Tom Simoneau has brought his friend Peter Merriam and his son Evan, of Merriam Vineyards. They are both from Maine. Tom’s brother and Peter were best friends. In the early 90s, he became interested in purchasing a vineyard. In 2000 Tom had a friend who was selling Windacre Ranch which he bought. He also has Merriam Vineyards now.
But first, Mike Martini from Taft Street Winery is also here, staying over from the last segment. 14 days ago he brought freshly pressed Chardonnay juice, not fermented yet. Today, he has a sample of the same juice that has fermented for 10 days. It is about 3/4 of the way through the fermentation process. This will be bottled and ready for sale by next July. The next step will be after blending with some stainless steel-made Chardonnay and malolactic fermentation, in a few more weeks.
Evan says he likes getting his hands dirty making wine. William Weese, their winemaker, is too busy right now to come to the show.
Many people this year say that the quality of this vintage is very good although the volume seems less, generally. Tom had only 6 heat spikes, and there were 13 over 100 degrees last year.
Peter drank a good bottle of Burgundy wine back in the late 70s with Evan’s godfather. Then he ran a “package store” back east for 20 years, while visiting Tom every year since 1982. Long story short, he eventually acquired a property then another. His first vintage was 2000, 12 acres of Merlot. 18 months in oak and 18 more in bottle, before release. Then Sideways came out (…) These are 2 double golds, both Merlots.
There were 58,000 acres, up from 7,000 acres a few years earlier. Too many vineyards of Merlot were in the wrong places. Today’s Merlots however have recovered from that and the new ones are quite good now.
They are tasting their Undisclosed Chardonnay, which came from a fine Russian River Valley vineyard whose true name is a professional secret. But it’s excellent. They are tasting the 2019, their second of these bottlings.
This Chardonnay is about 30% new oak. Tom Simoneau gets tangerine, Dan Berger gets Orange Peel. Dan says the best part of Russian River Valley is that it gives good acidity, and the best way to make wine is not to have to adjust it.
The new Merriam label (right) is the work of Evan, who wanted to feature the unique terroir of the Russian River Valley on the label design.
William Weese is their winemaker, who couldn’t come in today because they are in the middle of harvest and he is too busy. As a winemaker he has been a consultant for a few brands as well as their full time winemaker and vineyard manager. He went to Chico State for Agricultural Business and he has gaines his wine industry experience through travel in the Southern Hemisphere and Europe. Merriam Vineyards has won three double golds at Harvest Fair this year, and Tom Simoneau won four. Not bad for two guys from Maine!
Then they taste a Rosé of Pinot Noir, a double gold medal winner. It comes from where their winery and tasting room is, on Los Amigos Road. Peter describes how it is made, stainless steel and neutral oak barrels. It was picked to be Rosé, rather than “saigner” method. This is picked at lower sugar and higher acid.
“I focus on the details at a very slow speed.” So says Peter, on their website.
Peter describes how their whole family works in the winery, including his daughter who is in charge of the lab and also does everything else in the winery. Dan Berger explains that the lab helps winemakers make decisions between “the field and the house.” They are on Los Amigos Road between Windsor and Healdsburg. Their last wine tasted is a Merlot. Dan says it’s the wine you want for a lean piece of meat. Tom explains that a New York Strip would be better with a Cab. Then another Merlot and the inevitable reiteration of the Sideways effect.