SONOMA, Calif. — Merriam Vineyards, located in California’s Russian River AVA, wrapped up the 2023 harvest with much to celebrate. Winemaker William Weese states that this year is poised to produce a “great and first-class vintage” for Merriam’s award-winning cool-climate varieties, especially its Pinot Noir. Throughout Sonoma County and many AVAs within California, the 2023 vintage is already anticipated to be one of the best in decades.
“Being a cooler year with long hangtime was extremely beneficial,” Weese says. “We were getting phenolic ripeness on fruit without having to deal with high Brix. The acid was there, too. I never felt like I needed to pick or press a wine off earlier than I wanted to, to make room for the next wine, so all the wines we made got all the attention they deserved.” Weese adds that the excellent conditions also resulted in minimal intervention in winemaking, resulting in a direct expression of the vineyard and a chance for the “fruit to speak for itself.”
This harvest marks the first for Merriam as a fully CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers)-certified winery, following decades of commitment to organic and sustainable practices in their vineyards and beyond. Founded in 2000 by husband-and-wife Peter and Diana Merriam and focusing on estate-grown Bordeaux and Burgundy varieties, Merriam previously achieved CCOF vineyard certification for its Los Amigos estate property in 2012. Purchased in 2022, the Eastside estate is currently certified sustainable through the CSWA California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance and the Windacre vineyard—
the first vineyard purchased by the Merriams in 2000—is currently certified sustainable with the Sonoma Sustainable designation. The 2023 vintage of several vineyard designates from the Los Amigos property, named after three generations of Merriam women including Diana’s Pinot Noir, Danielle’s Fumé Blanc, and Evanthea’s Chardonnay, will include “made with organic grapes” on the label.
“The CCOF certification has been a nice progression through our sustainable journey,” says Peter, adding that they “immediately” began pursuing certification after founding the winery. “Its arduous nature means we must abide by strict rules and materials, and everything must be planned, proactive and approved. On the winery side, that includes strict regulations inside the facilities such as keeping the organic materials isolated, triple rinsed, sanitized, and sterilized, and documenting everything along the way.”
“My family has been farming organically since 2012 because we believe it produces world-class wines, and with this newest certification we are able to continue to educate consumers on the quality that comes from holding ourselves to higher standards and practices,” adds estate manager Evan Merriam.
An extension of its ongoing commitment to sustainable farming, the winery also introduced 800 Babydoll sheep into the estate vineyards last spring to mow down clover and other cover crop. Too small to damage vines, the sheep improve vineyard soil health by providing natural fertilizer and reducing the need for heavy machinery, which means less soil compaction and improved soil fertility and structure. Merriam also has 25 head of cattle grazing the outlying hills above the vineyard for range management and fire protection.
Outdoor design expansion of its 21-acre estate has been an additional project for Merriam this year, in partnership with Munden Fry Landscape Associates (MFLA). The project elevates guest experience while respecting and showcasing the property’s natural environs. “A connection to the vineyard and the sustainable farming practices provided the foundation for the renovations of the tasting terrace, new Garden Rooms and a reorientation of the visitors experience when entering the property,” says MFLA Partner James Munden.
Begun in 2021, the plan includes a row of antique olive trees with a rich underplanting of ornamental grasses, leading visitors to the various tasting areas. Hedges create green walls defining the outdoor tasting rooms under a bosque of plane trees for shade from the summer heat. A stone water wall feature mitigates sound from nearby Hwy 101 and encloses one side of the Tasting Terrace. Creating a more enjoyable and immersive winery experience aligns with the Merriam family’s early vision of bringing visitors outside, emphasizing the vineyards, views and natural habitats that are the focus of the winery’s environmentally progressive efforts.
— Merriam Vineyards via Send2Press Newswire