Napa Valley AVA
The winery’s production rests just under 1,000 cases
If ever the heralded University of California Davis could take credit for a winery operation, the emerging Lagier Meredith Vineyard of Napa Valley would certainly stand up as a perfect example.
The winery is named after its two owners, Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith, who are also husband and wife. The pair met roughly thirty years ago at UC Davis where Lagier was a research student and Carole was a professor of viticulture and enology. After their marriage, Steve went into the employ of iconic Robert Mondavi Winery and stayed there for more than fourteen years.
In 1986, the couple started to seriously consider moving to a spot that would be more expedient than the 55-mile commute between Mondavi and UC Davis. They considered approximately 70 different locations before deciding on a rural property near the top of venerable Mt. Veeder, on Napa Valley’s western ridge formation known as the Mayacamas Range. The 86-acre piece of land was mostly forest covered but possessed a great climate and what the couple considered excellent topography for planting grape vines.
“For several years, all we did was to try and fix up the property,” recalled Carole Meredith, now professor emerita at UC Davis. “We were eventually able to clear some land and, in 1994, plant around 4 ½ acres of vines, but the rest was forest and will remain so.”
Along the way, Steve started making a little wine to share with their myriad of friends, mostly people in the wine business. The first wine was a product of the 1996 vintage and amounted to a barrel or so.
“We went to a party in 1998 where everyone there was a winemaker,” Meredith continued. “One of the highlights was a brown bag tasting of wines that everyone there had brought. Our wine won the tasting and we were encouraged to begin making the wine on a more commercial level.”
Lagier Meredith Vineyard produced a microscopic 74 cases of its first release of the 1998 vintage and was rewarded with extremely positive feedback from consumers and industry periodicals alike. The winery’s production has risen gradually and today rests just under 1,000 cases, a level Carole Meredith says emphatically will remain so as long as possible.
“We are at a sweet spot in our development right now,” she explained. “At this point, we can do things in a simple way. Steve and I do all the work ourselves and we both really enjoy it. If we expanded our operation, we would have to hire people and accept all the problems that come with paperwork, insurance and the like. The way we are today is wonderful and since we entered the venture with no expectations, everything we have accomplished is on the plus side.”
When Lagier Meredith Vineyard was in its infancy, both owners continued in their day jobs and considered the project a sideline. The winery’s success has changed all that and now both devote all their efforts to the emerging winery. Once there was enough product to go around, Lagier Meredith found itself a serious player in competitions and something of a darling of the industry wine press.
As mentioned earlier, Steve and Carole do all the work, even down to designing the intriguing labels that grace each Lagier Meredith bottle.
“I had always been into photography,” Carole Meredith pointed out. “I had even done one of my brother’s CD covers for him. When the topic of labels for Lagier Meredith came up, he suggested using some of my photographs. I looked around and didn’t see many labels that used photography so I began experimenting. I wanted to use the classic Bordeaux approach, that being one of image and text and quite simply stated. I also wanted to use photos of or from our place.
“Early morning is a marvelous time at the top of the mountain, and most of the year there is fog and clouds that make for some outstanding picture opportunities. Sunrise and the morning sky shrouded in a mist are almost magical to me and that’s what we went with on our labels. We change the labels each year, but the early sunrise theme is constant.”
Few people enjoy the type of contentment Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith derive from their tiny winery venture. They are able to extract extreme quality from their vines and pass it on to their legions of admirers in the competitive wine world.
A Note from Stephen Lagier & Carole Meredith
Dear Gold Medal Wine Club Members,
The 2006 Syrah is the ninth vintage from our vineyard. Rich, dark, smooth and seamless, it’s another fine example of the complex, balanced and consummately integrated wine that our vineyard gives us year after year. The wine is ready to drink now or you can hold it for five or ten years if you prefer older wines. It will age beautifully.
Lagier Meredith is a very small operation — it’s just the two of us. We have no employees, no consultants, no partners and no investors. We live on the property and do the vineyard work and winemaking ourselves. When we bought the land in 1986, it had never been planted to grapevines before, although it did have a small grove of very old olive trees, which we have left undisturbed.
Our vineyard site is ideally suited for Syrah. The cool marine air flowing in from the San Francisco Bay brings out flavors that Syrah doesn’t express in warmer places. And our shallow mountain soil restrains the natural vigor of Syrah — it keeps the vines naturally balanced and the berries small and concentrated.
We think you will like this wine. It makes a fine match for any hearty meal — grilled, braised or roasted meats; slow-cooked stews; tomato-based pasta dishes. We also enjoy it with pizza!