September 25, 2007
Justin Meyer's Love of Port Lives On
Today’s worldwide craze for Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon owes a lot to vintner Justin Meyer. The former Christian Brothers winemaker co-founded Silver Oak Cellars in 1972, crafting nothing but cabs – and the wine-drinking world beat a path to his door, making Silver Oak the valley’s first cult winery.
Meyer Family Vineyards in Yorkville Highlands attracts wine buyers who enjoy a picnic, especially for the fall harvest and spring wild flower show. Picnic tables are provided, provisions are available nearby and the Meyers generously provide a bocce ball court for the sporting among their following.
Photos by Faith Echtermeyer
The same love for life that led Meyer out of religious orders and into the wider world of wine made him a popular Napa resident who earned new friends wherever he traveled.
“We can’t go anywhere without people telling me stories about my father,” said Meyer’s son Matt. “So many people have such nice things to say about him, wherever I go.”
Along with the cabs that put Oakville on the map, Meyer had another passion, one with roots reaching back to his days as a Christian Brother at the order’s St. Helena winery: making port.
Birth of a brand
Meyer was well-known to love a glass of port with a good cigar; but nobody – least of all his own family – expected him to announce, one day in 1987, that he’d bought a batch of barreled tawny port from his old order. The Meyer Family brand made its debut when Meyer began selling his port at Silver Oak a few years later.
Unlike vintage ports, Meyer Family is made in the solera style more commonly associated with sherry: New zinfandel from old vines is blended in each year for the five to six years it spends in barrels.
Meyer Family Cellars port and syrah.
Photos by John McJunkin
Once the port is bottled, another three years will pass before it is released for sale. The result of this patient aging is a silky and fragrant port with warm-spice aromas and a long, concentrated finish.
Family continues the tradition
Justin Meyer died in 2002, a few years after establishing the Meyer Family Cellars winery in the Yorkville Highlands district of Mendocino County’s rural Anderson Valley. His son Matt and daughter-in-law Karen Meyer now live and raise their young daughter Sidney above the winery, where the couple works together on nearly every aspect of the business.
Karen and Sidney Meyer on left. Matt and Sidney at her first filtering on right.
Photos by Faith Echtermeyer
The Meyers now make a cool-climate syrah, an Oakville cab and, of course, the port that started it all. Each year they bottle just 20 percent of the port, aged to Justin Meyer’s specifications to produce a smooth, rich elixir that pairs companionably with everything from cheese and nuts to the good cigars he loved.
Meyer Family Cellars is open to the public for tasting, picnics and bocce at 19750 Highway 128 in Yorkville Highlands; call 707-895-2341 for current hours. ###
Editor’s Note: For additional information contact Pam Hunter- 707-258-1699 x 15 or firstname.lastname@example.org