April 2008 Archives
It's hard to believe that the Meritage Association is celebrating its 20th anniversary. For those of you who are either new to wine or unfamiliar with wine nomenclature, Meritage is the term used to describe wines blended in the classic Bordeaux tradition. It is an invented term combining the words merit and heritage and was selected by a group of vintners 20 years ago (my father being one of them) as a way of categorizing these wines in the U.S. You may wonder why we ever needed a name? Well, the government requires that anything made with less than 75% of a single varietal be called simply, TABLE WINE. Not the most glamorous of names and very restricting for winemakers who want to stretch the limits of blending. Many said it would never fly. But here we are 20 years later with over 200 members in the Meritage Association, and scores of others making Meritage blends under their own proprietary name. And while the term is not necessarily a household word, it is a widely accepted acronym for high quality handcrafted blends made from the traditional Bordeaux varieties.
In observance of the 20th anniversary, a number of us founding members staged a tasting spanning three decades for selected members of the wine media. It was an interesting assortment of wines, as well as producers. Dry Creek Vineyard, St. Supery, Cosentino, and Franciscan were represented as well as newcomer, Casa Nuestra. We all had one thing in common: the overall philosophy that wines blended from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, or Malbec (for a red blend) or Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Sauvignon Vert (for a white) can be combined to make an outstanding and memorable blend. Sound like a bunch of marketing mumbo jumbo? Wrong.
I had the oldest wine, pouring our first vintage, the 1985 Meritage. I also brought the 1994 vintage, as well as our newest blend, the 2004 Mariner.
The '94s were across the board, full of life and absolutely delicious. Every single one of them was complex and rich and proof that a great vintage combined with artful blending can be exquisite. I can't wait to try them again in another 10 years. My 1985 vintage was still elegant and supple with subtle tones of cherry, rose petal, and rosemary. It is going through the Porcelana stagestill beautiful but showing some age spots. So if you happen to have a bottle, I'd crack it open and toast the 20th anniversary of Meritage. The 2004 Mariner was a showstopper with years of aging potential ahead. No botox needed for this one!
Anyway, it was fun to participate and even more fun to meet the lively group of characters who attended. Check out Wall St. Journal writer, Julia Flynn Siler's blog at www.juliaflynnsiler.com/blog, to learn more about her impressions of this historic tasting.
|We have a Board of Directors meeting coming up in a few days. These are quarterly gatherings to evaluate the winery's state of the union under the leadership of Wilma and The Husband. The Big Daddy presides as Chairman and we have 4 non-family members who serve as directors. Each has a specific area of expertise from finance to vineyards, winemaking, etc. I always feel a bit vulnerable at these meetings even though our board is a terrific group and offers an abundance of support and wisdom to help us navigate this mothership. Nonetheless, it's kind of like putting yourself under a powerful microscope when a privately owned company puts together a formal board of directors. Ghosts don't stay hidden in the closet for long, that's for sure! Frankly it takes a lot of chutzpah and a lot of vintners are so full of themselves they just can't bear the thought. But this is exactly what I'd recommend to anyone working in a family business. It's really the best way to stay objective and professional as well as benefit from the experience and insights of people who care deeply about your business. Besides, board members generally see you in real life terms, not as the trouble maker kid who didn't eat her vegetables or the college drop out who didn't live up to mom and dad's expectations. (Neither of which applies in my case!)|
I'm expecting some peacock and wolf action (see blog post, The Dreaded Family Meeting) and have promised myself to take a deep breath and laugh if this occurs. Otherwise, I'm sure it will be business as usual a look at first quarter sales, a discussion of the 2008 budget, and an update on the overall direction of the company in this wacky world of wine. And, since it's an afternoon meeting, we might even finish with a glass of wine.
All in favor say I.
The other day my father and I drove through the Napa Valley together. We were headed to yet another wine industry financial conference for some pearls of wisdom. (It occurred to me that we could probably write the book on the subject ourselves!)
I really can't recall the last time we were in the car together in Napa
it had to be years. As we meandered along Hwy. 29, awestruck by the beautiful mustard that colored the vine rows, Dad would occasionally point to properties that he had looked at buying all those years ago. One was near the old Ehlers Lane Winery, just before Charles Krug Winery. Another was at the southern end of the valley, just before the town of Yountville. It had some gnarly old vines and a beautiful Victorian home. I looked at that place, but didn't want to be 50 ft. off the highway. Figured that someday if the place ever got discovered, it might become a problem" Dad remarked. I then asked him what it cost back then. Gee, I don't know, it just seemed awfully expensive. Probably $3500-$4500 an acre. We both chuckled.
It made me wonder how things would have been different had we started up over there. What would we be known for? What would it have been like to grow up in the Napa Valley? How would our wines be perceived today? One thing's for sure, we probably would be charging 3 times the price. And, while it's sad but true we probably wouldn't be going to wine industry financial symposiums for pearls of advice.
Hiatus: h?-'?-tes, n, an interruption in time or continuity; a period when something (as in a program or activity) is suspended or interrupted.
Just the thing that Wilma needs to keep on bloggin! Yep, that's right folks; I'm taking a bit of a break. It's time to rest the tired fingers, quiet the mind, and turn off the computer for some much needed R&R.
So this blog will go still until my return on Friday April 11.
That's all for now folks
This is a blog about what it's really like to be in the wine industry...so sit back, take a sip and enjoy!
A Lifetime in Wine
Top 10 Traits of the Successful Family Winery
The Dreaded Family Meeting
Board Meeting Jitters
Is the Future of the Winery in Danger?
The Case of the Overweight Bottle
Wine and Dementia
Wanted: Talented (Normal) Individual for Family Owned Winery
A Sea of Wine
The Heroes of Our Industry