Before any significant wine tasting trip, we canvas our fellow wine lovers for their favorite wineries in the area. As we prepared for our “Champagne and More” wine tasting trip through the Russian River area, one winery was consistently mentioned by everyone we asked. That winery? The Merry Edwards Winery, of course.
So sometimes I am a bit slow on the uptake. When everyone told me, “You have to visit Merry Edwards!” I happily Googled “Mary Edwards Winery”. Just one more reason to appreciate Google. The mechanical brain in the sky understood that “Mary” and “Merry” are homonyms, so I did receive the information I needed, with a remarkable lack of judging by Google. The informatin included the proper spelling of Ms. Edwards first name. Merry, it seems, is short for Meredith. One small mystery solved, so many yet to face.
After a truly remarkable tasting at the Harvest Moon Winery, we drove a few miles to Merry Edwards. After a long, swooping driveway, we found ourselves in a spacious parking lot adjacent to a huge (for the area) production facility and tasting room. Sadly absent was any shade for our car. We crossed our fingers and left our wine purchases in the trunk, hoping for the best.
We wandered around a bit before we found the right pathway to the tasting room. We walked past a number of beautiful outdoor sitting areas, complete with sun umbrellas. Pressing on, we entered the tasting room, to discover that it was configured as a series of separate, intimate tasting areas. For reasons we never determined, we were the only customers in the facility at that moment, so we had everyone’s attention and access to a premier room and top-notch wine guide.
We met Bill Shortridge, a wine guide straight out of Central Casting. His enthusiasm for wine and wine making was palpable. While he proudly poured our first taste, a 2012 Olivet Lane Chardonnay, he let us know that he also grows his own grapes and produces the second best wines in the area (of course, he considers Merry Edwards wines to be number one).
We quickly learned that Bill’s wine knowledge was as crisp and accessible as the Chardonnay. We learned that Merry Edwards has been making wine for over 40 years, making her among the very first women in the business. After decades of producing wines for several flagship labels, she founded the Merry Edwards Winery in 1997. The winery opened to eager tasters in 2008. In 2013, her 40th year in the industry, she was inducted in the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame.
We tasted our way through an extensive wine list and took some interesting detours, too. In addition to some amazing wine, we also got a complete education regarding the mountain ridges, wind gaps and valleys that make up the local geography. Each tiny area has unique weather patterns and soil, producing grapes that are equally unique. We learned what was special about each vineyard that produced the wine as we tasted it.
Bill really knew his stuff! The information that flowed out of him would have easily filled a two hour Discovery Channel special. We tried to take it all in, scribble some notes for later, and still take the time to appreciate every taste. Won’t lie, when push came to shove, we prioritized the tasting over the note taking. Tough choices had to be made, and we can always spend a dozen hours on Wikipedia. Or, better still, come back a second time and spend more quality time with Bill!
Another great thing about our time with Bill was his encyclopedic knowledge of the other wineries in the area. By the time we were halfway through the tasting, we knew that our initial plan of only visiting two wineries and then jumping to museum visiting was out the window. Bill listened to our reaction to various wines as he poured, and formulated a short list of wineries that he felt would fit our preferences exactly. Why fight in the face of such knowledge? We took some notes, including some ideas about a lunch spot. More about that in a later post!
As the extensive tasting flight came to an end, we purchased some wine and set off for downtown Sebastopol. We couldn’t wait to try out some of the wineries that Bill thought were ALMOST as good as Merry Edwards.
Thanks, Bill and everyone at Merry Edwards. This was an exquisite tasting experience!
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?