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Enjoying Wine and Beer in the Augusta GA area

Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc Delicious Wine At Beach


Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Russian River Valley

Cost: $35-37

In these uncertain times as we try to protect ourselves and our families from the corona virus and COVID-19, it’s good to have traditions to comfort us. And good memories to buoy our spirits until things get back to normal.

For instance, I love going to church on Sunday mornings. I’ve been a member of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in downtown Augusta for 32 years. When I’m in town I never miss church on Sunday morning and Wednesday noon.

Now that all services have been suspended it’s comforting to attend church in front of my computer screen as we stream the service over the Internet. We have the confession, the prayers, the readings, the sermon and the hymns. Our music director Sandra Prichard plays the piano and sings like an angel and they put the words on the screen so we can sing along.

On Wednesday afternoon we have drive-thru communion at the church. You don’t get out of the car and Pastor Hunter or Pastor Landers hands you the bread and the wine and you get the blessing of communion. It’s not like being in church with all our friends and family, but as Pastor Hunter said in his sermon this week, we all do the best we can, just as the apostles did in their day.

One of the other traditions I am clinging to are meetings with my dear friends the Magnificent 8. I mention that now because we all met at Edisto Beach to spend a week together the first week in March. And who knows when we will meet again?

We didn’t know that this virus scare was going to explode the way it did. We knew some people were getting sick in China and there was worry that it would find its way to our shores. But who could imagine quarantines and lockdowns and all the rest? It was just a month ago but it seems a lifetime ago.

Dorothy and John loved the food and the wine and the company of friends.

One of the traditions the Mag 8 observes is to fry shrimp the night we arrive at our rental house on the beach (and usually several other nights). We are all so happy to be there and to see each other, the first night is always festive. As with the rest of the week, there is lots of chatter and laughter and lots of good wine.

We had the Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc before and during dinner. I always need wine while I’m cooking. This one was a real treat. I had heard good things about Merry Edwards’ sauvignon blanc, but had never tried it before.

All the good things I had heard about the wine were true. This rich, opulent wine was loaded with fruit flavors, a crisp finish and a pleasant minerality. My wife Teri usually doesn’t like sauvignon blanc, but she raved about this one.

It is an extremely pale yellow in the glass with complex aromas inviting you to take that first sip. I smelled apple, melon, peach and pineapple with some citrus notes. The wine has a rich mouthfeel and the first sip coats your mouth with lime, grapefruit, vanilla and peach flavors, among others. If you close your eyes and swirl the wine around across your tongue you can even pick up what tastes to me like a Creamsicle.

We all really loved this wine and thought it was a great match for the shrimp and fruit cocktail we had with it.

About 60 percent of the grapes came from Merry Edwards estate fruit, composed of 42 percent Sauvignon Musqué and the rest the Shenandoah clone. The wine was fully barrel fermented in Tonnellerie Cadus barrels, 18 percent new. Lees were stirred twice weekly for six months.

The barrel fermenting and stirring of lees gives the wine its rich flavor and full body. This was a unique taste in a sauvignon blanc for me. This wine should even get better with a little bottle aging.

Merry Edwards made 12,500 cases of this wine, so you might find some at a good wine shop, but much of their wine is sold in restaurants and from the winery. But even with their tasting room closed, Merry Edwards is still selling wine on the website. We have had no trouble getting wine delivered to our house.

Even though John and Edith were delayed and missed the first night, the other six of us thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Good food, good friends, good wine; how can you go wrong? It was great for Teri and me to be with Steve, Sandy, John and Dorothy. It was even better when John and Edith arrived.

As for the future and the coronavirus, we are optimists: we rented the house for next year, expecting life to return to more or less normal. We also hope to have a hayride at John and Edith’s pond house in late summer. We’re not going to let a little virus hold us back. Friendships and families endure whatever life throws at us. A little difficulty makes those bonds even stronger and make us appreciate each other all the more.

Stay safe out there. And keep drinking wine.

Winery: Merry Edwards has been involved with wine in some way since her teenage years when she learned how to cook with wine. Fascinated with food chemistry and fermentation in particular, Merry worked with yeast in baking bread and then turned to beer. A book on home winemaking led her to ferment fruit wines.

Later in graduate school at UC Berkeley, she was surprised you could study winemaking as a discipline. She shifted her graduate studies from nutrition to wine and earned a master’s degree in 1973.

Looking for her first job as a winemaker she met discrimination as wineries tried to hire her as a laboratory technician, the traditional spot for a woman at that time. In 1974 Mount Eden Vineyards selected her to be their winemaker. She made three vintages and earned a reputation as a rising star.

She sent cuttings from Mount Eden’s pinot noir vineyard for propagation after having them heat treated for viruses. That became UCD clone 37, also known as the Merry Edwards selection. It is now planted throughout the Russian River Valley where it produces great wine.

She worked with many wineries including Matanzas Creek, Laurier Winery and the family-owned Merry Vintners. Merry also studied clonal research in France at a time when the importance of clones was not recognized in California.

Her work at Matanzas Creek with chardonnay clones changed the California wine industry, and a seminar she and Dr. Harold Olmo offered at UC Davis convinced skeptical vintners and growers that clonal selection was important.

After years of consulting for many wineries, in 1996 Merry bought some land in the Sebastopol Hills region of Russian River Valley. In 1997 she bought grapes and produced a Merry Edwards Winery pinot noir.

While rafting the Grand Canyon that year she met Ken Coopersmith, who later became her husband. Together they planted the first vineyard on her Russian River property in 1998, calling it Meredith Estate. Other plantings and long-term leases on other property followed.

The next project was building a winery and tasting room. Construction began in 2006. The 2007 harvest was produced on site and the first visitors were welcomed in 2008. They had to expand the winery in 2010 to make room for the growing success of her barrel-fermentation program for sauvignon blanc.

Merry celebrated her 40th year as a winemaker in 2013 by being inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame. She also won the James Beard Award for Best Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional in the United States, making her one of just three women to win both honors, along with Zelma Long and Jamie Davies.

Besides producing a wide array of pinot noir, the winery also offers chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, a sparkling wine and a late harvest sauvignon blanc. The wines consistently receive 90+ scores from national wine critics.

(I reviewed the Merry Edwards Meredith Estate Pinot Noir elsewhere on this website.)

Sandy, Steve and Teri enjoyed the shrimp, fruit and wine.

Goes with: We had this delightful wine with fresh shrimp I picked up from Edisto Seafood, where we get all our seafood when we’re at Edisto Beach. Everything they sell is wild caught; nothing is farm raised. There is a real taste difference in wild grown seafood.

I fried the shrimp breaded in House Autrey breading mixed with Morton Nature’s Seasons and red pepper flakes. I cook them for about five minutes at 350 degrees ad they come out juicy on the inside and crispy outside.

I also fried hush puppies in the same oil and Teri made a delicious fruit salad.

We had the Merry Edwards sauvignon blanc and a wonderful Prosecco from Adami with the meal and we loved both wines. The lush, fruit flavors were perfect with the shrimp and hush puppies. I liked drinking the sauvignon blanc on its own before dinner, but the flavors really exploded when I drank it during dinner.

We also liked the Prosecco from Adami. It was their non-vintage “Garbel” Prosecco DOC Brut, selling for about $16. It’s a light, bright sparkling wine perfect for dinner toasts, sips on the porch or staring out at the ocean.

The Adami family makes several great Proseccos in a range of prices, and they’re all bargains. The winery produces some of the highest quality Prosecco on the market, and the winery has been widely acclaimed for nearly a century.

One of the things that makes the Adami Proseccos so special is they complete the secondary fermentations in more than 100 small batches throughout the year where most producers do one large fermentation at the end of harvest.

While Italian wine can get confusing, all you need to do is look for the vertical oblong box on the label that says “Adami.” All their bottles have that; the color varies by the bottling.

Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc is a great wine for sipping at the beach.

If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at dennis@bottlereport.com

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