All About Wine, Vine by Vine

A Virtual Tasting with Murrieta’s Well

 


What are the secrets of a winemaker with over one hundred 90+ point wines across decades, appellations, and grapes? Perhaps it’s like any top chef: Add a pinch of this, a dash of that, and voila – you’ve got an award winning product. But decorated Murrieta’s Well winemaker Robbie Meyer doesn’t believe in recipes. Rather, he brings an intuitive connection with nature, keen attention to detail, and a certain je ne sais quoi to his work. The left brain and right brain perform a perfect dance in bottle. In the audience of some of the web’s top writers, Snooth sat down with Robbie to talk about his latest works from acclaimed Livermore Valley estate, Murrieta’s Well. Read on to learn more about Robbie’s approach at Murrieta’s Well. But please, don’t limit yourself to our reporting. You can view the full tasting here
Robbie’s journey to Murrieta’s Well (named for California goal rush miner Joaquin Murrieta, the first to discover the property) starts with California winemaking pioneer Louis Mel. In 1884, armed with cuttings from Chateau d’Yquem and Chateau Margaux, Louis Mel began planting vines on the Livermore plot that is now Murrieta’s Well. The vestiges of those first plantings still exist on the property today. In fact, Murrieta’s Well is one of California’s original wine estates. Louis Mel sold the property to Livermore Valley’s own Wente family in 1933. The Murrieta’s Well label has grown a strong fan base over the past several decades. Two years ago, the Wente family decided to recruit a true advocate for Murrieta’s Well -- someone to help carve out the label’s identity as a purveyor of high quality, small lot wines. Given his past successes in neighboring regions like Napa and Sonoma, they knew winemaker Robbie Meyer (nineteen vintages and counting) would be a perfect choice. Bringing refined skill and intuition to his practice, Robbie has intimately acquainted himself with each and every vineyard parcel at Murrieta’s Well. Acre by acre, block by block, Robbie is acutely aware of the nuances of each plant. No microclimate, aspect, soil or root goes unnoticed. His output is completely vintage dependent; there is no case goal when it comes to winemaking at Murrieta’s Well. You’ll regularly find Robbie in the vineyards managing every vine based on its individual needs. Each vine is planted exactly where it demands, creating a patchwork of grapes across the grounds. Strategic harvesting is always part of the plan.
 
Four of Robbie’s wines were tasted during the virtual event.  Following are details about each wine and some anecdotes from Robbie. But better yet, go to the tape
 
This is a tasting room exclusive. Plan your visit now -- the historic tasting room just reopened after a period of renovation. Robbie says: When it comes to white winemaking, you have just one chance to get perfect juice. The pressing must be gentle lest the wine be overly bitter and astringent. Perfect press is evidenced in this Small Lot Chardonnay.  Indigenous yeast  populations battled for supremacy during fermentation, with one just one rising to complete domination. As such, these small lot treats will have their own flair each year. The vines are own-rooted (not from rootstock), and Robbie employs many different oak influences from various cooperages so that no single influence will reign supreme. Try pairing with Halibut.
 
This is available in retailers nationwide at an incredible value. The Whip uses cultured yeasts rather than indigenous (as used in the Small Lot Chardonnay.) This is a strategic choice that allows each varietal in the blend to have a voice. Heady aromatics, as Robbie calls them, are achieved through Viognier, Muscat Canelli, and Muscat. Weight, texture, and depth are made possible by Semillon and Chardonnay. Sauvignon Blanc is the structural beam of acidity. Each varietal is cultivated to be its very best self. Blending begins only after fermentation is complete and each varietal has reached its full expression. The Whip is a survey of the five hundred acre Murrieta’s Well property, highlighting what is possible from a full array of varietals. Try it with Thai food, spicy Asian dishes, or vegetables on the grill. 
 
Another tasting room exclusive. Livermore Valley brings California swagger to Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon. Due to the east-west wine influences over the valley, Livermore is cooler than its neighbors. Meanwhile it still reaches optimal levels of heat and sun exposure. This results in beautiful whole red berries that do not over-express their fruit flavors. These grapes do not get painfully ripe. Robbie can open up the vine canopies a bit more in Livermore because the grapes are not as susceptible to burn. This is not true in nearby regions. The result is simply elegant Cabernet with distinct black olive and dark chocolate notes. Think beyond grilled steaks when you pair this Cabernet. It is delicate enough to pair with more tender meats, like lamb. 
 
While the varietal mix changes from year to year, Petite Sirah has been The Spur’s signature. It’s a grape with a great affinity for the Livermore Valley. Older plantings of the grape at Murrieta’s Well give The Spur a luscious and vibrant expression of fruit flavors. Petite Sirah can be rough around the edges, so complementary grapes like Cabernet and Merlot give the blend some finesse. When it comes to blends, Robbie is not married percentages. It’s all about style. This year, The Spur brings delightfully smooth chocolate expressions with a delicious spice. And as Robbie says, pairing is personal: Go with your gut! These elegantly ripened red varietals allow you to think outside of the grilled meat-only box.

Now, sit down with a glass and watch the full interview! 
 
 
Photo credit: Murrieta’s Well

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