Blackberry compote with mint leaves, red dirt, dusty stone, cloves and eucalyptus. A playful and high volume mid-palate slides away with elegant length.
Vineyard and Winemaker’s Notes
The follow up to our fantastic quick-to-sell-out 2011 DCV Syrah, this Syrah from the same vineyard, is another special occasion wine. Produced from a vineyard high atop the mountains west of Dry Creek Valley, this is a bold red that will improve with age.
Ryan Petersen farms this incredible vineyard at approximately 650 ft elevation on the west side of Dry Creek Valley. The vineyard saddles a hilltop with an east-facing concavity, with the majority of the north and northeastern exposure planted to Syrah. The location of this vineyard results in interesting climate dynamics: this vineyard sits above the fog in Dry Creek, yet also cools off earlier and more quickly than most of the valley. It has particularly high diurnal variation, which we believe allows Syrah to be both structure oriented and expressive of ripe fruit.
Our technique for Rhone variety fermentation revolves around core concepts of bright fruit, balanced structure, and varietal integrity. We T-Bin ferment this wine to build complexity through yeast variety and to allow extra punchdowns if necessary. We’re careful not to pull too much tannin from this vineyard or else we lose some of the juicy character from the nose.
Vintage: 2012, 2013, 2014
Varietal: 100% Syrah
Appellation: 100% Dry Creek Valley, 100% Sonoma County
2012: 23 months in mixed once-used and neutral French and American oak
20123/2014: 24 months in mixed once-used and neutral French and American oak
Gold Medal, 2013/2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
Charles and Molly Meeker bought their first vineyard in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley in 1977, and thereafter, in 1984, established their winery – The Meeker Vineyard – with Charlie as the winemaker. In its early years, the winery specialized in Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay.
The Meeker Vineyard tasting room is currently located in the 105-year-old Geyserville Bank building in the farm town of Geyserville, about six miles north of Healdsburg between Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys. In 2001, the Meeker tasting room was cited by The Wall Street Journal as one of the most enjoyable wine tasting experiences in all of Napa and Sonoma Counties.
AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA, ME, MD, MI, MN, MO, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OR, RI, SC, TN, TX, VT, WA, WV, WI, WY
2013, 87 Points
This is a tightly woven, full-bodied, ripe rendition of the grape. It presents a dusty expression of leather and black pepper, with baked plum fruit, finishing smooth but without complexity. 4/1/17 VB
I agree with the notion of a wine reviewer trying to frame a review around what the wine is trying to be I think they should omit points altogether when doing so. Points are a standard for a varietal and place, not a winery’s intentions and hopes.
That said. Nice offer here. Seriously considering a 3-pack.
@napellicci Don’t be. We were putting all of our wines in screw cap up to $40/btl retail because I was sick of corked bottles and at that point in time, synthetic and alternative cork materials had terrible closure integrity/consistency. The only cork-taint free way to age a wine consistently was, when we packaged this, a screw cap.
Now we use Trefinos and DIAM taint-free, treated corks that have a financial guarantee to seal consistently for the aging windows we’re targeting.
We are very committed to age-worthy wines. If it doesn’t hold and develop for 10+ years I’m disappointed. We target most of our bigger red varieties to have 20+ year aging windows. We build tannin structures that are meant to do it and the wines are structured around traditional chemistry that supports that goal.
Screw caps are _______ compared to natural corks.
a) more consistent
b) taint free
c) less expensive
d) age similarly*
e) all of the above
*when on a Saranex liner, tin liners are hermeutic and generally age slower and can keep some wines slightly reductive.
If it weren’t for the negative impression of screw caps, I’d probably bottle everything in them.
Good question. I don’t know that I have the answer. I think the most important thing you can do is educate others as to why alternative closures can be a great option, and sometimes a better option, than natural corks. Problem with that is that some alternative closures are not better than naturals. Un-treated agglomerateds, some rubber/plastic corks, etc. depending on the quality of the product and pairing that with the wine and its intended use/drinking window can be good or bad options. I.E., if I’m making a rose that I anticipate will be drunk in the next 3 and a half months, then a rubber cork is probably fine, but if that wine was intended to age at all, no way. Weirdly enough, the sugar cane/bamboo/other plant based corks look and feel a lot like rubber/plastic corks but they’re superior in closure integrity.
The reasons it’s hard to hammer out is because it’s really a case-by-case kinda thing. Two agglomerated corks can look similar while one is the Ferrari of closures (A 30 year guaranteed DIAM O, for example) and one is the plastic skateboard from Walmart that you left in the rain for a decade and change (not naming names). So, ask the winery what they use. Tell them what your preferences/concerns are.
The reality is that there is still, even after all the work wineries like us did to bring screw caps into the high end sector, a lot of market pushback to screw caps. And I won’t lie to you, it’s hard to make a screw cap complete package look as good or premium as a fat neck cork finish bottle when done right.
We were always still using natural corks along with screw caps, then starting with the 2010 vintage of our higher end wines, we moved them all to DIAMs (taint free, money back guaranteed aggloms). DIAMs look enough like a natural cork that most people I talk to don’t realize that they’re not naturals. So that’s cool. The reality is that you probably wouldn’t have noticed the difference unless you were trying to.
We’ve moved a lot of our wines back to treated agglomerated corks because the it solves the cork taint problem (and 160 other taint compounds too) and satisfies the people who are still anti screw cap. There really are a lot of them.
That said, as much as a screw cap is a better closure than a natural cork, they are arguable not better than a treated agglomerated cork.
The primary downside to screwcaps is that while the seal integrity is excellent (meaning, when it is in fact sealed, the seal is very consistent), the seal is actually relatively fragile. Meaning it’s, compared to a treated cork that has superior structural consistency, much easier to compromise the seal. Aggresive banging against the top of the screw cap/bottle can deform the liner/cap or potentially break the bridge that keeps torque on the cap and thus pressure on the sealing material. To be clear, this requires direct contact, I can’t think of any situation where even very aggressive jostling would compromise the seal.
This is a particularly important issue because many people store their bottles neck down out of habit, and don’t exactly handle the bottles with care when dropping them neck down into cases or shelves or whatever. The reality is that you probably don’t need to worry about this, it takes a pretty hard hit to compromise a screw cap seal if it’s been applied properly, but from a packaging perspective, I have to worry about all possible use cases and make sure they’re accounted for.
A cork (of any variety) on the other hand, has a seal that extends essentially the entire vertical length of the cork’s contact inside the bottle. This is durable af. BUT, natural corks and rubber corks do not retain the bounce/spring/elasticity over time to keep this seal at full function. This is why Bourdeaux Chateaus will come recork your 50 year old vintages (you should probably do it more often than that).
Rubber corks degrade their bounce pretty quick. I don’t care to talk about them because they’re not really used on high end wine at all.
The treated agglomerated corks from DIAM and Trefinos both have plastic beads added to the agglomerated cork which allows them to control and balance the bounce of the cork against the long term maintenance of its structure. So we actually are getting a financially backed guarantee that the agglomerated corks from these companies are both taint free and structurally sound (the structurally sound guarantee is time based, and you pay more for longer windows of time).
If you’ve ever opened 6+ bottles of the same wine that has aged in a natural cork for 10+ years (something we do a lot!), you’ll find that the bottles are not consistent. Out of a case of 12, probably 6-9 of them will be close enough that it’s not an issue. But of the remaining 3-6, you might find some pretty wild variation in aging condition, with some feeling younger than the main group, some feeling oxidized in a way that implies it’s aged more, and occasionally some feeling like they’re totally dead and the closure has failed entirely. This is almost as frustrating, when you make wine built to age like we do, as cork taint.
So the reason to go back to treated agglomerated corks is because they are superior in the one way in which screwcaps are kinda middling, and they solve or improve on all of the main concerns about natural corks.
The downside to all of these options is that they’re certainly not as environmentally friendly as a natural cork. I’m not happy about that, but at the end of the day I personally prioritize consistency/quality/mitigated failure rate of our product over environmental concerns. You might disagree with that, and I can respect both positions on that issue.
My advice to you is to just pay attention to who you buy wine from. Different wineries will make different closure decisions for good reasons. Other wineries and you as a customer might prefer naturals because of environmental reasons, and you’re willing to absorb the risk that comes with natural corks. Or maybe you like the tradition. I respect that, but would prefer that 99.9% of our customers get the product we intended them to get.
For me, it’s hard to ever say no to better performance. We’re a small family business, and we do not take for granted the fact that you’re handing us your hard-earned money for our wines. And since most of our customers are repeat customers, that loyalty deserves loyalty in return. I feel like its my responsibility to spend your money in a way that benefits you most.
At the end of the day, the wines we make are a luxury product. Can you imagine if iPhones or Ferraris or Gucci purses had 2-7% failure rates out of the box? Stock prices would plummet, hashtags would be created, furious tweets would be tweeted. That failure rate is unacceptable, and as much as we care about tradition and heritage (more than most in this industry now, IMHO), it’s not a good enough reason to ignore the solution to the problem.
And past that, it’s bad business for me to use those. The reality is that most customers don’t know what corked wine is or how to identify it, and the further reality is that there is that weird middle ground where a wine is very mildly corked but not bad enough to be identified, and in both of these scenarios, the people drinking the wine walk away thinking we suck at our jobs (not cool!).
If they’re going to walk away disappointed, I would prefer it’s because they don’t know that there’s still dry, tannic, acidic wine from California.
@lucasmeeker Okay, I’m hoping you’re still around, and can answer my question. Are you saying that the current offer (the vertical on the Syrah) is using the “treated agglomerated corks” you speak of above, or is it possible that I will get a screw cap? I’m fine with the former, but am doing my absolute best to avoid the screw cap.
For those about to tell me that I’m wrong, or present any argument in favor of the screw cap, I can only state that unless you are willing to go to the effort of removing ALL the metal, and not just the screw cap, you are making it unrecyclable. Honestly, recycler folks won’t make the effort, and you even have the risk that all of a lot will get tossed if there’s metal in it.
Sometimes a thing that seems like a good idea turns out to have unforeseen consequences.
I do love Syrah, though. My fingers are crossed on the answer.
@Shrdlu These are all in screw cap. I don’t think I said that this wine is in cork, because it’s not, but if I did imply that it was certainly a mistake.
You should know that almost no wine closures are truly recyclable, and the tin foils that go over natural corks, while recyclable, often aren’t based on the coating/pigment on them.
You should also know that the only part of the screw cap that isn’t metal is the liner. Regarding removing the below the bridge metal from the bottle after opening, it’s a matter of kitchen shears or the knife on your corkscrew, used in a prying motion away from your body.
@lucasmeeker Thanks for your swift reply. Yes, I know how to remove the metal below the screw cap. My problem is that I know most people won’t, including many who will still pitch the bottle in the recycle bin, not realizing the results.
No, you didn’t state that they were not screw caps. I was just hoping, but I’m very grateful for your response.
I do understand that only natural cork is normally recyclable, and that only if you can find a place that does it. On the other hand, removing the cork makes the bottle recyclable, as long as the foil isn’t left behind. I always wash everything, as well (not just because I’m crazy, but because it keeps the bugs out of the garage).
The screw cap is much harder to take off thoroughly than it used to be, for me. I’m getting older, and am just not as tough as I used to be. I’m still about to buy one of the vertical Syrah, though, despite the screw cap. I may just keep them to remind me of your courtesy and honesty.
Edited to add that I’m amused to note the purchase
@novium@Shrdlu I’d have to look those numbers up, and I might have time to do that later today but I’m slammed at the moment.
I can tell you that given the variety and the location of the vineyard, these Syrahs tend to start as relatively high pHs (for us) at crush, probably averaging 3.5-3.6, occasionally if conditions were warm higher. I believe this fruit did come in with incredibly low tartaric share of TA one vintage toward the end of the drought and might have rolled through the winery door at 3.9. Typically we’re looking at TAs of around 5-6 g/L, with well over 300 mg/L of Malic.
Syrah, almost as much as Pinot Noir, in Sonoma County tends to have particularly high buffer capacity, so it won’t move as much as some other grapes. Especially this vineyard. That said, we’ll add as much tartaric to this vineyard as we can to affect change down to, ideally, 3.4-3.5 pH. In a perfect world with Malics that high I’d want to start under 3.45 and expect to finish ML around 3.55. I tend to think that our Syrah style shows best at 3.5ish in barrel, which is a pretty high starting pH for us.
Generally speaking, most of our wines go to bottle between 3.3 and 3.5, occasionally 3.6. We bottled one wine that I’m aware of at 3.7, which is higher than I’d like, but as much as I’d love for pH to be something we have easy control over, with that whole pesky nature business and the way that buffer capacity on certain varieties works, there’s going to be the occasional outlier.
That said, even on the rare higher pH wine from us, you’re still going to see very high TAs, and so the wines will still drink with quite a bit of zip. It’s important to note that while pH is probably a better way of predicting how acidic a wine will feel, looking at pH in tandem with TA is more accurate. I’ve had plenty of higher pH wines that drink with plenty of acid, and I’ve had moderate pH wines that felt flabby as hell. That’s where the composition of your acid comes into play, and that’s why, in terms of this Syrah specifically, balancing against high Malic numbers is an important part of the process.
@DanNC Too far back for me, but been in the tribe for about 8 years now. I’ve had all of these, but no detailed notes in CT. FWIW Lucas’ Syrah, Grenache, and Pinots are my favorites in the portfolio. The new hone series is awesome too.
These are also cheaper here than club members ever had access to. Enjoy!
Perception of acidity is not just a function of the literal pH of the wine. It’s also a function of how different acids taste. If you’ve ever tasted different sour candys that are covered in sour salts, these are usually blends of the same acids that we’re having this conversation about: tartaric, malic, and citric. When it comes to candy, citric is usually the primary one at play.
But if you can imagine how different blends of sour salts taste different, not just in the flavors with them but in the kind of punchiness or shape or feel of the acidity, if that makes sense, then you’re on the same page as how acidity can be perceived in wine differently even at the same or different pHs.
pH is a function of the ionized form of the acid in the solution. But dissolving acid in a solution doesn’t mean it’s all ionized. That’s where buffer capacity comes in: buffer capacity is how the rest of the components of the solution affect what share of the dissolved acid will remain as a dissolved acid salt or will become a charged acid ion.
Another way you can think about buffer capacity is that it functions kind of like “defense” for the existing pH of a solution. So a wine with higher buffer capacity will be less likely to move up or down than a wine with low buffer capacity with any given equal pH influencing addition.
So, pH is a function of acid content and composition, but it’s not a direct function, and it has lots of other things that affect it.
One of the reasons TA is an incomplete alternative to pH is that TA is a measure of the Titratable Acidity in the wine, meaning it’s a measure of how much acid we are compensating for when we titrate the wine back to an endpoint. It’s measured in grams per liter (g/L) or mg/100ml. TA measurement does not equal Total Acidity, because titration can only effectively account for about 80% of the Total Acidity in a wine.
Total Acidity is just what it sounds like, the sum of all of the concentrations of the acids in the solution, regardless of pH.
So it’s important to know that you can’t really predict how a wine is going to taste or feel by either the pH or the TA, because neither is linear nor directly tied to each other or perceptions.
The reason it’s important to think about acid composition in juice and eventually wine, is because different acids taste and feel different.
As you may know, almost all red wines and a good chunk of white wines go through malolactic (Malic -> Lactic) fermentation (ML or MLF) where bacteria (hopefully good ones) convert malic acid to lactic acid. ML used to be the part of winemaking where the most things could go wrong. It’s a whole other story for another time, but the way that we’ve (meaning the industry, not us specifically) tamed the MLF process over the past 2-3 decades has a lot to do with the dramatic uptick in overall consistency and quality of high-end wine.
So, malic becomes lactic. Great. Here’s where that’s important:
Malic acid is literally more acidic, gram for gram, than lactic acid. I should’ve mentioned this earlier, but not all acids are created equal. Different acids have different strengths in terms of their effect on pH when compared in equal concentrations. So, lactic is literally weaker. On red wines starting with higher malic concentrations (let’s say a TA of 4-6 g/L and a malic of 350 mg/100 ml), you can safely assume that your pH is going to shift UP (less acidic) once the wine has completed MLF. How much is TBD, but probably anywhere from 0.03-0.1 pH. Back when we still made truly acidic wines, with TAs over 8 and malic counts above 450-500 mg/100 ml, you could see wines come up 0.1-0.15 pH. So understanding how the malic concentration might or might not affect your finishing pH is important.
Malic acid has a crisper, crunchier, harsher, edgier character than lactic acid, which feels comparably softer and has almost a yogurt/creamy feel to it (this is hard to explain until you can taste it in concentration). It goes without saying that when you’re trying to build complexity and depth in red wine, and trying to balance the acidity and its perception with astringent tannins and the softer, rounder, more desirable mouthfeel traits of good red wine, that figuring out where that acid balance falls and how it affects the perception of the wine is important. So, once you’ve converted the malic to lactic, you have a shift in pH and in character of the acidity, and how that character changes is illustrative of the way that the relative composition of your acids affects the way that the acidity overall is perceived.
Hi everyone! Sorry I didn’t get around to dropping a voicemail. I had this in my calendar as releasing on the 23, not the 21. Whoops.
I have a lot to say about Syrah. Big fan of the grape. I think it probably should be considered the pinnacle grape for age-worthy, complex wines, either equaling or supplanting CS. Yes, really.
The reason for this belief is that I think Syrah is a “better mirror” than most other big red grapes. Many of you have probably heard my less than calm diatribes about what exactly is or isn’t terroir and how lots of people kind of misunderstand it, especially in the historical and regional context of the term. To the extent that I think terroir is responsible for the character of a wine, Syrah absorbs and reflects that influence better than Cab.
The way I like to explain it is by comparing it to a singer. The way we judge vocalists is not just by the character/power/style/etc of their sound, but also by the range they can use effectively. To me Syrah covers far more range than Cab, and in the process has distinct differences in the way it reflects cool-climate or warm-climate conditions, as well as being pretty open to fermentation protocol and technique. Syrah tends to take influence from winemaker style very well, while still staying very much itself and also emblematic of where it was grown.
Weirdly enough, though Syrah isn’t one of the grapes that is part of the heritage of Dry Creek Valley, when it comes to making wines that reflect that heritage well, to me Syrah ranks somewhere in the top 3 or 4, because its ability to make complex, warm-climate red wine is paired with its innate instinct to be brambly, rustic, and earthy. These are the things I associate with my family’s history in DCV, and it’s the things I love most about the wines from here. It’s not where the mainstream of those wines is now, but it’s what comes to mind when I think of making wines from our heritage/history/home.
This Syrah comes from Peña Creek Vineyard, which also farms PS for us on occasion. We’ve released a varietal PS from this vineyard, and two wines named “The Paddle”, which are curated blends of the Syrah and Petite Sirah. The vineyard is high up Chemise Rd, past three locked gates and multiple switchbacks. The vineyard is basically a saddle over one of the hills at the top of the Peña Creek drainage, and varies in elevation between about 860’ to 1050’. Different elevation and exposure from the topography creates complexity and variegated development which, to us, builds depth in wines.
We generally ferment warm-climate Syrah in 3/4 T open top fermenters with multiple yeasts. In T-Bins we usually run a 4-6 day soak before inoculating. We look to work Syrah pretty hard, consistently at 2 punchdowns/day during primary up until the cap softens. I’m generally okay with Syrah ferms getting a little warmer than most of our other T-Bin ferms, as it seems to help set good, inky color and maximize extraction from the skins. These wines generally see 21-28 days of skin contact. We barrel age in neutral barrels with targeted oak additions during primary and at the beginning of the aging process.
Like all of our red wines, they’re bottle-stable naturally, and we don’t rely on sterile filters or Velcorin to do it. We use a lot of new-school technique to execute wines that play by old-school rules. Unless otherwise noted, all our red wines (except for the dessert) are unfined, unfiltered, and dry (meaning no fermentable residual sugar (<1.0 g/L glucose/fructose).
To me, the calling card of our wines is an elegant, integrated tannin structure that comes from grape tannin and aging. It can’t be faked. We want our wines to highlight that. While we use some oak, our style is best showcased when oak is a seasoning, not an ingredient.
If you’re looking for jammy, juicy, high-pH, velvet-fruit bombs, these aren’t the wines for you (sorry not sorry). BUT, if you’re looking for structured, dry, food-pairing Syrahs that balance elegance and power in structure and are designed to develop for a couple decades, you’re in the right place.
I’m more than happy to answer any and all questions.
@lucasmeeker Also re: the differences in the elevation from the tasting notes… I had written the initial tasting notes and checked one topo map, and I think I miscounted the 650’ as difference from valley floor. Either way, the most recent and I believe more accurate topo data is listed in this ^^^ comment.
@lucasmeeker Thanks for all the great input, both on the makeup of the wines in this offer and info on all the various closures! I love vintner participation!
Two quick questions: 1. What is the treatment used on agglomerated corks from DIAM and Trefinos! 2. When you bottle, do you gently stir the holding tank?
DIAM is more common in the US as they’ve been in the market longer. G3 Packaging, which is Gallo’s packaging division, is their distributor.
Trefinos just entered the US market pretty recently, and they started their own operation here. They’re both great products, and we haven’t had any issues with either of them (yet!).
No, the tank isn’t stirred. Most winery tanks don’t have built in stirring mechanisms (some do). At the point of bottling, the wine has been moved quite a bit in the previous days leading up, at the very least for checking and correcting SO2 levels, and when we add more we bubble the wine to create movement with nitrogen, usually, but occasionally argon.
I just went downstairs and grabbed a 2014 from an earlier order. I opened it and poured a glass. It is very dark in color, legs on the glass. I love a strong dark red, and this works for me! Very dry…not sweet at all. This is the Syrah for me…and I’d love to have a vertical…
I grabbed a 2014 from the mixed case I got here last year. We drank it last night with a brick oven pizza, it was dry yet fruity and delicious, no surpise. I love Meeker wines and the price here is great. In for a case, will split with any WNY folks who’d like a set or two.