I am going to confess something. I’ve been trying to write this two post series on meeting Stephen Lagier and Carole Meredith for almost a month. There are some people I have such appreciation that the challenge becomes wondering what I could possibly say. Rather than stall any longer, I thought I’d post photos of my first visit with them, and keep working on the write up in the meantime. They really are both enjoyable, remarkable people.
Visiting Lagier Meredith, Mt Veeder
The day Stephen and Carole initially met with me was foggy. Standing on the lower porch we are looking East here into Napa Valley. Highway 29 is below hidden in the fog.
The Mt Veeder appelation is unique to the region. It is one of several Mountain appellations within the larger Napa Valley, but Mt Veeder sits the furthest south, overlapping Carneros. As a result, Mt Veeder is also the coolest AVA in the Napa Valley benefiting from the marine influence with fog and cool air moving Northward from San Pablo and San Francisco Bays.
While the other Mountain AVAs rely on more volcanic soil, Mt Veeder hosts primarily sedimentary, former seabed earth. The Lagier Meredith Vineyards grow from sandstone and shale, both of which fracture allowing roots to grow deep and more readily access water.
Carole’s work in grape genetics heralded an understanding of genetic relationships of vines. While she also helped establish worldwide lab partnerships in order to build a genetic map of grape types, her passion was in determining the parentage and relationship between different vines. The first such breakthrough established Cabernet Sauvignon as the child of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Her success in this discovery led to heritage vineyards in France allowing her to use their vine collections to research further. She went on to establish the origins of Syrah, Chardonnay, Gamay, Aligote, Pinot Meunier, and Zinfandel, among others.
Partially in celebration of her work, the Lagier Meredith Vineyards grow Syrah (a good match for the cooler climate, elevation, shallow soils of Mt Veeder), Zinfandel, and Mondeuse (“the crazy uncle” of Syrah).
Stephen and Carole planted Syrah first. After having dinner at their home with Jean Louis Chave, the 15th., a former student of Carole’s, the couple mentioned they were considering planting Syrah on the site. Chave looked out into the Napa Valley and agreed, “Syrah loves a view.”
My favorite part of all this? Meeting the unique character of people. Carole had a cast metal telephone art phase. The handle lifts up. She also made a wall mount version.
The couple’s interests paralleled even before they met. Stephen had a ceramic frog art phase. This one with a cap and cigar, others with other accoutrement, and different postures.
the curious kitty
They make wine, and their own olives from trees planted in the 1880s. They’re delicious (Rachel ate a whole jar of them almost in one sitting).
Syrah was unusual for Napa Valley when Stephen and Carole planted vines on their then brand new vineyard in 1994. At the time the region was planted almost entirely with Cabernet Sauvignon. Lagier Meredith Syrah was also one of the first from the region to be described by the media as showing a more restrained European influence.
Stephen and Carole manage all aspect of the business–vineyard maintenance and planting, winemaking and marketing–themselves, but he is humble about the project at the same time.
When I ask him about the European comparison of their wines he responds, “It is a reflection of this place. That was not our goal. Our goal was to reduce our influence on the wine.”
Carole adds, “we are fortunate. We have a cool site, with shallow soils, that produce focused wines with complexity.”
Stephen continues, “we are just pleased this place makes this wine we enjoy, and people enjoy. It allows us to make a living.” He pauses, “so pleased.”
The couple had their first press in 1996, originally having planted vines for their own appreciation and use. When they tasted what the wine had to offer, however, it far outpaced their own expectations. So, they shared it with friends, who had a similar response. Their first release was in 2000, and was received almost immediately with good critical response, and a quickly loyal mailing list.
the shy kitty
These concert posters are originals from shows Carole attended.
Thank you to Carole Meredith and Stephen Lagier for hosting me.
More to follow!
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