to bemoan the lack of heat, the conversation among vineyard managers is increasingly shifting to pure sunlight hours – after all, it is the sun that produces photosynthesis! The morning fog has been clearing earlier by the day, with mid-afternoon temperatures in the low 80’s and plenty of sunshine.  The result was increased pace of verasion and, most importantly for Mike Wolf and his team, clear deliniation between the grapes that will continue hanging on the vine and those that are severed to wilt in the afternoon sun.  If it’s green, cut it off…

Time Posted: Aug 3, 2010 at 10:58 AM
Dawnine Dyer
July 29, 2010 | Dawnine Dyer

Sun Valley Auction Live This Week!

Celestial Napa: Up and Down Napa Valley with Meteor Vineyard

The Sun Valley Wine Auction is one of our favorite events of the year.  A stunningly beautiful setting, exquisite food, stunning wines from around the world and passionate eonophiles.  If you have not already purchased tickets, there are still a few available.  Even if you are unable to attend, keep your eyes on the Meteor Vineyard auction lot “Celestial Napa: Up and Down Napa Valley with Meteor Vineyard.”

After a restful night at the Meteor Vineyard guesthouse, you will start your day with Meteor winemaker/partners Bill and Dawnine Dyer on beautiful Diamond Mountain.  Bill and Dawnine will lead you on a barrel tasting of the yet to be bottled Meteor vintages, and then host you for an exquisite picnic high above the valley on Diamond Mountain.

As you start your journey south down the valley,  Meteor Vineyard General Manager and Sommelier Jason Alexander will lead you on a viticultural tour of some of Napa’s legendary vineyards, exploring the characteristics and unique attributes that define the multiple AVA’s of the Valley,  culminating with a tour of the exquisite Meteor Vineyard and a tasting of Meteor’s inaugural and current releases.

Finally, you will delve into “Culinary Napa”, enjoying a progressive dinner exploring menu highlights at several of Napa’s new and exciting restaurants. Some big time chefs are opening new restaurants downtown as we auction this!

Note: Transportation not included.  Time to be mutually agreed upon. Summer months recommended. Expires July 2011.

This lot is for 2 couples (or four people) and includes;
2 nights accommodation at Meteor Vineyard
6 bottles of wine per couple as described below
Tour, Tasting and Barrel Tasting of Meteor Vineyard
Winemaker Lunch on Diamond Mountain
“Dine around Napa” with Meteor Vineyard Host
A Personalized Napa Valley vineyard tour with Sommelier Jason Alexander

Wines from Meteor Vineyard
2 3 packs of 2005 Meteor Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Inaugural release Selection 750 ml (3 pack contains 2 bottles 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 bottle Special Family Reserve)

2 3 packs 2006 Meteor Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Selection (3 pack contains 2 bottles Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 bottle Special Family Reserve)

Time Posted: Jul 29, 2010 at 10:54 AM
Jason Alexander
July 19, 2010 | Jason Alexander

5 Great Wine Regions You Should Know About

It’s entirely possible to go through life eating nothing but the most familiar foods, reading books by the customary best-selling authors or listening to a stock set of composers – so begins last weeks  The Pour column in  The New York Times. Wine critic Eric Asimov goes on to profile a dozen obscure grapes that are the foundation of some great wines and illustrate the diversity the world of wine has to offer. It’s a great article and I encourage you to check it out.

In a similar vein, while Burgundy, Champagne and Tuscany have the fame; there are many “undiscovered” wine regions that produce some of the world’s most exceptional wines. Here are five phenomenal wine regions you may not know but should – including Meteor’s own Coombsville.

Ribeira Sacra – Some of the steeply pitched vineyards in the region of eastern Galicia have been planted for nearly 2,00 years, and yet it is only in the last five years that their renown has grown beyond the boundaries of Spain.  The wines are based on the Mencia grape and offer a delicate spiciness and minerality that pairs with a broad range of food.  Like the Mosel in Germany of its nearby neighbor Duoro Valley, the sheer grandeur of the area makes a trip a must.

Tokaji – Yes, many wine lovers are familiar with the unctuous botrityzed wines of Tokaji, yet one of the most exciting developments since the fall of communism has been the production of DRY wines from the native grapes of the area.  Specifically keep your eyes open for dry furmint – medium bodied, with tart, slightly under ripe pit fruit character; these are awesome wines for seafood dishes and warm summer afternoons.

Santorini – While many revel in images of Santorini as a sun splashed vacation destination, few are aware that some of the most interesting white wines in Europe are produced on the volcanic rich soils of the island.  The grape Assyrtiko is the primary planting here producing crisp white wines with powerful minerality and purity.

Lipari Islands – Malvasia delle Lipari has been produced on the Lipari Islands off the coast of Sicily at least since 100 B.C. (though there is potentially evidence of the wines on coins dating back to 4th and 5th centuries B.C.).  Though dry wines are produced, the magic here comes from the sweet wines of the Island.  Simultaneously unctuous and fresh, these wines are dripping with aromatics of fresh cut flowers, honey and ripe pit fruit.  Stunning.

Coombsville – While it my seem obvious I’d include Coombsville in this line up, it deserves to be here because the wines and wineries of the area are distinctive and distinctly different from the experience you get in more recognized appellations like Oakville or Rutherford. What makes the wines special? In a word, balance – the wines couple dark fruit and textural richness with vibrant acidities and fine-grained tannins.  The red wines tend to be very dark in color with flavors of blackberries, black plums, mulberries, and dried herbs and black olives.

Time Posted: Jul 19, 2010 at 10:49 AM