#VINO4: Carole Meredith of Lagier-Meredith Winery

Can there be any other business where there is so much bullshit.

Cool people. 4 questions. 1 bottle of wine. Carole Meredith uttered one of the most quotable lines from the recently released documentary that will easily have you thirst for a glass of vino “SOMM 2 Into the Bottle”. Carol is an accomplished figure in the world of academia and wine. In 2003 she retired as a professor of over 20 years from the Dept of Viticulture and Oenology at U.C. Davis where she pioneered DNA typing to differentiate grape varietals (geeky but groundbreaking research with respect to origins of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.) Today, in ‘retirement’, she and her husband (also well accomplished in academia and wine) create beautiful Syrah, Malbec as well as some interesting grapes likely not known to many. If you couldn’t tell from the quote, she’s a firecracker! Enjoy.

The “Somm” movies have increased focus on the sommelier and the wine world in general. You have a very ‘no nonsense’ approach to wine – what shaped your mindset?

I have a scientific background and I value rationality and logic. I don’t get mystical or romantic about wine. There’s no magic to growing grapes or making wine. If someone makes a claim about the effect of viticultural practice or a winemaking method, I want to see evidence. I don’t simply accept anyone’s claims at face value. I think many people believe things about grape growing and winemaking that simply aren’t true.

Should wine drinkers care about the ‘behind the scenes’ of wine such as ‘vines’ and its history? Why? 

Sure, because those things can make drinking a wine a much richer and more interesting experience. If you don’t know anything about the vineyard or the culture of the place or its history, then you still might enjoy the wine but knowing more about it makes it much more enjoyable. I was never interested in history until I began learning about wine. I quickly realized that the history of wine is the history of Europe. They are inextricably intertwined. Similarly, seeing the place where a wine comes from and meeting the people who make it can hugely enhance the experience of drinking a wine. When I drink a wine, I often think about the place and the people who made it.

We’re not that familiar with Mondeuse, “Syrah’s crazy uncle.” What can you tell us about this grape? What does it taste like? 

Mondeuse is an old variety grown in the cool Savoie region of France, between the Northern Rhone and Switzerland. There it makes red wines that typically have the light color and body of Pinot Noir with the aroma of Syrah. Mondeuse wines are known for their ageability. We know from genetic research that Mondeuse is related to Syrah. It’s either Syrah’s grandfather or uncle. We wondered whether growing Mondeuse on the same site as Syrah, with the same soil, same climate, same farming, same rootstock, same winemaking, same barrels, same aging, would produce wines that are more similar to each other, as might be expected given their genetic relationship. What we’ve found in our own vineyard is that Mondeuse can produce a very dark colored, full-bodied and spicy wine, even more so than Syrah. This came as somewhat of a surprise and demonstrates the huge effect of site and climate on the kind of wine a variety can produce.   

You make a rosé. What qualities do you value in rosé? Why did it take so long for rosé to find its proper place in the American wine palate?

I like a rosé that is full-flavored. That’s why we make our rosé from ripe fruit. We don’t pick early for our rosé because we want it to have flavor. The slow acceptance of rosé by US consumers may have, in part anyway, be due to the huge popularity of White Zinfandel, which led a lot of consumers to think that all pink wines were like that. But it was mass produced and sweet and it didn’t reflect any particular place. It did not appeal to people who liked fine wines.

Bonus Question:

Let’s say I’m just getting into wine and I want to remember three crucially helpful things. What would they be?

The three most important things that determine the flavor of a wine are 1) the grape variety, 2) where it is grown and 3) how it is grown. Anything done in the winery is much less significant than these three things.

Check her out in “SOMM 2 Into the Bottle”

Check out Lagier-Meredith Winery

Video Interview with some of the cast members of Somm 2 Into the Bottle.