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Courtesy of Merriam Vineyards

(SONOMA, Calif.) — NEWS: Merriam Vineyards, located in California’s Russian River AVA, wrapped up the 2023 harvest with much to celebrate. Winemaker William Weese states that this year is poised to produce a “great and first-class vintage” for Merriam’s award-winning cool-climate varieties, especially its Pinot Noir. Throughout Sonoma County and many AVAs within California, the 2023 vintage is already anticipated to be one of the best in decades.

“Being a cooler year with long hangtime was extremely beneficial,” Weese says. “We were getting phenolic ripeness on fruit without having to deal with high Brix. The acid was there, too. I never felt like I needed to pick or press a wine off earlier than I wanted to, to make room for the next wine, so all the wines we made got all the attention they deserved.” Weese adds that the excellent conditions also resulted in minimal intervention in winemaking, resulting in a direct expression of the vineyard and a chance for the “fruit to speak for itself.”

This harvest marks the first for Merriam as a fully CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers)-certified winery, following decades of commitment to organic and sustainable practices in their vineyards and beyond. Founded in 2000 by husband-and-wife Peter and Diana Merriam and focusing on estate-grown Bordeaux and Burgundy varieties, Merriam previously achieved CCOF vineyard certification for its Los Amigos estate property in 2012. Purchased in 2022, the Eastside estate is currently certified sustainable through the CSWA California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance and the Windacre vineyard-

the first vineyard purchased by the Merriams in 2000-is currently certified sustainable with the Sonoma Sustainable designation. The 2023 vintage of several vineyard designates from the Los Amigos property, named after three generations of Merriam women including Diana’s Pinot Noir, Danielle’s Fumé Blanc, and Evanthea’s Chardonnay, will include “made with organic grapes” on the label.

“The CCOF certification has been a nice progression through our sustainable journey,” says Peter, adding that they “immediately” began pursuing certification after founding the winery. “Its arduous nature means we must abide by strict rules and materials, and everything must be planned, proactive and approved. On the winery side, that includes strict regulations inside the facilities such as keeping the organic materials isolated, triple rinsed, sanitized, and sterilized, and documenting everything along the way.”

“My family has been farming organically since 2012 because we believe it produces world-class wines, and with this newest certification we are able to continue to educate consumers on the quality that comes from holding ourselves to higher standards and practices,” adds estate manager Evan Merriam.

An extension of its ongoing commitment to sustainable farming, the winery also introduced 800 Babydoll sheep into the estate vineyards last spring to mow down clover and other cover crop. Too small to damage vines, the sheep improve vineyard soil health by providing natural fertilizer and reducing the need for heavy machinery, which means less soil compaction and improved soil fertility and structure. Merriam also has 25 head of cattle grazing the outlying hills above the vineyard for range management and fire protection.

Outdoor design expansion of its 21-acre estate has been an additional project for Merriam this year, in partnership with Munden Fry Landscape Associates (MFLA). The project elevates guest experience while respecting and showcasing the property’s natural environs. “A connection to the vineyard and the sustainable farming practices provided the foundation for the renovations of the tasting terrace, new Garden Rooms and a reorientation of the visitors experience when entering the property,” says MFLA Partner James Munden.

Begun in 2021, the plan includes a row of antique olive trees with a rich underplanting of ornamental grasses, leading visitors to the various tasting areas. Hedges create green walls defining the outdoor tasting rooms under a bosque of plane trees for shade from the summer heat. A stone water wall feature mitigates sound from nearby Hwy 101 and encloses one side of the Tasting Terrace. Creating a more enjoyable and immersive winery experience aligns with the Merriam family’s early vision of bringing visitors outside, emphasizing the vineyards, views and natural habitats that are the focus of the winery’s environmentally progressive efforts.

About CCOF:

Founded in 1973, the non-profit CCOF is a leader in the organic agricultural movement and specializes in education, advocacy, promotion and certification for California farms, livestock, operations, retailers, restaurants and more. The CCOF is globally recognized for its comprehensive and strict standards and is USDA accredited. The rigorous certification process for wineries includes review of soil quality, pest and weed control, the use of input materials and animal husbandry, among other focuses. For more information visit www.ccof.org/page/about-ccof.

About MFLA:

Munden Fry Landscape Associates is a landscape and urban design studio established in 1990 that blurs the boundaries between land, architecture and art. Led by British transplant, James Munden and original studio founder, Marta Fry, MFLA strives to create vibrant, enduring, and compelling environments that consider both the built & natural ecologies equally. With an established reputation for delivering high quality private and public works across a diverse portfolio, James and Marta share a common-sense approach. The result is environmentally grounded designs with integrity, substance, and an inherent sense of timelessness. For more information, visit mflastudio.com/ or contact Amber Munden at ambermunden@mflasf.com.

About Merriam Vineyards:

Established in 2000 in Sonoma, CA’s Russian River AVA by husband-and-wife Peter and Diana Merriam, Merriam Vineyards specializes in Bordeaux and Burgundy varieties and was born from the couple’s love of Old World wines and extensive European travels. Recognizing the immense potential for producing distinctive single-vineyard wines in Sonoma, the Merriam’s acquired what would become known as the Windacre Vineyard in 2000, adding Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec plantings beyond its existing Merlot vines and establishing the quality of Bordeaux varieties in a region primarily known for cool-climate wines.

The couple expanded its estate into Burgundian varieties with the acquisition of its Los Amigos property in 2009 and in 2022, purchased the hillside Eastside Estate, with a focus on core col-climate Pinot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The winery’s rigorous, decades-long commitment to sustainable viticulture and production resulted in the prestigious CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) certification for its Los Amigos estate (2012) and winery (2023), as well as CCSW (Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing) certification for its Windacre property and Sonoma Sustainable for its Eastside Estate. Son Evan Merriam represents the Merriam’s next generation as estate manager.

For more information about Merriam Vineyards, visit www.merriamvineyards.com/ or on Instagram @merriamvineyards.

Related link: www.merriamvineyards.com/

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