Lagier Meredith  
Visiting California's Napa Valley, part 5


Americans like to eat dinner early. When I arrived at Bottega for dinner with Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith, some people we already finishing their main courses, and it was just 6.30 pm. Bottega proved to be a good choice though: the food was excellent, and the vibe good.  

Husband and wife team Steve and Carole began their small Mount Veeder vineyard back in the late 1980s, but were both at the time gainfully employed elsewhere, Steve as a winemaker with Mondavi and Carole as a professor at University of California Davis. Carole was the researcher responsible for showing that Zinfandel actually hails from Croatia, among other things.

The first thing they had to do was repair the damage done by the previous owner, who had bought it with a view to selling it as a second home site. With this in mind, he’d cut down lots of trees in order to demonstrate the property’s potential, but in the process had left large root fragments in the soil. These can transmit oak root fungus to vines (this is mychorrhizal to oak trees but pathogenic to vines), so Steve and Carole needed to comb the soil to remove them all, and then plant cover crop, before establishing the new vines. The first vines were planted in 1994, and rather unusually for Napa the choice was Syrah.

Four acres of Syrah are planted, at an altitude of 400 metres. A little Mondeuse Noir has just been added, which they describe as ‘Syrah’s crazy uncle’. They said that they were expecting something light coloured from the Mondeuse, but instead got deep coloured spicy stuff. Steve and Carole do everything themselves, including viticulture and winemaking. The wines are aged in used barrels bought from Saintsbury.

We tried the 2005 and 2001 Syrahs, and both were utterly fantastic: bright, focused, a bit peppery, with lovely purity and precision. These are ageworthy wines that resemble more the northern Rhone than typical Californian Syrah. I love them, and for $48 retail, they are (by Napa standards at least) really good value. They’ve just released the 2007 and still have the 2006.


Lagier Meredith Syrah 2005
Really fresh, focused, bright and peppery with wonderfully fresh structure and acidity. Vibrant raspberry and cherry fruit dominate. Fresh and precise with nice savoury structure, this is a beautifully focused, linear wine that is developing beautifully. 94/100

Lagier Meredith Syrah 2001
A beautiful wine. Lovely aromatic violet-scented nose with some olive, meat and spice notes alongside the fruit. The palate has a hint of earthiness and lovely fruit purity, with appealing spicy notes. A deliciously fresh expression of Syrah. 94/100


Photos from Napa Valley
Part 1, Cain
Part 2, Schramsberg

Part 3, Corison

Part 4, Saintsbury
Part 5, Lagier Meredith
Part 6, Trefethen
Part 7, Trinchero
Part 8, Grgich Hills
Part 9, Cakebread

Wines tasted as 11/09  
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