And, to end another wonderful day, an amazing chance to visit with Randy and Carrie Bowman at Napa Valley Wine & Cigar and, special to me, to have Linda Baehr come out to join us. I have missed her very much.
WILLIAM & MARY/RIVERS-MARIE
Huge thanks to Will for making time for Dave Dyroff and me in the morning, there’s a tasting facility now at the RM location and we met there. Will is up to 350 cases or so of his wines, I believe. He feels strongly that in today’s Napa, it’s so much about vineyard choice and vineyard management, citing in particular the 2022 difficulties with the heat spike and that, depending on where your grapes were situated and how they were handled, you may have wines without tannic structure from the seeds. When I asked him what he’s proudest of, Will replied that it is being open-minded enough to try something new, but always with the goal to look to make something in the winemaking process better.
2019 Rivers-Marie Silver Eagle PN
Concentrated strawberry here, more coiled aromatics than in the 2015 I tasted at the start of the trip. Very primary still but terrific spice-and-black raspberry combo with a trace of sweetness.
2021 Rivers-Marie Bodega Thieriot PN
The vines are about 6 years old now, 8 acres of 100% Calera clone, right next to Occidental. More closed on the nose, naturally. Dark fruit and a nip of coriander. Very driving acidity at present, that coriander combines with a touch of cardamom to accent quite dark berry fruit.
2016 William & Mary Proprietary Red
Since Will knew I’d tasted the 17 and 19 at FallTacular, he was very kind to open this older bottle for us. He picked and fermented the merlot and Cab Franc (50/50) for this separately, co-fermented since then except for this year (Dave asked him if he could tell any PH difference from the co-fermenting process, which Will hasn’t looked at specifically yet but thought an intriguing idea). It’s from Shifflet (Aaron Pott and Blackbird were in there at one time). Almost luscious chocolate notes around sweet blackberry scents. Tension is very nicely there in this wine, tangy berry and currant, dashes of sweet black pepper at the back. I clearly have continued a liking for this wine—my notes from 3.5 years ago when it was served at FallTacular 2019, though the fruit profile was different that time for me:
2016 William & Mary Shifflett Proprietary Red
Nose gets nips of blueberry around black cherry and plum, just a hint of tar. That’s secret power—just builds and builds and all with harmonious boysenberry and plum. Really good.
2016 William & Mary Shifflet Cab
100% CS, it’s Clone 7 on St. George. 18 months in Taransaud and Darnajou barrels. Super-spicy bouquet, all sorts. Touches of beef around black cherry and cassis. Power for sure, melded with sweet and expressive plum and cassis. Let’s see what I said 3.5 years ago
2016 William & Mary Shifflett Cab
Tucked in tighter-dark red and black fruit with a touch of black tea. Also of the same cut—plum and some prune, but with a needed trace of sweetness. Links with a cassis finish. Good and a complete picture
2017 Boar’s View The Coast PN
Red fruit base nose but also a candy corn element, fascinating. This lashes at your tongue a bit, very energetic and total raspberry and rhubarb. The berries persist through the finish.
2017 Boar’s View BDR PN
From Fort Ross Seaview. I call this “sunnier”–brighter berry fruit. In the mouth, it’s pretty, though still very tight.
Again, big thanks!
LUNCH WITH RUSSELL BEVAN
I don’t think I’ve seen Russell in 10 years. We were very lucky to also meet his wife Heidi and assistant winemaker Reid. We met at Mustard’s and, super-amusing, Roy Piper was at the next table with a couple people! Russell is still kinda larger-than-life, but a little less so and in a way I love–there’s no mistaking the core of passion and warmth in him. When I asked him what’s the thing he’s most proud of, the answer surprised me a bit—and it’s tied into his latest current project. Russell responded that he gets the most satisfaction out of finding neglected vineyards that are in terrible shape and resuscitating them to produce great wines. I think he’s at around 12 projects or so, but still tries to make as much time as possible to taste each project’s wines as often as possible during vinification.
I had brought a curiosity, knowing Russell’s predilection for Sauvignon Blanc. The 2019 Tement Ried Zieregg SB from the uber-Austrian producer was naturally way young, but showed superb incisiveness once you got past the reduction factor. Russell likes some of that in whites and Reid also fancied this very much–enough to ask to take the rest back to the cellar for the crew, which I was happy to let him do. Dave, at Russell’s request, brought a CdP, a 2010 Le Vieux Donjon CdP which I thought showed relatively pure, though still with an overall grenachy-combination that didn’t quite excite me. Definite strawberry base, with a little plum this time. Russell brought 2 wines from his new Adversity project—the one he’s doing with Heidi. The 2020 Adversity Cellars J. Wells Chard showed me some similarities to the Bevan Ritchie Chard, with very expressive yellow and orange fruit and a dollop of creaminess on the palate, though still with drive. The 2019 Adversity Cellars Erba Syrah will need more time. Concentrated power but also quite rugged and unformed at the moment. Seems like good building blocks are there.
From there it was on (and up the perilous Dry Creek road and neverending private drive) to visit here and to meet two of my priorities for this particular trip. I thank Dave for reaching out to them, this is my first chance to pass time with Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith. The visit was absolutely worth it as we talked about everything from winemaking (and other) philosophy to the change this year to night picking for them (Carole showed us a video of the workers, looking like super-industrious ants—I think Pina did the work for them and she and Steve were both super-impressed at how high the quality of the work was). As most people know, they are done making wine, though there will still be several years in which they continue to do elevage and sell the bottled products.
2018 Lagier-Meredith Syrah
365 cases or so. Checked in at 14.7%, I think my scribble says 20 months in oak, I’ll have to try to back-check that. Vines are at 1300 feet in shale and sandstone soil and are at least 20 years old. Still-young aromatics, some meats and also some darker raspberry and blackberry. Dashes of mineral in and out too. To taste, it is just beginning to round into form. Lots of raspberry and currant-centric drive. Plenty of acidity and a mineral component here too, it may be open for business a little sooner than most of these, but will last as long as any of them.
2018 Lagier-Meredith Tribidrag
The ancient name for Zin, 163 cases and my first-ever taste of this cuvee. Same oak treatment as for the Syrah, this checked in at 15% and shows bright and rich purple fruit with ticks of bramble and earth. Vivid blueberry and blackcurrant fruit in your mouth with some underlying plum. It does present as a rich and forward wine.
Huge thanks to spend some time with us.
Carrie opened a 2019 Frias Sauv Blanc which drank easily and nicely with some verve.
On top of all these experiences, it was a fantastic opportunity to spend some extended time with Dave. I had only seen him on Zoom–once a year at our annual fantasy baseball keeper league draft–and you couldn’t ask for a nicer or better wine travel companion. It was super to do it this way.