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De Lorimier Winery - Alexander Valley - Sonoma


Mosaic Red Meritage wine earns a slew of Gold Medals every year.

Meritage wines represent the best of American made wines blended together in the classic style and tradition of the great Bordeaux wines. De Lorimier Winery, as you will discover with this month’s selections, is a standout producer of Meritage wines. Their wines embody the emerging belief that expert blending, enhanced by continuing refinement in all phases of the winemaking process, can produce vintages that are more complex than varietals, and unexcelled in flavor and quality.

The term “Meritage” is a blend itself--of the words “Merit” and “Heritage.” In 1988, a group of 20 vintners created The Meritage Association, dedicated to the goal of first legitimizing, then popularizing the term, Meritage. It is ironic to have to legitimize a wine making technique which has been the standard tradition of many great French wine producers for centuries. But in California, through the 1970’s and early 1980’s, premium wines tended to be just single variety wines. For example, a Cabernet Sauvignon was largely assumed to be 100% of that variety. Early winemakers felt it was an opportunity to distinguish California wines from French wines, and make it easier for the consumer to make a buying decision. As winemakers grew to better understand the world’s great wines-particularly Bordeaux wines, they realized the importance of blending techniques. Gradually, the Cabernet Sauvignons began to appear with a blend of Merlot--to “soften” the wine, as they said. Whether the Merlot “softened” the wine or not, it was added to make a more complex, flavorful and interesting wine. Today, of course, literally hundreds of wineries are blending their wines, the results of which, have been fabulous.

The Meritage Association specifies that a Meritage wine must represent the winery’s best efforts of winemaking, and contain only specific Bordeaux varietals. The allowable red varietals include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot. The White Meritage wines may include only a combination of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, or Muscadelle. Every Meritage varietal except Muscadelle is being grown by de Lorimier Winery.

Alfred de Lorimier bought his vineyard land in 1971. Originally, he was just looking to find a getaway spot for he and his family to escape the busy city life of San Francisco. The Sonoma location on which he settled, was just a short drive away, and in the heart of the beautiful Alexander Valley. At that time, the property was an old prune orchard, owned by Beringer Vineyards. De Lorimier tried his hand at prune farming for one harvest before converting the entire parcel into vineyards. Lucky for wine lovers he did!

For thirteen years Al de Lorimier sold his entire grape production to other wineries. He observed how these wineries were winning medal after medal using his grapes! What bothered him though was the one-varietal style in which most of these wines were being made. “I was tired of the monochromatic wines being made back then,” he says. “The Chardonnays were too oaky, and the Sauvignon Blancs were too grassy. I prefer a fruitier more complex style.” he adds, “So I decided to build my own winery to make wines the way I like to drink them!”

By 1987 he was off and running with his own offering of uniquely blended wines, fashioned in the time-honored Bordeaux technique--and more importantly, the way he preferred to drink wine. Al de Lorimier’s wife, Sandy, created a “Patterns” concept in naming the wines. The wine names, Spectrum, a white Meritage, Mosaic, a red Meritage, and Prism, a blend of three Chardonnays, were created. The names suggest the essence of each particular wine, and the artistry, and richness in each blend. All three wines are complex, yet distinctive combinations of grape varietals which produce an array of generous flavors. A fourth offering called, Lace, is a late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc wine, available only in special years when the weather cooperates.

Al de Lorimier keeps an eye on the winery operation, and is also a prominent pediatric surgeon in San Francisco. Al’s wife, Sandy; winemaker Don Frazer, sales & marketing manager, John Woodward; and vineyard manger, Alex Vyborny; are the lifeblood of the operation. Total production is just under 10,000 cases annually. Only the best grapes are used to make their proprietary wines, which account for roughly 1/3 of the total grape production. The other two-thirds continue to be sold to other wineries.

The de Lorimier Winery has helped open the door for a new range of serious California wines. Winemaker Don Frazer has carefully crafted blends that have long been on the cutting edge of innovation. Frazer joined de Lorimier Winery in the spring of 1989, and with him has brought an extensive background in viticulture and winemaking. He was raised on a family farm just north of Sacramento and attended the University of California at Davis, where he obtained a B.S. specializing in Plant Science. Don joined Charles Krug winery in 1978 where he was elevated to the position of winemaker/production manager in 1980. In 1982 Don accepted a position as winemaker at Belvedere Winery where he was promoted to Vice President/Winemaker in 1985.

Don’s winemaking philosophy is based on the fact that wine is a fruit product and therefore should reflect the varietal character of the grapes as well as the region and vineyard in which they are grown. This unique combination should be the central focus of a wine. From the time a vineyard is selected to the time a wine is released, all decisions must be made with ultimate goal of enhancing and preserving that unique character and presenting a wine that is complex, balanced and delicious to drink.



Dear Platinum Series Wine Club Members:

We are proud to share with you our pride and joy, our 1997 Mosaic Red Meritage. It is born of a collaboration between Mother Nature and our winemaking team. The production of a truly fine wine requires the combination of experienced and skilled vineyard management and careful attention to detail in the winemaking process.

In the 26 years that we have been growing grapes in the Alexander Valley we have worked continuously to learn what grape varietals, clones, rootstock and trellis systems are best suited to the varied soils and microclimates of our three ranches. Ongoing experiments in the vineyards continue to point the way to growing the best wine that we can.

As winemakers, we have always believed in blending carefully selected individual wine lots and varietals. We think that the sum of many parts makes a wine of greater complexity with more layers of aromas and flavors. The blend of varietals in our 1997 Mosaic comes together to make one of the finest wines that we have made to date.

Alexander Valley is renowned for the suppleness of texture and the aromatic complexity of its Cabernet sauvignon. Cabernet, grown on each of our ranches, provides the backbone of Mosaic. Malbec adds a soft jammy fruit character to the wine and Petite Verdot adds depth of color and a wonderful black pepper spice. Merlot, with its bright red fruit flavors, adds balance and one more layer to the finished wine.

To learn more about our wines or to find directions to our winery, visit us online at delormierwinery.com

Cheers! Al & Sandy deLorimier

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