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.
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
The evening of August 13 started out as perfect as they come; piercing blue skies, light winds and warm, “perfect evening” temperatures. Guests began arriving at sunset and were greeted with a pour of the 2007 Meteor Vineyard Perseid. A tarot card reader sat tucked into the corner, the band played and cocktails flowed. The second week of August witnesses one of nature’s most exciting astral spectacles of the year, the Perseid’s Meteor Shower (link to Coolsville article). While the full moon obscured many of the streaking “stars”, everyone in attendance was witness to one unforgettable memory; the 2008 Perseid from Meteor Vineyard.
Marcy Gordon captured the evening perfectly in her recent blog. If I were you, I would mark my calendar for mid August 2012 now…
Our Special Family Reserve is the wine we make for ourselves. We only wish we had more fruit! 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!
When Meteor Vineyard was planted in 1999, Vineyard Manager Mike Wolf felt strongly that the vineyards unique combination of elevation, aspect and stony, rich volcanic soil would provide a perfect home for cabernet sauvignon. His intuition was prescient. The wines produced from the 3 distinct clones Mike planted have tantalized winemakers and wine lovers since the inaugural harvest.
Each clone has its own unique character that has evolved as the vineyard has aged. Yet, year after year, we are beguiled and transfixed by the combination of density and elegance, of aromatic complexity and supple, ripe tannins that our “heritage” planting of Clone 7 displays. If the blend of all three clones gives the best overall snapshot, Clone 7 alone represent the heart of the vineyard.
2007 Special Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Our 2007 Special Family Reserve represents the absolute finest fruit from Meteor Vineyard. Hand selected by the row and cluster from a rock strewn section planted to Clone 7 on Saint George rootstock, barrel aged in 100% new French oak for 22 months and then bottle aged for an additional 6 months prior to release, our 2007 Special Family Reserve is truly a wine for the ages.
“The 2007 Meteor Vineyard Special Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby blue in color with aromas of black plum, cassis and black cherries mingled with dark chocolate, clove and vanilla. The wine is simultaneously massive yet elegant, with beautiful oak integration and layered tannins ending in a long supple finish.“ Winemaker Dawnine Dyer
“While there is not much made, the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is an exceptional wine (100 cases produced from Clone 7). Aged 22 months in 100% new French oak, the wood component is completely concealed by the cascade of dense blackberry and cassis fruit intermixed with licorice, camphor and spice box.” 95+ Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
How to Purchase
3-packs of Meteor Vineyard Special Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon are available at $900 each starting April 13.
To make these wines a part of your cellar CLICK HERE. Or if you prefer a more personal touch, contact us by phone at 707.258.2900 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We anticipate shipping these wines late April 2011.
Meteor Vineyard’s Barry Schuler continues the conversation with Paul Mabray at Vintank.
Where else would you find a “think tank” about wine than Napa Valley (ok, perhaps Silicon Valley)? Paul Mabray is one of the few people whose whole existence is dedicated to exploring, envisioning and articulating the convergence of wine and technology. Who better to talk about that convergence with than Meteor Vineyard’s own internet historian and pioneer Barry Schuler? Stealing the kung foo term from Paul because I love it (yes the misspell is intentional).
The recent announcement by Robert Parker Jr. that he was relinquishing his long term tenure as the California critic for the Wine Advocate met with a barrage of commentary. Alder Yarrow of Vinography called it “ The End of an Era“,The New York Times critic Eric Asimov, in his always carefully considered way, opined on the matter, as did W. Blake Gray, Jon Bonne and myriad others. Chat rooms have hundreds of comments ranging from the outlandish and accusatory to an iron clad defense of Parker influence on the overall quality of wine produced around the world.
Indisputable is the fact that Antonio Galloni will bring a different perspective, let alone palate, to the job. Will his work in Italy and now the Cote d’Or inform his reviews? This is the widespread question. From the acid, tannin and perfumed aromatics of Burgundy to the structured wines of Barolo and Barbaresco to the mineral driven wines of Champagne and Friuli – you have to imagine so.
Considering the style of our wines at Meteor Vineyard, we have been greatly pleased by the scores and written commentary posted by RP on our wines. In fact, in a certain twisted logic, the 92-95+ range represents a tremendous compliment. As a longtime sommelier we often joke(d) among ourselves that wines that receive 100 points from the Wine Advocate share a monumental intensity and richness that borders on caricature. Shed several point and some of the baby fat and you start to find a mother lode of wines with more balance and elegance, typicity and terroir.
Perhaps the new “perfect scores” from California will be less about caricature and more about site and balance. Only time will tell. In the meantime, while winery owners and winemakers scratch their heads about the direction to take their wines, some of which are already in barrel or bottle – we know that we are doing just what we have always done; producing balanced, structured wines of place, that capture the temperate climate of Coombsville, the unique soil structure of Meteor Vineyard and a combined winemaking legacy of a combined 70 years…
In the meantime, I think Alder’s phrase is apt. Whether or not you agree with his palate, Robert Parker has been one of the most important figures in the history of the wine business. Criticism, be it about Picasso or Bach, the Met’s performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle or Malcom Gladwell’s most recent musings are always the perspective of the critic. You need not agree with Michiko Kakutani’s review of “Freedom” or Tony Judt’s view of European history post WWII. Part of the intrigue about criticism is the debate itself. Nowhere is this more true than in the world of wine.