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…
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)
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.
Our celebrity obsessed culture has fueled many trends in recent years, from reality television shows where people name their abdominals (how did “Snooki” make it into the NYT this past Sunday????) to chefs whose stain free jackets attest to careful preening rather than frenetic cooking. In the world of fine wine we have seen the incredible growth of winemakers whose names are seemingly more important than the wine they are producing. Some of this is justified, yet the readily recognizable names are only the beginning. Many of the best wines in the world are produced by winemakers you have never heard of – (even if their name is on the label)…
Here are 4 of my favorites;
I posted a first pass of this on facebook and twitter and thought it worth listing a number of others that I left off the “list”; Karen Culler, Celia Welsch, Kathy Corison, Wells Guthrie, Pam Starr, Amy Aiken, Ken Bernards.
Nathan Halverson’s article in the Press Democrat on Tuesday gave voice to a concern and conversation raging around Northern California. Cool temperatures and late rains into the spring already delayed bud break in many vineyards and the continued moderate mid day highs are doing little to help the vines catch up. For delicate skinned grapes like Pinot Noir, there is the grave fear of mold if the grape are still hanging when the fall rains begin. The same is true of Chardonnay where even a few spores of botrytis can multiply beyond control, in some cases inside the cluster where it is not even readily visible. These are concerns for Cabernet Sauvignon producers as well, though the thick skins make them less susceptible. The biggest concern is ripeness – bringing the tannins and fruit into balance before the suns arc lies too low on the horizon, or the incessant rains force people to get the fruit off the vines.
I noted a tweet earlier in the week of verasion in merlot at Frediani Vineyard just east of Calisotga, but Cabernet producers up and down the valley are scratching their heads and laying out plans for diligent and aggresive vineyard management.
As luck would have it, I spotted Meteor Vineyard manager Mike Wolf strolling around block 3 this morning – a perfect opportunity to get his thoughts. His decade long history of vineyard management in Napa Valley entails myriad scenarios, and he is quick to point out that every season has its peculiarities and unique circumstances.
“I have heard several people already compare 2010 to 1998, which was one of the most maligned and misunderstood vintages of the last 20 years.” Indeed, in retrospect, many of the wines from the 1998 vintage are fascinating expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon with vibrant acids and tannins allowing for graceful aging.
Perhaps his most telling comment was one of process.
“We may have to get a little Draconian.”
And here lies the essence. It is vintages like 1998 that separate out the great producers from the middling. Tough decisions are made and implemented. Anyone can make a great wine in a vintage like 2007 (I was going to say 97 but then thought of all of the pruny and overripe wines where there really was need of intervention) – who will stand out in a vintage like 2010?
The vineyard team is making its first green harvest pass now, and I expect to see several more as the months wear on…
As Meteor’s streak the skies, the viewing points are many. This weekend look for us in 3 cities at once; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii and Seattle, Washington.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
We are excited to partner with Ackerman Family Vineyard for this years Jackson Hole Wine Auction.
Highlights from lot #30, “A Tale of Two Vineyards: Undiscovered Coombsville”, include a 4 nights stay for 2 people beginning on a Thursday and Friday evening at Ackerman Vineyard and proceeding to Meteor Vineyard’s vineyard guesthouse for Saturday and Sunday.
When you arrive on Thursday afternoon, you will be welcomed into the private carriage house nestled in the midst of Ackerman’s 16 acre organic vineyard; the true essence of simple, yet sophisticated Napa Valley. Once settled in, a delicious dinner for two awaits you at a local restaurant of your choice (Cole’s Chop House and Ubuntu are just two recommendations). On Friday, the day is yours to explore the numerous wineries in the valley, with Lauren Ackerman acting as your winery concierge.
Friday evening, Bob and Lauren Ackerman will join you for dinner at the Chef’s Table at La Toque Restaurant, where Chef Ken Frank will work his culinary magic on a special menu selected by your hosts. Accompanying this delectable meal will be a variety of the Ackerman’s favorite wines, including, of course, a vintage (or two or three) of their own Ackerman Family wines!
Saturday morning, make the short, one-mile commute to Meteor Vineyard. Spend the next two days among lush vines, enjoy a farm fresh breakfast, massages and wine and cheese pairings featuring local cheeses and charcuterie. One evening, join Barry Schuler (former CEO of AOL Time Warner and culinary wizard) for a spectacular dinner featuring his culinary creations from the property. Meteor Vineyard wines will be flowing and a few raids on the cellar are inevitable!
Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii
It’s tough to imagine a more beautiful place for a wine and food festival than the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. Now in it’s 28th year, the Kapalua Wine and Food Festival features top sommeliers from around the U.S., exquisite wines from around the world and some of the most exciting chefs from the Hawaiian islands. Winemakers Bill and Dawnine Dyer will be on hand throughout the weekend so make sure you stop by to say hello!
The “hot ticket” in Seattle this weekend is the 5th annual Triple Sip wine and music festival hosted by the team at Wild Ginger. 47 of the top wineries from around the world will be featured alongside the spectacular food of Wild Ginger chef Nathan Uy and music by Man or Astro-man?.
From Diamond Mountain to Coombsville (and everything in between)
Bidding Live Now!
Since 1981, members of the Napa Valley Vintners and the Napa Valley community have rallied together to offer, each June, an experience unlike any other. What started as a small event has grown into one of the world’s most renowned wine auctions—with more than 350 wineries and 550 community volunteers now taking par—yet remains true to its goal of raising funds for healthcare, housing and youth services non-profits: Auction Napa Valley has given $90 million in proceeds to date.
For this years 30th Anniversary of Auction Napa Valley, Meteor Vineyard has joined forces with Winemaker/Partners Bill and Dawnine Dyer to put together this exclusive package.
Based on a personal interview, we will delve into the breadth of Napa Valley to create your perfect day, a unique experience different from anything else in the valley. What we DO know is that you will start your day at Dyer Vineyard on Diamond Mountain and end the day at Meteor Vineyard in Coombsville, touring the vineyards, tasting the recent releases (and some barrel samples) and experiencing some of the best food Napa has to offer.
In between, anything and everything is possible.
Love the outdoors? Start the morning with a hike along the ridgelines of Mount St. Helena peering south along one of the most exquisite valleys on earth. Prefer to explore the architectural diversity of the Napa Valley? We can arrange that as well (in fact, both properties are interested in alternative building materials and are composed of rammed earth). Gardens and native plantings more your speed? We’ve got you covered. Tell us what you most long to learn or experience about the Napa Valley and we will use our combined experience and expertise to show you the hidden secrets and best vantage points.
Note: Transportation and overnight accommodations not included. Time to be mutually agreed upon. Expires June 2011.
This lot is for 2 couples (or four people) and includes;
6 bottles of wine per couple as described below
Tour and Tasting at Meteor Vineyard And Dyer Vineyard
Lunch at Dyer Vineyard
Dinner “around town” in new culinary Napa
A Personalized Itinerary for the day
Wines from Meteor Vineyard (1 bottle each per couple)
2 bottles 2005 Meteor Vineyard Estate Etched 1.5L Cabernet Sauvignon
2 bottles 2006 Meteor Vineyard Estate Etched 1.5L Cabernet Sauvignon
2 bottles 2007 Meteor Vineyard Special Family Reserve 750ml
Wines from Dyer Vineyard (1 bottle each per couple)
2 bottles 1997 Dyer Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 750ml
2 bottles 2001 Dyer Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1.5L
2 bottles 2006 Dyer Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1.5L
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.
Coombsville’s unique placement offers the elements for perfect cabernet.
The Coombsville region’s eponymous name comes from a Napa founding father, Nathan Coombs, whose historic land holdings in the city’s southeastern neighborhood have led to common usage of his name for the area. Winegrowers are unified in their recognition of the unique geographical characteristics of this region. The soils are a mélange resulting from various geological events. They include volcanic debris and lava flows from the ancient eruption of Mt. George, distinct from the alluvial soils along the Napa River. Other parent materials are derived from marine sediments and stream deposition of cobbled rock. Through uplifting, weathering, and faulting a mix of well-drained and mineral rich soil has developed throughout and is characteristic of the district.
Cabernet Sauvignon requires warm soils to properly ripen, and Coombsville’s well drained volcanic soils soak up the summer’s heat. Equally important is the area’s distinct micro-climate, resulting from its topography and proximity to San Pablo Bay. The fog typically burns off here earlier than in Carneros to the south, ensuring ample heat and sunshine, but afternoon winds arrive earlier than in Stags Leap District to the north. The result is that summer days are warm, but the daily maximum temperature is of unusually short duration. This temperate profile provides an extended growing season, allowing the slow and even ripening so crucial to Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
To date fifteen AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) within the Napa Valley have received official recognition by the U.S. Treasury. This regulatory agency protects a wine production area’s integrity by enforcing varietal and wine growing criteria. It also controls that what’s on the label is what’s in the bottle. Coombsville’s legitimate claim to such status has been held up in a mire of political disputes, but there is renewed vigor among producers of the area banding together to push the proposal forward.
Meteor Vineyard’s location in the Coombsville region combines the area’s coastal influence and warm, well-draining volcanic cobble and soils. Those benefits, and Meteor’s 500-foot elevation help produce densely flavored, luscious fruit that is crafted into a perfect expression of the finest Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
“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.