2019 Lagier-Meredith Tribidrag (Zinfandel), Mount Veeder, Napa Valley – WS94

2019 Lagier-Meredith Tribidrag (Zinfandel), Mount Veeder, Napa Valley – WS94



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 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.

So yes, “Tribidrag” (trihbee-drahg) will probably be new to you, and is not recognized on American labels as Zinfandel, but here it is just that!   Zinfandel was once believed to be a variety indigenous to California.  Carole Meredith felt it only fitting and appropriate to plant and pay tribute to the grape, after her many years of searching for Zinfandel’s ancient origins in southern Italy (Primitivo) and Croatia.  In 2011 a perfect genetic match was discovered from a rarely found, nearly extinct vine named Tribidrag growing near Split on Dalamatian coast of Croatia It turns out Tribidrag was first recorded in 1511and is derived from a Croatian word meaning “early”, in reference to the variety’s tendency to ripen early.  Tribidrag is also the parent of the Croatian red variety Plavac Mali.

This is gorgeous, mountain grown Zinfandel, always displays a very distinctive spicy aromatic, with hints of crushed black pepper and wild bramble-berry fruits.

“Distinctive and dynamic, this retains a sense of style and focus, offering red plum and huckleberry, savory briar and licorice flavors that build toward the vibrant finish. Zinfandel. Drink now through 2030. 159 cases made.” – 94 points, Wine Spectator (TF)