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
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…
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.
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!
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?.