Q & A with JBF Award Nominee Merry Edwards

An interview with James Beard Award nominee Merry Edwards

 

One of California’s first female winemakers, multiple JBF Award nominee Merry Edwards is widely respected for her pioneering efforts in sustainability and for the exceptional pinot noir that she produces at her eponymous winery. Below, the 2013 Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional award nominee tells us about what she’s adding to her portfolio, the local producer she most admires, and why the 2012 vintage is known among local winemakers as the “Tsunami of Grapes.”

 

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JBF: Among your 2012 releases, what are you most excited about?

 

Merry Edwards: 2012 was an amazing harvest. In my forty years of experience, I have not seen quantity and quality come together like they did. We refer to it here as the “Tsunami of Grapes.” For every vintage, there is one vineyard that seems to shine, and in 2012 I think the Flax Vineyard pinot will be the best it has been since its first vintage in 2004. That being said, all of the pinots are lovely and the sauvignon blanc is outstanding.

 

JBF: You recently added Sauvignon Blanc to your portfolio. Have you thought about expanding to any other varietals?

 

ME: In 2010 we added a single vineyard Olivet Lane Chardonnay, from a 40-year-old Russian River Valley treasure. We’re also producing a late-harvest, cane cut–style Sauvignon Blanc when the vintage permits—we made one in 2008 and another in 2012. I’ve always loved sparkling wine so we’re also producing blanc de blancs and rosé on a periodic basis. It’s a labor of love: the barrel-fermented wine spends five years en tirage and takes a full seven years to complete. Our 2008 Cuveé Meredith, a rosé, will be released in 2015, while the 2012 Cuveé Olivet will be released in 2019.

 

JBF: You are a longtime champion of sustainability. Are there any recently implemented or planned sustainable practices at your winery that you can tell us about?

 

ME: We are very proud to have entirely solar-powered electricity at the winery. For more information on all of our sustainable practices, please check out our sustainability page at merryedwards.com.

 

JBF: Have you observed any climate change effects in your vineyards?

 

ME: In Russian River Valley, I primarily see cooler seasons and split seasons where it's so cool so that we have a break in the middle of the harvest. As the Central Valley of California heats up, cool air is sucked in along the coast, making it cooler here. There’s also an erratic pattern of extreme differences in temperature. This happens when the warming pattern in Central California breaks and we’re exposed, sometimes dramatically, to very warm temperatures. This happened in 2010, when the ambient temperature during a very cool season went from 70°F to over 110°F in one day!

 

JBF: Who are some other winemakers in your area whom you admire?

 

ME: I am a fan of the wines from Ted Lemon at Littorai. He’s actually my new neighbor as my husband, Ken, and I just moved to next to his vineyard and home in Sebastopol.

 

JBF: What’s your earliest food memory?

 

ME: I fondly remember holiday meals at my maternal grandmother's home in Illinois. My uncles were all hunters, so, at Thanksgiving, turkey was only one of the many dishes presented, along with rabbit, duck, pheasant, and goose. The table was laden with all sorts of goodies, and pie was one of my favorites. And I still have my grandmother's blue bread bowl—she was certainly my inspiration in learning to cook.

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