Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Meyer Family: master of Chardonnay

Meyer Family Vineyards, which has just released its two Chardonnays from the 2007 vintage, has begun to establish a track record for producing elegant and sophisticated examples of this varietal.

The winery, which began direct sales last year, is the brainchild of John "JAK" Meyer, an Okanagan developer turned wine lover. He is pictured above with his sisters, Laura and Terry, and (on his left) Chris Carson, his New Zealand-trained winemaker.

Chris joined Meyer before the 2008 vintage. The 2007 Chardonnays, reviewed here, were made by Road 13 winemaker Michael Bartier. Chris has worked with wineries in New Zealand, France and California that specialize in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In the 2008 vintage, Chris made both varieties for Meyer and, as a recent barrel-tasting showed me, did both very well.

Both of the 2007 Chardonnays are from the same 3.1 acre vineyard on the Naramata Bench that JAK bought in 2006 after a two-year search for just the right property. It is his intention to have a showpiece boutique winery built here eventually. That idea was shelved temporarily late last year when JAK bought a second vineyard (14 acres) just east of Okanagan Falls. Meyer is preparing to open a tasting room here this fall.

The Okanagan Falls vineyard, which has several more plantable acres,grows a mix of varieties. It is likely to be restructured, at least in part, to focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Chardonnay is JAK's passion and Pinot Noir is his winemaker's passion.

JAK decided to create a winery in 2003. Recognizing that his only experience was as a consumer, he sought the guidance of Vancouver wine educator James Cluer MW. A fundamental decision was to base the winery on a vineyard that JAK would own, not on purchased fruit. The Naramata vineyard's Chardonnay vines are now more than 10 years old. There also are mature vines in the Okanagan Falls vineyard.

With two vineyards and a skilled winemaker, JAK's original dream of a tiny boutique is now being reshaped into a 3,000 to 5,000 case producer.

"We may not make any money at this," he laughs, "but it sure is fun."

In each of the 2006 and 2007 vintages, the winery has produced two Chardonnay wines.

Meyer Family Vineyards Micro Cuvée Chardonnay 2007 ($65)- of which only 141 cases have been released - resulted from tasting and selecting the six best barrels of Chardonnay in the cellar that vintage. This wine is the match of a fine Burgundy, with intense flavours of citrus framed by toasty oak. The wine is finished with commendably bright acidity, giving it a crisp, fresh finish as well as the ability to age. The winery says three to five years. 92

Meyer Family Vineyards Tribute Series Chardonnay 2007 ($30)represents the remaining 399 cases of this vintage. It shares the flavours, aromas and crispness of its big brother, with a texture that seems a bit leaner. Again, the acidity, which is not at all overdone, lifts the fresh fruit flavours and gives the wine ability to develop in the bottle. 90

The wines in the Tribute Series pay tribute to various British Columbia artists. The 2006 vintage was dedicated to Emily Carr. This vintage is dedicated to Bill Reid "for his extraordinary contribution in restoring much of the dynamic power, magic and possibility to Haida art." The winery is donating $5,000 to the Bill Reid Foundation.

Until the wine shop opens, the wines are being sold (in cases of six) through the web site,


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