Winemakers are unified in their recognition of the unique nature of Coombsville.
Coombsville’s Coming of Age from HD Living Spring 2011
The HD Living website is a little tough to navigate so I thought I would post the entire article here.
At the southeast end of California’s world-renowned Napa Valley lies a lesser-known grape-growing region on the cusp of discovery. Called Coombsville, it is gaining notoriety because of the truly great wines it is producing. Sitting on a plateau under the imposing Mount George, Coombsville has a microclimate that features aunique combination of cool air, consistent temperatures, varied elevations and well-drained, mineral-rich soils. The wineries situated in this cool corner of Napa Valley are rapidly gaining recognition for producing some of the world’s best Cabernet Sauvignon.
What makes Coombsville wines so hot? In a word, balance; the fruit here turns out red wines that are very dark and intense in color with flavors of blackberries, black plums, mulberries, dried herbs and black olives. They at once couple textural smoothness and richness with vibrant acidities and fine-grained tannins, producing an exquisite and elegant wine.
Winemakers are unified in their recognition of the unique geographic characteristics of Coombsville and its ability to produce outstanding wine. Because of its proximity to San Pablo Bay, Coombsville’s climate is quite moderate, allowing the grapes here to ripen over a long period of time and thus producing very ripe fruit characteristics without the sugar and corresponding alcohol levels typical of other valley wines. The sloping, hilly terrain of the Coombsville region is made of well-drained, mineral-rich soils; a mélange of volcanic ash, cobbled rocks and lava flow from the ancient eruption of Mount George. This well-draining soil found throughout the area becomes “hot” during the summer, making it particularly suited to Cabernet Sauvignon, which needs warm soils to fully ripen.
Coombsville fell on the radar of wine passionates seemingly over-night, but its break through momentum is actually many years in the making. Like Yountville, Oakville and other popular wine regions before it, winemakers recognized the importance of this area long before consumers. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, before any-one outside the valley had heard of Coombsville, famed winemaker Randy Dunn sourced grapes from here, as did Joseph Phelps for its award-winning Insignia Wine. In recent years some other high-profile producers and wine-makers have been using Coombsville fruit for blends, including Andy Erickson for both his own Favia label as well as Arietta, Vineyard 29 and Lail Vineyards.
In the last 20 years, a handful of lesser-known wineries has emerged making single vineyard wines which are bringing greater visibility tot he region. Meteor Vineyard is perhaps the most unique among the wineries of Coombsville. Years ago when digging for wells it was discovered that the soil on the property contains small round volcanic rocks that go more than 500 feet deep. This particular vineyard characteristic provides enhanced drainage, forces the plant roots deep and has a pro-found impact on the wine. According to Meteor Vineyard Winemaker Dawnine Dyer, Meteor is the perfect expression of the uniqueness of Coombsville wines in how it blends modern and traditional wine characteristics. The result is intense, luscious fruit found in modern Napa wines, along with a unique minerality due to the volcanic stones, which provides a structural complexity found in traditional Bordeaux styles.
In addition to Meteor Vineyard, Coombsville is now home to some 20 wineries including Caldwell Vineyard, a wine lover’s jewel, with winemaking operations located within an excavated cave; and Palmaz Vineyards, where winemaking takes place within the living rock of Mount George in a maze of tunnels and lofty domes. Coombsville is pursuing AVA (American Viticulture Area) designation and is doubtless headed into future fame. Most wineries in the area offer private tastings, often with the wineries’ winemakers themselves. Visitors to the area should contact wineries directly for tours and tastings.
Suggested Coombsville-Area Attractions
Oxbow Public Market:
Thisvibrant market features dozens of spe-cialty merchants and vendors with awide range of artisanal food and wine.Visit www.oxbowpublicmarket.com
for events and details.
Masahara Morimoto – known to millions asthe star of Iron Chef and Iron ChefAmerica,recently opened his first West Coast Restaurant in Napa’s new downtown riverfront development. Reservations essential; For more information visit www.morimotonapa.com
Tasting byappointment. Call 707-258-2900 or email email@example.com to schedule an appointment and tour.
Back Room Wines:
For eclectic, small production wines from NapaValley. First & Main Streets, DowntownNapa; go to http://www.backroomwines.com/.
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…
This past Saturday saw 2 Napa Valley chefs go head to head at the Blue Oak Schools “Battle of the Chefs” – a fundraiser for the school (co-founded by Meteor Vineyard owners Barry and Tracy Schuler).
Barry, decked out in blue Converse and purple tie, served as the host and MC for the vent, gently and hilariously prodding the two chefs along as they cooked in front of a sold out crowd at the Napa Valley Culinary Institute of America. The setup was classic “Top Chef” with secret ingredients, a panel of judges (including Jardiniere Wine Director Eugenio Jardim and the ever rowdy Lee Hudson) and a limited amount of time to produce the best possible dish.
Marcy Gordon of Come for the Wine covered it live via twitter and posted this recap and Christy Bors from the Napa Patch covered it here.
Look for a full video soon……
Yes BACON. Wondering why American’s are phat on pork belly? Find out here.
Meteor Vineyard Top 10 of 2010
Working with an estate vineyard requires an intimate understanding of the land. With each harvest our knowledge of the Meteor Vineyard has grown. We are more in tune to the vineyard’s potential and closer to the ultimate “blending in the vineyard”than in our earliest years when only half of the wine we made ended up in the bottle. In this, our third vintage, we believe we have achieved a balance that expresses the full depth and breadth of Meteor Vineyard – and at a more accessible price! Read more here.
2. Chef Stuart Brioza slew our dinner guests for Auction Napa Valley with, you guessed it, pork. We ferreted snacks upstairs to an ill BS.
3. Winemakers/partners Bill and Dawnine Dyer descended on the Sun Valley Wine Auction (and an exclusive dinner with Theresa Heintz Kerry) and fished more hours than they poured.
There are many incredible wine auctions that take place across the US; Naples, Jackson Hole, Napa Valley et. al – but Sun Valley is one of our favorites. This year we were invited to pour at one of the most sought after dinners of the weekend. We thought is would be fun to pull some 2005 Meteor Vineyard Special Family Reserve from the cellar. It was a knockout.
4. The ever EPIC Pebble Beach Food and Wine became even more awesome after we snuck into the Sunday am Krug vertical tasting (also loved that we were THE talked about winery of the Grand Tasting).
I have worked this event for over a decade (including, obviously, its former incarnation as the Masters of Food and Wine) and STILL marvel at the incredible collection of wineries from around the world and “celebrity” chefs that make an appearance. From a vertical of BOND, to a horizontal exploration of the 1961 vintage in Bordeaux, from Krug Clos de Mesnil to Thomas Keller leading a cooking demo – it is ALL happening at this event.
5. Kapalua Food and Wine – It’s a food and wine event on Maui for heavens sake. Drink, sunbathe, heat stroke, hydrate then head back into the tasting tent for more wine.
The best part of this event, aside from the obvious, was being included as a featured wine at the seafood extravaganza. The natural balance of Meteor Vineyard makes our wines a perfect pairing for a range of dishes. Great to get that nod and recognition for the team of Master Sommeliers who plan the wines for the event!
6. Jackson Hole Wine Auction – Can’t they hold this event in the winter when there is snow on the ground?
Not complaining of course. Like Sun Valley, this is an event that pairs a pristine natural setting with support of the arts and some of the best food and wine personalities from around the world. For this event we coupled with our friends from Ackerman Vineyard to put together and exquisite weekend exploring the “new Napa” and the wine of Coombsville.
7. Well, Wikileaks we are not, but ‘ Insider‘ information was revealed.
Call it what you will; blog, news, rantings – this addition to our website features photos, video (and soon interviews) that follow the world of wine and the happenings at Meteor Vineyard. You can also follow us on Twitter.
8. Beating the Weather – A madcap decision to have patience led to near perfect fruit. Of course, looking at perfect clusters litter the ground is never easy.
Three things come to the forefront in a vintage like 2010 – experience, patience and perseverence. Mike Wolf 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 weather.com 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 us harvesting near perfect fruit from an already notoriously “challenging” vintage.
9. Coombsville is Coolsville – No longer our little secret. From the NYT Magazine to JustLuxe, from Cork Diaries to Kiwi Collection – everyone is talking about it.
When word spread that Morimoto was looking at the Napa Riverfront development as a potential home for a new restaurant, many wondered at the validity of the story and the wisdom of the move. He was only the first of several. Tyler Florence signed on for a space, the Lark Creek did the same and many other top flight venues began springing up around town (Oenotri, La Toque and the ever evolving Oxbow market are also gems).
The revolution taking place in the town of Napa was years behind the explosion of winemaker interest in the vineyard lying due east of town. Wineries like Caldwell and Palmaz led the way, followed by newer producers like Sodaro, Porter Family and, of course, Meteor Vineyard taking the area to a whole new level.
10. Refinement – A long abused term got appropriated and re-purposed. The OED can now reprint the definition digitally. Thanks Saveur!
Our own holiday gift came from Robert Parker at The Wine Advocate whose recent review noted that “The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Perseid (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) exhibits abundant aromas of crushed rock, charcoal, creme de cassis and subtle smoke in a ripe, full-bodied, exuberant style with terrific intensity, texture and concentration. There is not a hard edge to be found in this pure, dramatic Cabernet. It should drink well for 15 or more years.” Thanks!
If you are interested in acquiring our stellar Meteor Meteor Vineyard Perseid 2007 release click here.
Happy Holidays and a Merry New Year from The Meteor Vineyard Crew
David Rosengarten’s recent article in Saveur, ‘The Evolution of Cabernet’ explores the changes in style that accompanied the spread of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Napa Valley and beyond. One word struck a chord; refinement.
That the style of wines produced in Napa has transformed over the years is clear. Those lucky enough to taste the great wines of the post prohibition years from Beaulieu and Ingelnook marveled at their balance and finesse (and those lucky enough to taste the wines now, 50-60 years on, still marvel at the same thing). Some of this elegance can be attributed to a more intuitive process of production; when the grapes tasted good you harvested, there was no triple sorting, de-stemming, multilevel toast barrel aging. Perhaps it was a more honest approach, devoid of scientific introspection and the debates and pressures of scores and global palates.
Several years ago I was at a lunch with a longtime Napa Valley winemaker who explained the trajectory of his own winery. He recounted that in the 1970’s the harvest included everything in the vineyard – green berries, sunburned berries, ALL berries – followed not by destemming and cold soak but with whole cluster fermentation followed by barrel aging. And we wonder why the wines of the 70’s seemed impenetrable until the late 90’s (some seems so even today). In the 1980’s advancements in vineyard management and research in ripeness led to some dramatic changes in the vineyard with green harvesting becoming the norm and destemming a part of the production process. The wines, though still structured, were rounded out along the edges, more supple and approachable. Phyloxera in the late 80’s provided the opportunity to look closely at the clones and rootstocks in the vineyard. Like many in the valley, he chose some of the new clones coming out of UC Davis, with a focus on ripe fruit character, smaller berries and intense fruit. The regimen of new wood used in the production was increased and the wines became fleshy and ripe, fruit driven in style.
All of this was presented as a logical process of evolution and at the time, many wine producers in Napa Valley could not see beyond the “valley palate” where this move towards ripeness was intricately tied to trying to create the types of wines that critics were writing about and recommending. The early wines of Bryant Family, Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate came to exemplify this style and their tremendous success ushered in a decade of copycat wines that searched out a formula to replicate the style. This is not solely a Napa reality – a tasting of recent Bordeaux
What was lost in the process, at least in my opinion is the elegance, the balance, the refinement.
As Rosengarten notes, these wines of refinement still exist. Meteor Vineyard, Corison, Dyer, VonStrasser. I anticipate seeing more wines produced in the style in the very near future (and NOT just due to the cooler weather in 2010).