|Kim Stare Wallace — is she drinking a Meritage?
Photo from Dry Creek Vineyard
As a newcomer to the wine world when I began The House of Mondavi, I discovered that its inhabitants spoke in a distinct language not so easily grasped by outsiders. When Michaela Rodeno, CEO of Napa Valley’s St. Supéry winery, first introduced me to the word “Meritage,” I had no idea what it meant. But she patiently explained it to me … almost, but not quite, concealing her surprise that I didn’t know it already.
“Meritage” is an invented name that grew out of a national contest to come up with a way to describe blended wines. As so many other things in the wine industry, it was born out of a response to government regulations. In 1985, U.S. federal regulators restricted the wording used on wines containing less than 75% of a single grape variety to the not-very-elegant sounding “table wine,” rejecting such descriptors as “Bordeaux-blend.”
A group of vintners led by Agustin Huneeus, Mitch Cosentino, and Julie Garvey came together to try to come up with a better name. The winner of their contest combined the word merit (for quality) and heritage (for the Bordeaux tradition of blending wines). The Meritage Association is now celebrating its 20th anniversary and has website where you can learn more.
I tasted some Meritage wines yesterday at a lunch at San Francisco’s Pres a Vi restaurant (which is worth visiting just for its 200-bottle plus wine list, with its special focus on California wines) hosted by the association. Pres a Vi is a treat, as well, because it is located in George Lucas’s new Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio. Through the windows of the restaurant, cherry trees were exploding with pink blooms.
Mitch Cosentino’s “The Poet,” a Bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot, was delicious – particularly the 1986. Michaela poured two white Meritage wines from St. Supery – a 1996 and its Virtu. I’d never tried a white Meritage before and enjoyed it. But I must admit that I enjoyed meeting the winemakers and proprietors even more than tasting the wines themselves. And a particularly nice treat was meeting Kim Stare Wallace, who works in her family’s Dry Creek Vineyard.
Not only did we swap our experience of driving kids to Little League games and laugh at the challenges of working moms — as explored hilariously by the British writer Allison Pearson in I Don’t Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother — but we’ve also both started blogging recently.
Kim’s blog is fascinating, particularly for anyone who has ever worked in a family business. Take a look at her post, “The Dreaded Family Meeting”:
“Today I realized the whole scene reminds me of the animal kingdom. (I used to love those TV shows that depict the traits and characteristics of various species.) The meeting starts off fairly typically. Everyone is well behaved and reasonable. Then slowly, each one of us transcends into our animal self. My father starts acting like the peacock that puffs up and gets very BIG. This usually occurs in moments when he is reminding us that he started the winery and knows a thing or two about a thing or two. Naturally, this puts The Husband on the defense. His face turns red. His ears begin to steam. Much like a bull getting ready to charge. Or, a wolf circling around, getting ready for the kill. As for me, I’m like the duck–paddling like hell, prepared to take flight at any moment. Just trying to stay out of the way of the gunfire and any fall-out.”
You can read more on her blog, “Wilma’s Wine World: An Insider’s Look at the Wine Country Life.” I’m planning to check back to find out how Kim fared after an upcoming Board of Directors meeting.
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