Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Merry Edwards and Tina Turner

To quote lyrics from the legendary Tina Turner, Merry Edwards… “You’re simply the best!”  Trailblazer, pioneer and innovator, her story epitomizes the determination and possibilities of the human spirit.  This is a celebrated narrative of enduring the gender prejudice of being one of the first woman winemakers, rising from the ashes of business setbacks, and with creativity, intellect and innovation, spearheading a path to quality in California.  I have never met Merry Edwards.  Yet, her wines reflect the unmistakable character of their maker’s journey.  They are firmly structured, lively, graceful, balanced, subtle, complex, and always luring you back to the glass. This is a heavenly sanctuary for Pinot Noir lovers.

Here is an enjoyable and educational wine estate to visit on your next trip to Sonoma.  Please call ahead for an appointment and you will likely be rewarded with a one-on-one, or one-on-small gathering, from a member of her knowledgeable and friendly staff.  I was fortunate to have Ron Hayes, a veteran of the vines.   You will not merely taste the wines, but will learn to know and understand them.  You will leave Merry Edwards with more than a buzz.  

The winery and tasting room resides outside Sebastopol in the Russian River Valley on the Coopersmith Vineyard, which was an apple orchard until Merry and her husband, Ken Coopersmith, acquired the property in 1999.  The inaugural bottling was in 2004.  This is a true Russian River Pinot Noir with a fuller body, medium acidity and red fruits—raspberry, cherry and red currants—with a smattering of cocoa. Its lush and velvety texture is delightful and comforting.  Somewhere there’s a plate of roasted duck smothered with a dried cherry, wine reduction sauce longing to marry a bottle of the Coopersmith.

The 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is composed of fruit from cooler sites, including Meredith Vineyard.   Bright, fresh and zesty melds nicely with a perfume of red fruits and blueberries.  This spicy fellow was my traveling companion to Laguna Beach for the holiday weekend where a grilled Copper River salmon joined us for dinner. 

Following the Burgundy way, Pinot Noir is usually bottled from designated vineyards.  There is something, however, to be said for the complexity from blending multiple locations.  The 2007 Russian River merges 20 small lots from seven different locations in Russian Valley.   Big, dark, ripe fruit intermingled with chocolate creates a charming richness and softness.  Where’s the barbeque?

The 2006 Meredith Vineyard in the southern and cooler Russian River Valley showcases blending five different Pinot Noir clones, while producing 15 different batches of wine.  This is the birth of complexity.  The raspberry is in harmony with the fresh acidity and firm structure. This is a wine for the cellar and will reward the patient.

The coolest site in the Merry Edwards’ empire is Tobias Glen and is usually the last to be harvested.  The 2006 is a concentrated gathering of black and blue fruit.   Here, the Merry Edwards magic is visible.  She began purchasing the fruit in 2003 and began revitalizing the vines with organic mushroom compost.  Today, the wine has an earthy richness and concentration that should cellar for the long term.

It’s often customary to pour a little treasure at the conclusion of a tasting.  In Burgundy, an older vintage can illustrate what a wine can become.  Most places, however, offer a late harvest, dessert nectar.   Never before have I been served a Sauvignon Blanc as the finale.  It’s usually first. The highly acclaimed Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc is no ordinary version of this popular varietal.  The 2006 was ranked 37th in Wine Spectator’s “Top 100 Wines of 2008.” James Laube of Wine Spectator wrote about the 2007, “… the greatest Sauvignon Blanc that I have ever had from anywhere.”  I’m not one to argue.  The 2008 model is a volcanic eruption of tropical fruit and blossoms—a masterful use of oak—no spit bucket needed.  

After all, with Merry Edwards, love’s GOT everything to do with it.

For more information or to make an appointment, you can call 888.388.9050 or explore www.merryedwards.com


Ben said...

Thanks for the wonderful review Bill, you have a great blog here!

Ben Miller
(Merry's son)

Bill Sanders said...

Thank you for your comment and even more so for your wines. Give my best wishes to your mom.