Friday, March 17, 2017

Meeker Wines Leave A Colorful and Tasteful Impression

Meeker Handprint Merlot

For more than 30 years The Meeker Vineyard has been excelling in winemaking. We never buy wine just for the bottle, but when what’s inside is just as beautiful as the outside, we can make an exception.

Artistry In A Bottle

I’ve always scoffed at those who purchase wine due to a label with cute animals or a gimmicky name. After all, some of the world’s most magnificent wines are packaged with humdrum labels from top estates in France.

There are a few exceptions. I do enjoy Artist Series bottles, like those from Kenwood and Chateau Ste. Michelle. Some wineries have sophisticated and stylish labels. I consider these cool – as opposed to “lame” kangaroos, teddy bears or wines with no flavor, just a catchy name.

One bottle I would buy without hesitation – even if it contained only air – is the Winemaker’s Handprint Merlot by Meeker. The bottle itself is a work of art – not just the label. It is a true beauty and I’ll tell you all about it – just not yet.

Shaking Up Sonoma

Meeker Grenache Meeker wines have been around since Charlie and Molly opened their winery in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley in 1984. Although their Handprint Merlot is their most iconic wine, in the early years they made their reputation with Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. You can learn more about their story in our article from a Meeker wine dinner we attended last year.

Through Wine Studio, an online wine education program, we recently tasted not only the Winemaker’s Handprint Merlot, but the Meeker 2013 Hoskin Ranch Grenache and the Meeker 2013 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Franc. Thanks to the mighty culinary efforts of the Green Dragon we enjoyed each wine with stylish food pairings.

We started with the Hoskin Ranch Grenache and the Cabernet Franc. For this delightful duo, Green Dragon prepared a gourmet mushroom soup with truffle oil and for the entrée, a steak pinwheel stuffed with gorgonzola cheese and asparagus, along with risotto and roasted vegetables.

Starting with some manchego cheese and olives, we sipped the Hoskin Ranch Grenache. This is a light red wine with amber highlights. On the palate the body is silky smooth with a light medium body. The Meeker team has successfully coaxed the complex flavors from the grapes without burying the flavors with harsh tannins. The wine is aged in once-used and neutral French and American oak.

This is an expressive wine with sweet cherry notes and threads of rhubarb. We found that the mushroom soup wasn’t an ideal pairing, but the Grenache continued to provide enjoyment well into our steak.

The Dry Creek Valley (one of our favorite US wine regions, by the way) Cabernet Franc was a revelation. The color is deeper than the Grenache and it was a glorious match with our steak. Up front the wine has herbal notes. Green Dragon is hypersensitive to vegetal flavors and she got some early, but it tapered off. I tasted none and was focused on the cherry cola flavor. This is a FFG – food friendly giant.

Meeker Wines food pairingsWhat’s Up With The Handprints?

First of all, those handprints covering the bottle are from winemaker Lucas Meeker. About 2,000 cases of the Winemaker’s Handprint Merlot are produced each year. At least once a week, a handprinting session takes place. It takes an hour and a half for a team of four to do the handprinting for a pallet and another hour and a half to tissue wrap the bottles.

We surely appreciate the effort. Green Dragon was so enamored of the bottle that she not only cooked an amazing shortrib entrée, brazing it three hours in wine, but also “paired” the wine bottle with color-matched flowers. Our entrée also included Yukon Gold smashed potatoes and pineapple-ginger glazed carrots.

The Handprint Merlot is almost always a blend of Merlot from a vineyard in Dry Creek Valley and one from Alexander Valley. The 2013 vintage also had 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Syrah. This is a mellow wine with polished tannins. It has a vibrant acidity and flavors of chocolate and sour cherry.

This wine is a work of art, outside and in. It has an SRP of $45, which is a steal for such a distinctive wine. The pricing on all three bottles is very good with the Grenache listed at $38 and the Cab Franc at $45. C’est magnifique!

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