January Domestic Wine: NV The Meeker Vineyard ‘Roller Coaster’ Red, CALIFORNIA

Domestic Wine: NV The Meeker Vineyard ‘Roller Coaster’ Red, CALIFORNIA 

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 winery’s first red wine release, a 1984 Zinfandel, was an instant success, winning eight wine competition medals and becoming the third most awarded Zin in the country that year. Thereafter, among other awards, the 1985 Meeker Zin was a Wine Spectator “Best Buy”, the 1986 Zin was a “Spectator Selection”, and the 1990 Zin was included among the Wine Spectator’s “100 Best Wines of the World”. During this period Charlie was also honored to present a Meeker Zinfandel at one of the famous Windows on the World wine dinners in New York; and Zinfandel wasn’t the winery’s only success – for example, the Wine Spectator gave a 91 Points score to one of Charlie’s early Chardonnays.

History of Syrah and its Relation to Meeker: Syrah continues to be the main grape of the northern Rhône and is associated with classic wines such as Hermitage, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie. In the southern Rhône, it is used as a blending grape in such wines as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Côtes du Rhône, where Grenache usually makes up the bulk of the blend. Although its best incarnations will age for decades, less-extracted styles may be enjoyed young for their lively red and blueberry characters and smooth tannin structure. Syrah has been widely used as a blending grape in the red wines of many countries due to its fleshy fruit mid-palate, balancing the weaknesses of other varieties and resulting in a “complete” wine.

From the 1970s and even more from the 1990s, Syrah has enjoyed increased popularity, and plantings of the variety have expanded significantly in both old and new locations, like Sonoma. In the early 2000s, it broke into the top 10 of varieties planted worldwide for the first time.

Varietals: Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Petit Verdot, Carignane, Merlot, Malbec, and Grenache

Alcohol: 14.6% by volume

Tasting Notes: This wine opens up with a nose of berries, coffee, cola and earth. On the palate, there is black cherry, blackberry cobbler and spice surrounded by toasty French oak and vanilla with a long lingering finish that lasts way after the ride is over.

Food Pairings: Drink this fun wine with barbeque, grilled meats, and even spaghetti!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Jammy with rich flavors and layers of ripeness. It is a ‘drink me up kind of style!’ Enjoy with food or by itself! Cheers!”-JL

January Imported Wine: NV Niepoort Tawny Port, Douro, PORTUGAL

“I think that Port needs to have different products,” says Dirk Van der Niepoort, a 5th generation Port producer. “It makes it exciting.” Indeed, Dirk’s firm is creating a wide range of tantalizing wines, from Redoma, Niepoort’s dry table wine, to delicate Vintage Colheitas.

150 Years of Winemaking: Niepoort’s story begins in 1842, when Dutchman Eduard Kebe famed Douro winemaking region of Portugal. When he passed away in 1848, the business was left in the capable hands of his business partner, F.M. Van der Niepoort. Over a hundred and fifty years later, Dirk Niepoort continues to make fortified wines using the same methods as his ancestors, while drawing on his contemporary education, including a year and a half spent at Napa Valley’s Cuvaison winery.

Critically Acclaimed: The critics agree, saying “the typical Niepoort vintage Port is an explosion of intensely concentrated grape and raspberry flavors …Its compact tannin structure is a focused masterpiece with superb intensity of flavors.”-James Suckling, Wine Spectator

History of Port and its Relation to Niepoort: Port wine (also known as Vinho do Porto, Porto, and often simply port) is a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, though it also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties. Fortified wines in the style of port are also produced outside Portugal, most notably in Australia, South Africa, Canada, India, Argentina, and the United States. Under European Union Protected Designation of Origin guidelines, only the product from Portugal may be labeled as port or Porto. Port is produced from grapes grown and processed in the demarcated Douro region. The wine produced is then fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente, in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, and to boost the alcohol content. The fortification spirit is sometimes referred to as brandy but it bears little resemblance to commercial brandies.

Niepoort tawny, with an average age of three and a half years, originates from low yielding vineyards in the Cima corgo region of the Douro Valley. The grapes are predominantly trodden in lagares, prior to ageing in small old oak casks at their lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Varietals: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cao, Tinta Francisca, Tinata Amarela and Tinta Roriz

Alcohol: 20.0% by volume

Tasting Notes:  Brick red in color, with delicate nutty aromas and a hint of dried fruits. On the palate, very well balanced with a youthful fruity, luscious character, which integrates well with a long spirity finish.

Food Pairings: Enjoy this tawny with salty cheese and nuts! Drink as an aperitif or an after dinner drink.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Port with maturity and class. Loaded with elegance and flavor with many layers of complexity. A complete wine…BRAVO to Niepoort!”-JL