Today we’re sipping Pinot Noir, which is one of my favorite varieties. Pinot Noir can be anything from weightless and etherial in the glass to medium bodied and brooding, which is part of the charm of this variety for me. These two expressions of Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, sent to us as tasting samples, are distinctly different.
Merry Edwards has been a trailblazer since she began her winemaking career in 1974 at Mount Eden Vineyards. She was one of very few women winemakers in California at the time and quickly developed an interest in the clonal expression of Pinot Noir. She developed a field selection of Pinot Noir that became UCD clone 37, also known as the “Merry Edwards selection”.
In 1977 Merry was hired to establish Matanzas Creek Winery. During this time she visited the University of Beaune, where she furthered her interest in the clonal differences of Pinot Noir. That interest extended to Chardonnay as well. She planted seven clones of Chardonnay at Matanzas Creek and experimented with individual clones in winemaking there. She names Dr. Harold Olmo at UC Davis and Joe Swan, a fellow Russian River Valley Pinot Noir specialist, as early mentors.
Merry purchased property in the Sebastopol Hills region of Russian River Valley in 1996. She planted her first vineyard, Meredith Vineyard, there in 1998, followed by her Coopersmith Vineyard in 2001, named for her husband Ken. The Russian River Valley is the region for California Pinot Noir in Merry’s mind. All of her estate vineyards and those she leases are in the region.
Merry Edwards is a name and winery that have become closely associated with single-vineyard Pinot Noir and the winery website currently lists several. In addition, there is outstanding Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
In February 2019 the sale of Merry Edwards Winery to Louis Roederer Champagne was announced. The sale included the brand and its inventory, the winery and tasting room in Sebastopol and six vineyards. I can’t help but wonder what Merry Edwards will be up to next, and what the next chapter of Merry Edwards Winery will entail.
2017 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast — translucent ruby in the glass with aromas of red and dark fruit along with earth and dried alfalfa. Dark cherry and blackberry flavors, cedar and dusty earth blend with dried herbs and gravelly minerality. Tannins are smooth is this barely medium bodied Pinot with a moderately long finish. 14.4% abv. SRP $48
This Pinot Noir is elegant and balanced. It is light on its feet but complex. I wouldn’t put it on the etherial end of the spectrum, but it’s leaning in that direction. It’s lovely sipping on its own. The winery’s suggested pairing, Filets de Sole Bonne Femme, sounds spot on to me.
Pinot Noir is sourced from six vineyard sites and includes Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777. Production is only 1700 cases.
2017 Merry Edwards Meredith Estate Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley — light ruby in the glass with aromas of red fruit, earth and berry bramble. Red fruit flavors of raspberry along with blackberry and nectarine are supported by gravelly minerality and dusty earth. The flavors are juicy with notable, but balanced, acidity and smooth, drying tannins. The body is medium and the finish medium in length. 14.5% abv. SRP $68
The Meredith Estate Pinot Noir is darker in color and a bit more weighty. It’s juicer, but also more dense and chewy than the Sonoma Coast Pinot. It’s still easy sipping on its own, but don’t hesitate to pair this wine with duck, pork or lamb. Only 1395 cases made.
Meredith Estate vineyard is planted on the former site of an apple orchard. Summer fog typically covers the vineyard, located in the southern edge of Russian River Valley, until midday during summer.
Here are the geeky details of this Pinot Noir planting:
- ACREAGE: 24 total; 20 planted
- EXPOSURE: South/southeast; 8-12% slope
- SOIL TYPE: Goldridge Sandy Loam
- YEAR PLANTED: 1998
- ROOTSTOCK: 10114 and Schwarzmann
- SCION WOOD CLONE: Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777; field selection: Joseph Swan Vineyard, UCD37 (isolated by Merry Edwards at Mount Eden Vineyard, aka the Merry Edwards selection)
- VINE SPACING: 5 x 8 feet; vertical trellis
- APPELLATION: Russian River Valley
And Merry Edwards Winery and estate vineyards are California Certified Sustainable. In Merry’s words, “We also wanted to support the vision of the California Wine Institute in its effort to bring our entire state industry under sustainable guidelines.”
One of our favorite pairings with Pinot Noir is homemade pizza — it’s kind of a high-low pairing, but it works for us. And I can’t think of a better way to use one of my last remaining precious packets of dried yeast. I hope the shelves of our local market are restocked soon.
I topped the yeasty dough with mozzarella, Copa, red onion and sliced Angel Sweet® tomatoes. I added a shake of red pepper flakes for interest. Oh my it was a delicious pairing. It has been ages since we’ve enjoyed a homemade pizza.