Patrick Comiskey’s Los Angeles Times article “What Sommelier Will Bring to Holiday Parties” has me thinking about the sheer volume of holiday wine banter that is pitched around during this time of year. This is no criticism of Patrick, in fact, looking at it through the eyes of sommeliers offers some great suggestions. Sommeliers want to drink great wine EVERYDAY and the holidays are no different.
My underlying mantra is “great wine and great food always go together”. Simple. Are Muscadet and oysters going to be a more seamless match than Chateauneuf du Pape and oysters? Yes. But geeking out about it and pontificating to family members who already secretly whisper about your inability to speak of anything other than the ridiculous notion of the term “Super-Tuscan” is only validating your sense of personal superiority while eroding the confidence of your friends and family. Matt Kramer, the long outspoken critic at the Oregonian and Wine Spectator recently posted an article titled “Divorcing Wine and Food” that looks at the historical notions of “pairing” versus the real (or imagined) boundaries that separate Burgundy from Bordeaux, Barolo from Barbaresco, Napa from Sonoma.
That said, there are a couple of wines I seek during the holidays;
1. German Riesling – For a nation devoted to soft drinks and corn syrup in every manufactured product, the natural sugar found in Qmp riesling from the Mosel and Rheingau holds immediate interest. This is not your aunts Liebrfraumlich or uncle Bill’s Blue Nun – these are wines of nearly impossible balance between searing acidity and a touch of residual sugar. “Fruity”, as the marketing peeps have spun it.
2. Champagne – Let’s get this out of the way first thing – Champagne comes from the REGION CHAMPAGNE. The notion of Korbel still putting the term Champagne of their labels keeps me up at night. The sheer volume of interesting grower producers whose wines find their way to the States makes shopping for these wines a joy. Stick to bottles labeled Terry Theise Selections or Becky Wasserman Selections and you are in for a treat.
3. Pinot Noir – Sonoma Coast, New Zealand, Burgundy, Alsace; the grape is planted and producing exquisite wines the world over. Is there severe overplanting as myriad growers have jumped on the bandwagon of consumer interest to convert their alfalfa field in Wisconsin to Pinot Noir – yes; however, there are so many incredible wines to be found that you will quickly be overwhelmed by the cases arriving in your cellar. Check out Cobb, Hirsh, Peay and Lioco from California; de Montille, Frederic Mugnier and Domaine Dujac from Burgundy; August Kessler from the Rheignau.
4. Spain – Ok, it’s broad and encompasses an entire country, but the Spaniards spent all of their leveraged credit somewhere and one of those places was in viticulture. From the classic regions of Ribera de Duero, Rioja and Priorat (can we call Priorat classic now?) to the EXPLOSION of interest in Toro and Somantono – there are incredible, accessible and fruit driven wines to be found throughout the country that are perfect for the melange of holiday spices and flavors.
5. Napa Valley – The caricature of Napa Valley wines as monolithic and predictable is being challenged. Long time winemakers like Bill and Dawnine Dyer, Cathy Corison and Heidi Peterson Barrett (note that 3/4 of them are women and this does not include Mia Klein, Celia Welsch, Rosemary Cakebread et al.) are continuing to focus on elegance over power, site over style. In a word; refinement ( check my recent article on refinement here).
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
In celebration of the 2010 harvest and the release of our 2007 Meteor Vineyard Perseid we recently invited a small group of Coombsville neighbors and Meteor Vineyard fans for an afternoon of delicious food from Melissa Hernandez (Check this cool article about her and Michael Pollan in the New York Times), Meteor Vineyard wines and a selection of some of the best wines from the Coombsville area.
Wine writer Marcy Gordon captures it perfectly in this recent post. Check it!
On a clear night in late August you’re likely to see one of nature’s most exciting astral spectacles: the Perseid’s Meteor Shower. An average of 10 meteors per minute dart across the horizon creating an amazing lightshow. There is no better time to make a wish. The single wish we have always held at Meteor Vineyard is to produce some of the most singular Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley.
The tremendous success of our first two vintages was a fulfillment of that wish. Yet, despite finding our wines offered in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country and in the personal wine collections of passionate oenophiles around the world, we were driven by a new wish – to allow more people to taste the wines from our unique corner of Napa Valley.
With our 2006 vintage, we embarked on a “stealth” project to produce a wine that lived up to the quality standards of Meteor Vineyard at a more approachable price point. With our 2007 vintage release, we are excited to offer you our Meteor Vineyard “Perseid” Cabernet Sauvignon. How did we do it?
The Magnificent 2007 Vintage
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.
Much has been written about the 2007 vintage in Napa Valley. Many have heralded the 2007 vintage as a triumph of nature and the vintage of the decade. The praise is well warranted with Cabernet Sauvignon from throughout the valley producing wines of power and intensity, with ripe fruit and fine-grained tannins. This was certainly true at Meteor Vineyard. Unlike 2006’s challenging weather and endless sorting, the ideal growing conditions allowed nearly every berry to reach perfection.
In 2007, warm spring temperatures led to early bud break with very little rainfall. The summer remained mild with few of the heat spikes typically 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.
We began tasting through the barrels in early fall. It was immediately clear that the Special Family Reserve would focus exclusively on our heritage planting of clone 7 on Saint George rootstock. Four barrels stood above the rest and were set aside for the Special Family Reserve (we will release this in spring 2011).
Simultaneously the economy was in steady decline and it became clear that recovery would be slow. For us, this was a strategic alignment of the moon and stars. It validated our instincts. The timeliness of creating quality wine at an accessible price point became evident and we are now proud to introduce Meteor Vineyard Perseid.
2007 Meteor Vineyard Perseid Cabernet Sauvignon
Perseid: \ˈpər-sē-əd\ 1: The Perseids are our most impressive meteor shower named for the constellation Perseus from which it appears to radiate. 2: Distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon that marries the elements of Meteor Vineyard’s clonally diverse plantings in one singularly expressive wine.
Our 2007 Perseid is deeply colored with a vibrant hue leading towards ruby red violet rim. On the nose, aromas of plum, fresh blackberries and black cherry compote mingle with sandalwood, sweet tobacco and bittersweet chocolate. The palate is rich and supple with firm assertive tannins and a complex mineral driven finish. The wine was aged in 65% new French oak for 22 months.
3-packs Meteor Vineyard Perseid Cabernet Sauvignon $375 each
Wines may be purchased online by clicking here, by phone at 707.258.2900 or via email at email@example.com. We anticipate shipping these wines the second week of November 2010.
If you would like to order more wine please let us know. If quantities allow we will do our best to fulfill your order!
Happy Stargazing from the Meteor Vineyard Team!
Barry and Tracy Schuler, Dawnine and Bill Dyer, Mike Wolf and Jason Alexander
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 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 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?
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 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 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?
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.
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.