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April 18-24, 2007

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Wine Tasting

The Meeker Vineyard

By James Knight

Even with Battlestar Rancheria looming above, the town of Geyserville retains a rural Western character. Tractors chug down Highway 128, past the men's haberdashery and hardware store. If the local deli sells artisan truffle oil, they must be keeping it under the counter. Here, in the historic Bank of Geyserville building, you'll find the Meeker Vineyard tasting room. Given a flexible chronology, you could easily picture Black Bart hanging out here, casing stagecoaches. In fact, it looks like Meeker has only lately traded places with green-visored clerks. To buy your wine, step up to the original teller window. Behind that is their jumbled office, and the wine, of course, is in the vault.

You might expect Meeker to be more slicked-out, what with its big-time Hollywood origins (co-owner Charlie Meeker is a former movie executive). But that's clearly not the case. Almost seems like the work of zonked-out, hoary ex-hippies. It formerly operated out of a tipi on what is now Bella Vineyards. The quirky labels feature images of, for instance, John Lennon as a walrus playing billiards with, um, zombie Elvis from the crypt? No, it's hound-dog Elvis. But make no mistake from these quips and nudges, we love the Meeker vineyard.

Here's why: the tasting was free, efficient and wry. We found the 2003 Mendocino County Syrah ($28) very agreeable, vanilla cola and a bite of fresh cherries. Not much like other California Cabs, the 2002 Mendocino County Cabernet Sauvignon is light, with a hint of sweet sherry. Drier, bigger, more Cab-like, the 2004 Winemaker's Handprint Merlot ($36) has chewy fruit and a couple of goopy handprints. The 2002 Barberian is a dry super-Tuscan style built with Barbera and Zin. There's an inoffensive Chardonnay ($11), and the silky 2004 FroZin dessert wine ($24), which leads one's nose into the depths of a pungent, dark wine cellar.

The real treat was actually one of the starters, a wine so gorgeous it's hard to believe it's that cheap and easy (it's topped with a screw cap). To echo the tasting sheet, the liquid energy of the 2003 "Rack 'n' Roll" Zinfandel ($14) swirls in the glass like revelers in a rock-concert crowd. On acid. Whether it's phenolic acid or volatile phenols that wildly broadcast heady aromas of jammy fruit, I couldn't tell you. Call a fermentation scientist. The point is, untamed by oxyphobic squares, these are the seductive vinous scents that flirt with misadventure while promising paradise, and give you that million-kilowatt smile. You can take that to the bank.

(The walrus wasn't Paul) at the Meeker Vineyard, 21035 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville. Open 10:30am to 6:00pm, Monday-Saturday; noon to 5pm, Sunday. 707.431.2148.

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