In California, you will be hard pressed to find a more dynamic “wine” couple than Carole Meredith and Stephen Lagier. You will be equally challenged to find a more special and distinctive vineyard “place” where “hands on” organic and sustainable farming is the foremost priority, and non-intervention, single variety winemaking is the emphasis.
Dr. Carole Meredith is a retired, renown professor Emerita from the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California at Davis (1980 to 2003). She was instrumental in pioneering research in grape genetics. Her research group used DNA profiling methods to discover the origins of some of the greatest old wine varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, and most notably California Zinfandel traced back to Tribidrag in Croatia.
Carole’s husband Stephen Lagier worked in the laboratory and as a winemaker for Robert Mondavi Winery from 1985 to 1999.
After an exhaustive search, in 1986 the couple purchased 84 undeveloped acres of forest and wild brush high on a ridge on Mount Veeder. They loved the view, but not the 1.5 miles of bumpy and rutted dirt road only accessible by four wheel drive. Slowly over the years Steve and Carole’s worked to prepare the soils, and by 1994 they had successfully planted a couple of acres of Syrah. All the vineyard practices are sustainable, organic and regenerative. Originally, the vineyard was planted for personal use, until one of their first wines was unanimously judged as the favorite in a blind tasting by group of professional winemakers. This assessment provided such encouragement and inspiration, the Lagier-Meredith was bonded as a winery. Their first commercial release of 74 cases of 1998 Syrah was in 2000. Today, the total vineyard acreage has reached 4.5 acres and includes Mondeuse, Tribidrag, and Malbec. With the exception of picking at harvest, all of the vineyard work and winemaking continues to be performed by Steve and Carole.
Reviewing my account records, I first purchased Lagier-Meredith’s 2000 vintage of Syrah and then the next nine consecutive vintages. The wines continued to display a purity of spicy fruit with assertive richness, but always with balance and appealing restraint. My understanding is the combined production of all varieties has never exceeded 1,000 cases.
Winemaking at Lagier-Meredith is simple, minimalistic and as non-interventionalist as possible. All the wines are produced the same way. Selection, handpicking and sorting takes place in the vineyard. All the fruit is de-stemmed. There is no maceration period. During the 8 to 9 days fermentation which takes place in double-walled food grade plastic T-bins, the must is punched down 2-3 times a day. Then the wine is pressed and transferred into neutral (used at least 3 years) French oak barrels where it stays for 18-20 months. After malolactic fermentation the wine is gravity racked, and then carefully racked again just before bottling. The wine is bottled without filtration.
For all the nay-sayers who say they don’t like Syrah, most likely because they have not experienced the variety grown in the “right place” — that is, cool clime, breezy, high elevation, southeastern exposure, with significant diurnal range (cooler nights) on shallow, well drain soils, typically decomposing granite (Cornas!) or uplifted calcareous ocean floor — I challenge you not to find the appeal here!
Signature spices – finely ground white pepper, floral violets, fennel and herbs de Provence-like garrigue, cure meats, and black olive tapenade and ripe berries galore. Never heavy, balanced and with an underlying pronounced freshness.
“Keenly structured and well-buffed, this red offers deep blackberry, smoked meat, licorice and pepper flavors that finish with big but polished tannins. Best from 2023 through 2030. 295 cases made.” – 93 points, Wine Spectator (TF)