By most standards, Monterey’s Ventana Vineyards is one of the truly revolutionary wine facilities in middle California’s Central Coast Region.
By most standards, Monterey’s Ventana Vineyards is one of the truly revolutionary wine facilities in middle California’s Central Coast Region. The three hundred sixty-five acre facility was incepted in 1975 when recently enacted federal tax guidelines forced its founder Doug Meador to rescue the acreage from a larger parcel that was initially funded to provide tax advantages to a myriad of potential investors.
As far back as 1972, Meador became an original investor in the project and spent the next three years supervising the planting of the property that was owned by some of his friends. When the tax advantages of the mid-seventies abruptly changed, Meador felt he had absorbed sufficient expertise to attempt to take his favorite piece of the property and turn it into a productive wine business.
Since his family business in his native Washington State involved the growing and selling of apples, Meador was no stranger to viticulture and its potential pitfalls. He carefully chose Ventana as the name for his new business, a Spanish word meaning window that mirrored his optimistic outlook and a name that symbolized “the window of the future” in viticulture.
At the time, the Central Coast was a little more than a decade into Paul Masson’s early to mid 1960’s plantings and the outside world was totally ignorant of the fact that a truly wonderful growing environment surrounded what were arguably two of California’s most romantic and storied cities, Monterey and Carmel.
Ventana Vineyards released their first wines in 1978, a late Harvest Riesling from the prior vintage. That first year, the winery eventually produced a total of around 500 cases that included a number of different varietals.
The following year, an incredible event occurred that changed Ventana Vineyards forever. For the 1979 Orange County Fair, Ventana entered a total of seven wines that were judged by the fair’s eminent panel of winemakers and winery owners, the most erudite judging panel in the country. At the fair’s conclusion, Ventana’s wines were awarded a total of six gold and one silver, by far the most impressive showing in the fair’s entire history and the Ventana Vineyards medals mystique was forever established.
To date, Ventana Vineyards has won in excess of 3,000 medals at varying competitions, a figure that dwarfs even larger wineries that bring powerful resources to bear in many highly significant wine competitions. Ventana Vineyards is internationally recognized as the premier award winning single vineyard property in the entire world, no small feat in today’s competitive environment.
Ventana’s production has varied according to demand according to Doug Meador. “We reached a high of around forty thousand cases during the mid-eighties, but we presently produce around twelve thousand,” he explained. “The lower number of cases allows us to control the many factors that influence our wines, and it is one reason that our quality has always remained at such a high level.”
Ventana also sells a large percentage (somewhere around 80%) of its premium grapes to a host of ultra high quality wineries, a number of which continue to identify Ventana Vineyard on their award winning wines.
All this is a matter of relativity to Doug Meador, who at age 62 considers his accomplishments and accolades a tribute to the Central Coast growing area that he helped pioneer nearly three decades earlier.
He is also extremely proud that his wife of nineteen years, Lu Ann, is an integral part of Ventana’s success. Lu Ann Meador is active in winery marketing and has helped fuel the political action necessary to accompany the Monterey Region’s ascension to the ranks of a premier wine growing area, no easy job in politically explosive California.
Meador will grow Ventana Vineyards slowly into the new century and remains acutely aware of the time demands that necessarily accompany such growth. He concedes that he always listens to the marketplace and, in Meador’s experienced opinion, “the marketplace is seldom wrong.”
Ventana’s remarkable wines also are well known for their price-value relationship, a rarity among most award winning wines. The winery also remains firmly dedicated to increasing the quality of its wines and also those of its neighbors throughout California, particularly when compared to European counterparts.
The real winner in this scenario is the American consumer who will continue to enjoy Ventana Vineyards’ award winning wines at marvelously competitive prices. Gold Medal Wine Club is particularly pleased to share these outstanding wines with our members. We know you will enjoy them to the fullest.
Doug Meador - Owner - Wine Enthusiast
While he was still in the Navy flying fighters during the Vietnam War (he flew 329 combat missions, a record for naval aviators who flew two tours during the conflict) Doug Meador was already involved with a fledgling viticultural business. The still fresh-faced ex-fighter jock feels that action prepared him perfectly for his career in the wine industry.
‘After all that, I think I was ready for just about anything,” he recalled, ‘even the wine business.”
Nearly thirty years later, Doug Meador is one of the true icons of the modern California wine industry. Even though his Ventana Vineyards is literally awash in gold medals and accolades, he feels his personal contribution comes as a scientist or innovator within the viticultural world.
Meador is considered as the foremost specialist in California regarding cold climate viticulture, a passion that has marked his heralded career. His research and findings on close vine spacing and split canopy trellising have vaulted him to international acclaim and have made him an invaluable speaker in scholarly milieus within the grape industry. His tempestuous relationship with UC Davis (for ten years he was ostracized until his avant garde theories that were contrary to what UC Davis was teaching at the time were proven to be correct) has provided him with an international platform for his hypotheses that are now in general use in other grape growing areas of the world.
Even as Ventana Vineyards served as the vehicle for Meador’s research projects, he has managed to keep its wines at the very top of the American wine spectrum. His 1979 Ventana Chardonnay was recognized as one of the finest examples of California Chardonnay ever produced and the varietal is still the flagship vehicle for the winery.
Along the way, several other pet projects have come to fruition. Among the most interesting is Meador’s mid-1970’s study of French forests and cooperage techniques. Along with Chalone’s Dick Graff and other members of a technical study group, Meador became interested as to whether a California planting of the Quercus Robur strain of French Oak could replicate the same resins here as the tree does in France. Meador planted several thousand seedlings in 1978 and today points proudly to the stand of oak that borders his famous Ventana Vineyard and the winery in Monterey.
‘Sometime during the next twenty to thirty years we will be able to produce the first oak barrels from the trees that now stand about 50 feet high,” he explained. ‘From the looks of the trees, I’m willing to bet that the barrels will be world class.” Few will argue with Meador, he has simply been right on too many issues before to challenge his predictions.
As Ventana Vineyards has evolved into its modern identity, so has the indomitable figure of Doug Meador. His fire and temperament may have cooled a bit due to maturity but Meador remains a viticultural pioneer in the truest sense of the word.
He has changed, according to himself, for the better regarding his personal life. Doug is completely content with his lovely wife Lu Ann who assists at the winery and shares the brunt of many of his laborious projects.
Having first introduced the now popular Syrah as a varietal to California in 1974, Doug Meador’s newest undertaking involves several grape varietals that have evolved from abroad. Doug sees Grenache (or a combination of its many sister grapes within the Grenache family) emerging as the next big varietal explosion within our country, but is unable to predict exactly when this will occur. Another obscure grape, the foundation red Tempranillo from Spain will have a dramatic effect in the United States, but, according to Meador, that action will not occur for at least 10- 15 years into the future.
One thing for sure, Doug Meador will be involved in new and exciting projects until he is ready to retire, which most of his friends agree, will never happen
Meador enjoys his scholarly status and has earned every one of his plaudits the hard way. Through it all he has kept his sense of humor and remarkable personality.
After all, with 329 fighter pilot missions under his belt in Vietnam, there is little that can truly upset him. His friends and competitors in Monterey know what a fighter he is and are uniform in their support of his efforts. Many credit Meador with putting the area’s wines on the world quality wine map. It is hard to disagree with any of them.