On my travels through the winelands of Northern California last week, I had the opportunity to visit the winery owned and operated by Merry Edwards. You can read all about the history of Merry and her winery on the website, but the short of it is that Merry began making wines in California in the early 1970s and has made a significant impact on California wines (especially Chardonnay and particularly Pinot Noir) ever since. Her winery in Sonoma (located near Sebastopol) is not a fanciful construct to her ego, rather it is a functional, clean and well appointed machine. The focus is to make wines with technology, but technology that allows for minimal intervention, thus making wines of pure flavor and classic styling.
My tour and tasting was led by Leslie Coopersmith, Ken's daughter. The tour took all of about 10 minutes as the winery is quite small, I have seen a lot of steel tanks and wood barrels, so we proceeded directly to the tasting in private room upstairs away from the common riff-raff (that was a joke).
We started with the Pinots - there are nine (I tasted six)- then the Sauvignon Blanc. Merry also makes a chardonnay (only once every 3-4 years though) and a sparkling wine (once every seven years). (That's what I said. I guess since it takes a longer time to make, age, drink or sell she only needs to make it every seven years.)
Quick note on vintages: (by Leslie's account) 06 is a good food wine vintage (it was a longer, cool season), more acidic and tannic and with great structure; 07 best growing season in many years, more approachable and fruit forward.
I started with the Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, 2007 - this wine is a blend of eleven lots - the website says it is primarily from the Bella Sonoma Vineyard, located in the Petaluma Gap, and Leslie indicated that there was significant fruit from the Meredith Estate Vineyard, as well as several other sources in southern Sonoma. I enjoyed this wine very much, in fact I liked it immediate appeal probably the best of the bunch - this makes sense as this is the "entry" wine for the M.E. wines. Great acidity, fresh fruit, tangy and spicy. 3500 cases produced.
Next was the Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, 2007 - blended from 20 lots from seven different vineyards including the San Chetti (sp?) vineyard. I found this wine to be one of my favorites; to me it had the complete package of a Russian River wine - sweet fat fruits, supple mouth feel that is smooth and broad on the palate, great acidity and length. A bit better priced than the single vineyards - I think this is the wine to buy for drinking. 3500 cases produced.
Next we switched to the 2006 single vineyard wines.
Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Flax Vineyard, 2006 - Flax is located along Westside Road in the northern part of the Russian River Valley AVA, it is a hillside vineyard planted exclusively to Pommard clones. On the website, Merry says that she only uses two French cooperages' barrels to age this wine in. I found it to be quite floral and aromatic with a softer texture, dusty tannins, good grip and overall a quite pleasant wine. One of my favorites. 450 cases produced.
Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Meredith Vineyard, 2006 - this is Merry's vineyard planted in 1996 in the southern part of the Russian River Valley AVA. The 06 is a blend of lots of primarily Pommard clones. I found the wine to be a bit more acidic and tannic than the others - it was very broad and juicy, though, with great balance and length. It has full flavors with some earthy or dusty notes as well. 1200 cases made.
Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Tobias Glenn Vineyard, 2006 - this is a very cool climate vineyard in Forestville and it is planted to Dijon clones. I found bright cherry aromas along with a core of minerality, spicy on the palate with blackberry over-tones. Good grip. Iodine, ink, minerals. 400 cases produced.
Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Olivet Lane Vineyard, 2007 - this comes from an older (1970s) vineyard planted just west of Santa Rosa, planted to Martini clone. This is one of the winery's favorites (Leslie) vineyards to work with as it is unique and stands out - actually each wine is unique and stands apart from the others. I found rhubarb and earth on the nose with juicy fruit and young wood on the palate. The finish was a bit muted probably because this wine is so young - give it 8 months to a year and it will open up quite well. 450 case produced.
Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley, 2008 - it looks like (from the website) that this wine is blended from about five different vineyards from around the same general area (Sebastopol, Occidental and Santa Rosa), but with a definite emphasis on the Sauvignon Musque clone. The 2007 note indicate that the wine was made from an older S. Musque clone than the one typically found in younger vineyards - I'll have to follow up on that. In any event the wine was lovely. Loaded with melons and citrus with a touch of mineral and chalk, it is clean and fresh, but with some good mouth-feel, which I would attribute to the barrels ferment and lees contact (18% new, 6 mos). About 6000 cases produced in 2008.
All-in-all, I enjoyed the visit to Merry Edwards winery. It was relatively quick, but quite educational. I will be meeting Merry and Ken next week (July 8th) for lunch and will retaste a number of these wines at that point. I will also get to some of the more specific questions, hopefully. Very little of the wine is generally available, but the current releases have just arrived in CT, so help yourself.