Newsletters & Notes
Charles Rutherford Meeker III
June 17, 1942 – February 18, 2021
We have some very sad news to share today. Last week Charles Rutherford Meeker III—Charlie to most—passed away after 78 unparalleled years. He leaves behind his wife Molly, his children Kelly and Lucas, and grandchildren Canyon, Madison, Delaney, and Kai. He was preceded in death by his parents Doris and Charles, his brother Michael, and his daughters Michelle and Melissa.
After he told you about the family he was so proud of, he would have told you that he was a winemaker, an attorney, and a film producer (and in that order). But to those around him he was an insatiable learner, an engaging storyteller, and a warm soul with a kind heart. His life was defined by a few simple, powerful things: effort, generosity, honor, and adventure.
Charlie was born in Dallas, Texas in 1942 to Charles Rutherford Meeker, Jr. and Doris Shaw Meeker. His father was a wine lover and a pioneer in the Texas entertainment business—leading the Dallas Summer Musicals from 1944 to 1961 and entertainment at then-new Six Flags Over Texas. Charlie learned many lessons from his father when he worked with him at the musicals during his summer break; but after a late night closing the theater Charlie’s dad would open a bottle of Burgundy and share his passion for classic French wines—an uncommon thing in Texas at that time.
Folks these days mainly know Charlie through The Meeker Vineyard, the vineyard-turned-winery he founded with his wife Molly in 1977. But before devoting himself to winemaking full time, Charlie also had a rich career in the entertainment business.
After graduating from Princeton University and University of Texas Law School, Charlie moved to Los Angeles to clerk for Judge Walter Ely. He joined O’Melveny & Myers and rose to partner working in the business and later the entertainment divisions. In the 1980’s, he co-founded Feldman/Meeker Entertainment and produced major motion pictures for nearly a decade (his favorites were The Hitcher, Near Dark, Golden Child, and Hot Dog: The Movie!). He returned to entertainment law as a partner at White & Case, where he successfully represented Credit Lyonnais in their effort to regain control of Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Charlie then served as MGM’s President from 1991-93, overseeing MGM’s transition to stable financial footing.
Through many of these accomplishments, Charlie was splitting time between his career in Los Angeles and the winery in Dry Creek Valley. After a few more years in LA, Charlie and Molly ended their dual life and finally moved to Sonoma County full-time in 1999. Charlie further poured himself into his winemaking; expanding production, experimenting with extended aging and tannin development, and developing a cryogenic dessert wine process unique to Meeker.
While he accomplished many things in his “previous life”, Charlie’s true passion was winemaking. His adventure in winemaking and the people and places it shared with him brought him incredible joy. Dry Creek Valley and Sonoma County—along with its people and wine industry—were woven into his soul; he saw his place here as a serendipitous, unmatched gift and the opportunity to make its wines a glorious privilege.
The winery, its team, and community will miss Charlie dearly; but his winemaking ethos lives on at Meeker and with the winemakers he helped, inspired, and shared with along the way. His tireless drive to experiment, refine, improve, and explore yielded over 30 vintages of wines that tell a story of eternal optimism, boundless curiosity, and chasing greatness. He loved making wine and he loved sharing it.
He will be incredibly missed around the world, but nowhere more so than with his family and in his winery.
I’m sure that you all are gutted by another difficult turn to 2020 with the Glass Incident. It’s harvest and we want to help.
We’re Connecting Wineries Who Need Help with Folks Who Can Help.
There are more wineries who are in a really tough spot from this fire, whether they’ve lost their facility, their crop, their entire inventory, or simply can’t receive grapes they planned on picking this week, etc.
Meanwhile, there is available tank space over here in Sonoma County from our short crop and smoke taint concerns.
I’m trying to put together a central resource for people who need ferm space, grapes, services, or anything else needed to make wine right now.
The goal is to try and help our neighbors replace or salvage something from any kind of difficult situation. We all know this vintage has been brutal, I can’t imagine having to deal with losing my facility and inventory too. Let’s find some solutions for folks and fill some lonely tanks.
Our team is building a spreadsheet of wineries that can receive fruit, vendors who are available to provide services, along with contextual info on space, timing, capacity, etc. The idea is to provide either discounted prices or flexible terms to help get solutions moving quickly.
Here’s the kind of help we can connect:
- Custom crush facilities or fermentation space with discounted rates or deferred payment plans
- Discounted services, including trucking and smoke taint filtration
Fill out this form to request connections to help.
And if you have space or services to offer, fill out this form. We’ll make connections for as many folks as possible.
If you have questions, call Lucas Meeker at 707-529-7096.
Stay safe out there.
Thursday, May 19th – Lucas will be pouring Meeker wines at Wilibees in Petaluma
5:00PM – 8:00PM
Wilibees – Petaluma
309 Lakeville St.
Petaluma, CA 94952
Sunday, June 2nd – Harvest Uncorked
12:00pm – 3:00pm
We’ll be pouring Meeker wines along with over 20 other local wineries at:
Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club
333 Country Club Drive
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Tickets are available at www.HarvestUncorked.com
Use our promo code: MEEKERUNCORKED to get a discounted ticket for $65
Saturday, June 8th – Becoming Independent’s “Dinner Under The Stars”
5:30pm – 9:30pm
We’ll be pouring Meeker wines for the guests at Becoming Independent’s annual gala and auction. We’ll also be unveiling a new collaborative project with BI to support their amazing programs to enrich and support their 50+ years of elevating human abilities for the mutual benefit of our community. To purchase tickets for the event, and/or to learn more about Becoming Independent, please visit their website: www.becomingindependent.org
Tuesday, June 11th – Geyserville Chamber of Commerce June BBQ
6:00pm – 8:30pm
We’ll be pouring Meeker wines for the Geyserville Chamber members and their guests at:
The Ranch at Lake Sonoma
100 Marina Drive lot A
Saturday, July 20th – Meeker “Unlock the Vault” party at the winery
The Meeker Winery
5 Fitch St, Unit B
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Tuesday, May 14th- Wine dinner with Molly at the Wine Bistro, Worthington, OH
6:00pm – 8:00pm
8231 High St, Columbus, OH 43235
Thursday, May 16th- Wine tasting & hors d’oeuvres with Molly at Viva Bene Gourmet, Hudson, OH
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Viva Bene Gourmet
219 N. Main St., Hudson, OH
Friday, May 17th – Meeker wine dinner with Molly at Barrel 33 Wine Bar, Warren, OH
6:30pm – 8:00pm
Barrel 33 Wine Bar
8208 E. Market St., Warren, OH
Tuesday, May 21st – Thursday, May 23rd – Lucas will be in the Tampa/Orlando area. We are still finalizing plans for his visit, so please stay tuned for more details about events in your area!
Wednesday, June 5th – Meeker wine dinner with Molly at Field & Fire, Greenville, WI
6:00pm – 8:30pm
Field & Fire
N1788 Lily of the Valley Drive, Suite B
Greenville, WI 54942
Contact: Jordan or Ryan
Thursday, June 6th – Meeker wine dinner with Molly at Muse Restaurant, Stevens Pt, WI
6:00pm – 8:30pm
1800 North Point Dr.
Stevens Point, WI 54481
Saturday, June 9th – Meeker “Pop-up” tasting with host Deb Cox in Oconomowoc, WI
3:00PM – 6:00pm
Molly and Deb will be hosting wine club members and their friends for a wine tasting with hors d’oeuvres.
Contact email@example.com to RSVP.
June 17th – 21st – Molly will be in Kansas City and Wichita, KS. We are still in the planning stages for her visit, so please stay tuned for more details about events in your area!
June 25th – June 28th – Lucas will be in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. We are still in the planning stages for his visit, so please stay tuned for more details about events in your area!
We’re super excited to share the deets of this year’s medal haul from the 2019 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
We’re always proud to be recognized for our hard work in the cellar—but this year we’re feeling particularly proud of a Double Gold for the 2016 Grenache! This wine has been a fave for many of you for the last several years—and we’re so grateful that the judges agree with our customers!
Here’s a roundup of all the winners:
|Syrah/Shiraz – $41.00 and above||2015||Russian River Valley||Hone #2 – Shimmer Syrah||Bronze|
|Grenache – $30.00 and above||2016||Dry Creek Valley||Hoskins Ranch Vineyard
|Petite Sirah – $39 and above||2015||Dry Creek Valley||The Paddle Reserve Petite Sirah||Silver|
|Merlot – $40.00 and above||2015||Sonoma County||Winemaker’s Handprint Merlot||Silver|
|Cab Sauv – $55.00 – $58.99||2015||Dry Creek Valley||Cabernet Sauvignon||Silver|
|Cab Franc- $40.00 and above||2015||Dry Creek Valley||Cabernet Franc||Silver|
|Red Blend: Cab Sauv leading blend – $55.00 and above||2015||Dry Creek Valley||Four Kings||Silver|
Interested in trying or buying any of these wines? Give us a call (707-431-2148) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the tasting room and we’ll get you set up.
We’re super excited to announce a new Tribe membership: The Triple. Now you have the option to receive 3 (THREE!) different wines in your Tribe shipments.
We have more wines and stories to share with you and we want to use your shipping dollars more efficiently. We talk a lot about how our wines age: we want to share a library wine (or two) with you every year. We tell you stories about our grape adventures, and how we love the challenge of the unknown. And we want to share with you the one-off blends or special reserve lots when they happen, without replacing the perennial favorites in your shipments.
Here’s Why We’re Offering the Triple
When we started the Tribe in the early 90s, cell phones were bigger than wine bottles and it took five minutes to download a picture over your dial-up connection. Back then gas was under a dollar per gallon, and shipping two bottles of wine to the most rural parts of Maine or the furthest Florida Key cost less than $9.00.
We’re super-focused on keeping the cost of Tribe membership reasonable and accessible. And as shipping costs have increased, we want to make sure we’re keeping our membership options in line with the times.
These days, sending 3 bottles instead of 2 brings the per-bottle shipping cost down by at least 26%. We think this new option is a more efficient use of shipping costs and we’re excited for the chance to show you even more of the great wines we make every year.
Upgrading Is Optional
Moving to a 3-wine shipment program is totally optional. You don’t have to change a thing if you don’t want to. If you’d like to make the switch, call us at 707.431.2148, or email us at email@example.com
More Details About Our Thinking
The Tribe has always been undergirded by a few core values. We believe we should send you honest wines made with integrity, and that we should talk to you about them that way too. We believe our wines should be reflections of the people, places, and traditions that make them. And we think that enjoying all wines, not just ours, should be open, friendly, and welcoming. Maybe most importantly, we think the work we do tells stories about us, our home, and our history, and we want to share as many of those stories with you as we can through the wines we make.
What has changed dramatically over the years, however, is shipping cost. We used to be able to ship two bottles of wine to the furthest reaches of the east coast for less than 50% of what it costs now. And every year, without fail, the rate tables from both major shipping companies increase.
This problem is worse at the two bottle level than at higher bottle quantities: much of the rate we pay for shipping wine is comprised of flat fees (adult signature fee, fuel surcharge, extended region or residential surcharges, etc) that are the same per package regardless of weight. While our costs to ship 2 bottles are up over 50% in the past 10 years or so alone, our cost to ship a case is only up about 20%. Moreover, the rate by weight is not linear; the price per pound goes down as the weight increases. For both of these reasons, stepping up shipments to larger bottle quantities allows your dollars to go further and purchase more wine with a lower cost to ship per bottle.
So for our two bottle members: yes, a three wine shipment means you’ll be spending more with us per year, but your shipping cost per bottle will decrease substantially, and you’ll get four additional wines to enjoy as well.
For our members who receive three or more bottles already: It’s entirely up to you whether you’d like to continue receiving your shipment as multiples of two wines, or move to The Triple. We’ll be contacting you to ask for your choice.
More Details About That Third Bottle
A big part of our tradition and style is our focus on ageability. Once every few years we’ve used a Tribe shipment to send a library wine, but with the number of new releases we have, we can’t do that regularly… but we want to. I can think of a half dozen library wines that I would love to send you right now, but the Tribe is built around new releases. With a third wine slot, we can send a library wine to you at least once per year.
Another part of our history that we’ve been working hard to share with you more is our history of experimentation. We’ve been able to send you a couple wines from the Hone series, and I’m very proud of those wines and what they’ve done to capture moments in our winemaking history that reflect on our ambition to go on wacky grape adventures every year. It’s one of the most important facets of the ethos my parents built our tradition around: we’re never done learning, and we’re always chasing an idea. A third wine in each shipment gives us room to share more of those ideas and adventures with you.
Similarly, we have a long history of embracing the esoteric, the forgotten, and the offbeat. You know how people are just starting to figure out Carignane? We were making three different single vineyard Carignanes in 1999. There are so many fun grapes to make, and one of the reasons we rotated Carignane out of our plans is because we had replaced it with Malbec. And then we replaced Malbec with Grenache. But… we want to make Carignane again (regularly) and some of you won’t stop asking about another Malbec… and we want to make Montepulciano, and Nebbiolo, and maybe even some Alicante Bouschet. A third wine in the shipment gives us the freedom to bring you some of these quieter corners of the vineyard world without rotating out favorites like the Grenache.
As you can see, we have more great wines and stories we want to share with you, if you’d like to have them. I want to close this post by saying a few important things. First, I want to reiterate that moving to a three wine program is entirely optional—we’d love your further support in expanding the wines we send to the Tribe, but we’re already incredibly grateful for your loyalty and support. Secondly, making these wines and sharing them and their stories with you is an incredible privilege—one we know we are lucky to have—and we cherish the challenge of delighting you as much as possible. Lastly, our door is always open to you; we love hearing from you, and we’re always happy to see you when you’re in town. If you have any questions or otherwise, please don’t hesitate to email me.
As most of you know, my business desk has been located in our winery’s Geyserville tasting room since 2014. The Sonoma County grape harvest generally begins in late August and continues into early November, with activity peaking during late September and early October. I particularly enjoy these peak harvesting periods as experienced by looking out our tasting room’s front window onto Geyserville Avenue— and also by listening. But what I see and hear from my desk is quite different than what most people might imagine when contemplating the joys of grape harvest! While Geyserville is surrounded by vineyards, there are no vineyards visible from our tasting room. Just buildings along Geyserville Avenue and the junction with Highway 128.
So what do we see and hear during peak harvest periods? Lots and lots of flatbed trucks, or more often trucks with their own flatbed plus hauling a second flatbed as a trailer, all carrying aluminum grape harvest bins, each bin capable of carrying up to two tons of grapes. Most of these bins are empty in the morning hours, so in addition to seeing these bin-carrying trucks drive by, we hear loud BOOMS coming from the bins as, within their tie-downs, they bounce on the flatbeds. BOOM!, BOOM!, BOOM! But this changes in the afternoon, when most of the bins are full of grapes. The booms are gone, but are replaced by very loud engine sounds as each truck struggles to haul the massive weight of as many as twelve aluminum bins filled with grapes. Also, interspersed among these flatbed trucks, there are tractors driving by, as well as large automated grape picking machines.
Ahhh, these harvest sights and sounds are music to my ears!
In closing, I would like to share with my Tribe friends my sadness regarding the recent passing of my friend Burt Reynolds. I served as Burt’s motion picture industry attorney for many years when I was practicing law in Los Angeles during the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Burt was not only a great actor; he was also a very fine person! One of my favorite memories of Burt occurred on a spring afternoon when Burt was shooting a motion picture on the Paramount Pictures lot. I had just picked up my ten-year-old daughter Michelle from her grade school. But I also needed to get Burt to sign several copies of the completed contract for his next motion picture, so rather than taking Michelle directly home, I drove with her to the motor home on the Paramount lot that the motion picture company was supplying to Burt for his personal use while the film was being shot. I left Michelle in my car, and walked up to the motor home door and knocked. Burt answered and I entered for a short meeting with Burt to summarize the completed contract. He then signed the contract copies, and I shook hands with him and walked to the trailer door. He followed me to the door, and as I walked down the steps outside the door, Burt asked: Who is that person in your car?” I replied that she was my daughter whom I had just picked up from school. Without saying another word, Burt followed me down the steps, walked to the car and opened the front passenger side door. He first put out his hand and shook Michelle’s hand. Then he leaned inside the car and kissed Michelle on the cheek. We and he waved at each other as we drove away. Michelle had a huge smile on her face for a very long time.
Harvest is always an exciting, emotional, tense, and rewarding time of year for our family. This year it is even more so: my wife, Erika, and I welcomed our son to the world on July 31st, just 18 days before we received our first fruit of the year. His name is Canyon Rutherford Meeker (he shares a middle name and initials with my dad), and he was 8 lbs 15 oz and 21”. I’ll spare you the details, but Erika was in labor for 62 hours before delivering via Cesarean section. We’re all happy, healthy, and…tired.
So you can understand why I’ll keep this newsletter short. Please enjoy these pictures of the newest Meeker, and I’ll share a full update on this year’s harvest in our next installment. A quick preview: yields are up, but so is hangtime (rule of thumb: more time on vine = better grapes). Quality seems to range from slightly above average to excellent, and the quality on Merlot and Zinfandel seems particularly high. The Dry Creek Valley Merlot we received had some of the darkest color at the juice stage I’ve ever seen—of any variety!
We’re anticipating a very busy first week of October, with approximately a quarter of our total tonnage for the year to be picked and processed in a few days. Luckily, our harvest crew this year has a very positive attitude. Ricardo, our Cellar Master, is in his 18th harvest season with us. He’s joined by Kat, who spent harvest 2013 and 2017 with us and stayed on as Cellar Assistant; Stephanie, a Chilean who has multiple harvests under her belt at bigger wineries on both sides of the equator; and Matt, who is the son of wine club members and is pursuing a Wine Business MBA at Sonoma State. They’ve been an excellent team so far, especially through a few very long days, and the wines are already reflecting the consistency and care of their work.
I’m very fond of the two wines we’re sending you in this shipment. The Handprint needs no introduction, but I do think this is one of the better vintages of the past decade. The second wine, our first release in about 20 years of a wine from the Scharf Family Vineyard, is very special to our family and the history of our winery. The Scharfs are friends of our family since the ‘70s, and Kelly and I grew up with their daughters. Their vineyard produced the first vintages of Four Kings in the ‘90s, including the venerable 1995 vintage, which was one of the best wines we’ve ever made. The 2015 vintage was the first time I got to work with the fruit, and it was a pretty special experience for me. Block 1 of the vineyard is older than I am, and I have fond memories of running around and playing among those vines as a young kid. The fruit and wine from this vineyard is special in quality and character, but incredibly special to our family in tradition and sentiment.
I hope this newsletter and these wines find you happy, healthy, and enjoying the beginning of autumn. As always, when you’re in town our door is open to you, and I’m always available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Temperatures are rising, bunches are forming on the vine, and we’re getting organized for harvest! Before the long hours and crazy days set in, we want to invite you to join us here at the winery for our upcoming Summer Cellar-bration.
We will be serving some great wines from our cellar paired with seasonal hors d’oeuvres and great company. We’d love to see you here!
Here are all the details:
Date: Saturday, August 4, 2018
Time: 1:30 – 5:30 pm
Location: Meeker Winery (5 Fitch St, Suite B, Healdsburg 95448)
All Tribe members are invited, and you’re welcome to bring two guests (no charge).
Non-Tribe members are welcome too; your cost to attend: $20/person.
We’re so excited to share that our 2014 Hoskins Vineyard Grenache earned a 90% rating from the Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Grenache is a lovely, light- to medium-bodied varietal, and it’s quickly becoming one of our best selling wines. We get our Grenache from Harold Hoskins’ vineyard in Dry Creek Valley. This dark ruby-colored wine has hints of berry, earth, and herbal tones. It’s perfect for before dinner porch-sitting, or really anytime you’re looking for something crisp and refreshing.
Stop by the tasting room anytime to try it! Or just order some online.
Learn more about our winemaking philosophy, and winery story in the Wine For Normal People podcast. Head winemaker Lucas Meeker shared his thoughts in their latest episode. Don’t miss it!