Carole Meredith and Steve Lagier don’t pay much attention to the ever-changing fads in Napa Valley, because they simply don’t need to. Speaking with Carole, you are quickly struck by the depth of knowledge and authority with which she speaks, yet all the while in the most comforting and informative ways. This is not just great wine, these are really great people, who have been chasing their dreams for the last thirty years.
Lagier Meredith started as a small project, and what probably seemed like a long shot at the time. In 1986, Carole and Steve bought a piece of Napa Valley land, high up on Mount Veeder; it was a piece of land that it seemed no one else wanted, but what they’ve done with it is amazing.
My first experience with Lagier Meredith was courtesy of one of their loyal customers, of which they have many. I still remember being told that the Syrah was “the closest thing you’ll find to the Northern Rhone without going to the Northern Rhone.” At the end of the tasting, it was a resounding “wow” that was heard from around the table. This wasn’t an overipe California Syrah. Instead it was a towering, dark beauty of a wine, with all the earth, floral and meaty notes, which you’d expect from the Old World–not the new.
Steve, with over thirty years of experience making wine in Napa, and Carole, who was a professor at UC Davis up until 2003, march to the beat of their own drum. With the combined knowledge and experience of these two people, you have one of the best winemaking teams in the valley, and it shows in the wines. What also shows is terroir. At 1300 feet, in shallow, well-draining soils, these vines enjoy cooling ocean breezes, which naturally extend the growing period, while also regulating the ripening process. The result is perfectly ripe fruit of balance and intensity.
What’s more, is that they mature beautifully in the cellar. Having recently tasted the ’01 and ’02, what stood out the most was how young and vibrant they still were. As the 2002 sat in a decanter over the course of hours, it just kept on getting better and better.
I can’t possibly recommend these wines highly enough.
My recent notes on Lagier Meredith Syrah:
2001 Lagier Meredith Syrah – The nose was earthy with a mix of sweet and savory blackberry, plum sauce and spice, hints of rosemary, green olive, crushed stone and undergrowth. It spread across the palate like waves of heavy silk, driven by a saline minerality, offset by ripe dark fruits, peppery spice and charred meat, which lasted into the finish. Dark fruits lingered on the palate for well over a minute. The 2001 Lagier Meredith Syrah is beautifully balanced and firmly in its drinking window, speaking more of the northern Rhone than California. Well done. (92 points)
2002 Lagier Meredith Syrah – The nose showed intense, ripe blackberry and spice up front followed by notes of crushed blueberry, tobacco, green olive, violet florals and hints of animal musk. It was like velvety on the palate, yet fresh and lively throughout, as ripe black fruits and spice flooded the senses with sweet herbs and hints cherry liquor. The finish showed spiced cherry and blackberry fruit with mineral tones lingering long. (93 points)
2011 Lagier Meredith Syrah – The nose was very pretty and floral, showing dark berries and spice with crushed stone, and violets. On the palate, it entered rich and brooding, yet quickly livened up with notes of tart berry and herbs. Notes of pepper and spice with berry concentrate lingered long through the finish. (91 points)
At a recent tasting with Carole, I was surprised to find that it was not the Syrah that came out on top, although it was very good. Instead, it was the Mondeuse. Mondeuse is a cousin variety of Syrah, which Carole had decided to work with some time ago. Production is tiny, with only 97 cases, and there was a part of me that wanted to buy them all. This wine screams of the Northern Rhone, and must be tasted to be believed.
2012 Lagier Meredith Mondeuse Noir – The nose showed masses of ripe black fruits, spiced berry, violette floral tones and a hint of wild herbs. On the palate, it displayed rich textures with saturating dark fruits, citrus and spice. The senses seemed to be coated in sappy black fruit throughout the finish, yet still with a sensation of balance as inner floral tones and spice lingering long. (93 points) @Morrell
Article and tasting notes by: Eric Guido