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How Much Wine Do I Need for My Wedding? And Other Event Planning Tips

LJM_0831We are on the precipice of summer in northern California, and alongside sunburns, barbecues, and bragging about tomatoes from our garden, that means one thing: weddings. A lovely way to spend a summer evening, made even more lovely if the wine is good.

If you’re reading this blog post, that might mean you’re wondering how much wine you need for your upcoming nuptials. At Meeker, after years of working with couples planning their events, we have a tried-and-true formula we’re proud to share. These formulas also work for retirement parties, work events and holiday parties – any time you want to make sure you have the right amount of wine for a special occasion.

Step 1: How Many Drinks Do I Need?

The first step is to figure out how much alcohol your thirsty guests will imbibe overall. The rule of thumb is one drink per person per hour of drink service.

Meeker’s first law of wine dynamics:

# of Drinks Needed = # Guests x Hours of Serving

So, to figure out how much alcohol you will need, you need to know:

  1. What time will you start serving? What time will bar close? This is your “hours of serving”.
  2. How many people are coming? While it’s tempting to deduct children and other non-drinkers, I usually leave them in the count as a safety margin.

Multiply your hours of serving times your number of drinkers. This gets you your total number of drinks needed. For example if you have 100 guests, and will be serving drinks from 5-10 pm, you’ll need at least 500 drinks.

Step 2: How Much Wine Do I Need?

Now we have to figure out how much wine you need. Ask yourself:

  1. What will you serve besides wine in terms of alcohol? Only beer? Cocktails?
  2. Do you have a sense for if your people are wine drinkers vs. beer drinkers?

Typically, we recommend a 60% wine to 40% beer split, but you can customize this depending on your knowledge of your guests (or if you’re serving cocktails).

With our example from above and our standard 60/40 split, we’d advise planning for 300 glasses of wine. We assume 5 glasses of wine per bottle, which brings us to 60 bottles of wine, or, at 12 bottles per case, 5 cases.

Step 3: How Much Red Wine Do I Need?

In our experience, most folks prefer red wine, so we generally advise a ratio of 75% red wine to 25% white wine. The exception to this rule is if you’re going to have a very hot outdoor summer wedding – in this case, more folks might prefer a nicely chilled glass of white.

Other Words of Wisdom

We recommend keeping your wine selection to five wines or fewer, to make it simple for your guests to select a wine and to keep it streamlined for the servers, who may be asked to explain the choices several times over. On the same note, we recommend selecting recognizable varietal wines for the majority of your selections – this makes it easier for your guests to choose something they know they will like. Usually, the focus at a wedding is not on sampling and learning about wine, but on spending time with beloved friends and family. You want to help your guests make a good choice and get back to the celebration.

Step 4: Be Safe

For many, weddings are opportunities to over-indulge in fine wines and free drinks. If you think your guests might be the over-indulging sort, make sure to arrange designated drivers or provide taxis, shuttles, rides, and other transportation alternatives. In the long run, it’s not that hard to get a cab home and pick up your car in the morning. There’s absolutely no excuse for drunk driving, and providing transportation solutions for your guests will ensure that everyone has a safe and fabulous time at your celebration.

In closing, do you need help with wine and food pairing or would you like us to provide a list of suggested wines for your wedding? We’d be happy to, and we offer special discounts for weddings! Get in touch!

Molly’s Nature Report: The Coyote Patrol

austin Alas, the Dry Creek Valley Skunk & Newspaper Patrol (the DCVS & NP) is no more. Its beloved members have passed on to the great dog parks in the sky. We are, however, pleased and a little befuddled to announce the recent formation of the Dry Creek Valley Coyote & Chicken Auxiliary (DCVC & CA). This proud and confused unit is comprised of Molly and Charlie’s two dogs, the ever popular and admired Austin, the Goldendoodle, and Remy, the recently acquired and somewhat irritating Maltese. The function and purpose of the DCVC & CA is twofold:

1) When coyotes pass by the Meekeria (where Molly and Charlie live), usually at night, they yip and howl to each other to communicate things like, “I caught a rabbit,” ” you smell like a skunk,” and “I wouldn’t have your pups even if you were the Alpha male.” These comments are delivered in extremely high, piercing yips and howls that are all way above high “C.” Austin, whose normal conversational bark and yowl are in the manly baritone range, for reasons known only to himself, tries to respond in the soprano range of the coyotes. He stands at the open sliding door of the Meekers’ bedroom and attempts the pure piccolo note of a healthy coyote. It is pathetic. Halfway through a sliding, glass-shattering aria, his voice breaks and he ends in a guttural “ooo” that sounds as though he ate a jalapeno. Remy’s recent participation has been to stand near his rear right leg and offer moral support by not outshining him with her natural ear-piercing yaps and leaning supportively into his ankle.remy

2) Every morning Molly checks on the chickens to make sure they are fed and the water is running.  She also offers freeze-dried meal worms which are a great delicacy for chickens. There are eight hens and two loud, wussy, father-and-son roosters who do not much other than irritate the hens and make a lot of noise in the morning. (They also occasionally make little chickens but nobody wanted that.) Remy, all 3.3 pounds of her, has decided that hen herding is her job. Never mind that the roosters are taller, and that she dresses out at the weight of a decent free-range fryer, she follows Molly into the coop and addresses each bird as an equal. Meanwhile, Austin waits at the coop, ever hopeful for an egg, shell and all.

Stay tuned for more.

Introducing A New Face: Jeff Shaeffer

After our longtime and much-beloved tasting room manager Julia Berman departed for new adventures, we’d knew we’d have to hire someone new. It was a terrifying proposition–how do you replace someone who has become a member of the family?

We’re thrilled to introduce you to Jeff Shaeffer, our new sales manager. You’ll meet him in the tasting room and at events, so we want to make sure you get to know him a bit.

Introducing Jeff Shaeffer

J. Shaeffer HeadshotJeff’s been involved with agriculture for his entire life. Born the third son of Earl & Jean Shaeffer of Dos Palos, CA, Jeff spent his childhood working on the family farm, helping his dad in the cotton, alfalfa, wheat, and melons fields of the central San Joaquin Valley.

After graduating at the top of class in high school, Jeff attended Fresno State University.  He jumped straight into the wine business, earning his first grape-stained hands as a production assistant for an upstart winery in the Barossa Valley, Australia.

After 6 months in Australia, Jeff returned to the San Joaquin Valley and took a position with a fresh produce company.  He spent the next 15 years in the produce industry, where he found his passion in traveling and developing new markets for interesting produce.

In 2006, Jeff focused this passion on wine to create his own business importing and developing markets for international wines. While things were getting up and running, he started working in production at Siduri Wines, and soon found himself working in the tasting room while continuing to develop his import business. In 2010, with the import business struggling due to the global recession, Jeff accepted the position of Sales and Hospitality Manager at Siduri Wines and Novy Family Winery.

Jeff takes great pride in being a part of a small family business and being able to work closely with the owners to boost the footprints of their wines all over the country. We’re thrilled to have him spreading the word about Meeker.

Jeff and his wife Sharilyn call Windsor their home, where they pursue tons of adventures with their two year old son Everett. And there are more adventures on the way: they’re expecting their second child, another boy, in July.

Charlie’s Update: My Desk In The Tasting Room

Charlie & AustinDuring spring 2014 we moved our winemaking operations from Santa Rosa to a big warehouse-type building located about three blocks southeast of the Healdsburg town square. It’s an excellent winemaking facility, and we’re very pleased with the move.

In connection with the move, we arranged to have two large offices constructed in a corner of the warehouse. Unfortunately, however, there were some unexpected delays in completing all the many things required by the City of Healdsburg’s building permit. As a result, Molly and I moved our desks to our tasting room on a temporary basis, while Lucas set up a temporary desk on the floor of the winery.

All of the building permit requirements were finally completed and approved in the fall of 2014, and the City gave us permission to begin using our offices. After some delays caused by harvest and by Molly’s travel to various states to work with our distributors, Molly finally moved her desk from the tasting room to one of the new winery offices during spring 2015.

The office to which Molly moved also has a separate desk for me, as well as lots of filing cabinets and the like. Our plan was for me to move back to the winery office soon after Molly’s move. I have, however, intentionally procrastinated in making that move, and I have continued to spend the majority of my office time at my desk in the tasting room, with a smaller portion of my time at the winery office with Molly. Here’s why.

I thoroughly enjoy visiting and talking about our wines with our tasting room customers, and in particular with our wine club members. We started our wine club – i.e. the Tribe — about 24 years ago, and it is always a particular pleasure when I am able to visit with Tribe members from way back when.

For me, it also brings back wonderful memories when a tasting room visitor announces: “We remember tasting in your teepee!”

Also, as many of you already know, I love to tell stories about our family’s history with our winery, including buying our first vineyard in February 1977 in Dry Creek Valley, and thereafter establishing our winery during summer 1984. If time allows, it is not difficult for tasting room visitors to entice me into telling one or more of those stories.

Last, but by no means least, our son Lucas’ 2014 promotion to being our head winemaker has given me the freedom to work at my tasting room desk for substantial periods of time. Lucas has matured into being a fantastic winemaker!

Molly, Kelly, and I are very, very proud of him. Of course, I cannot be at the tasting all the time. There are times when I need to be at my winery office, and I also continue to travel from time to time to work with out distributors. Nevertheless, I plan to continue spending a lot of time at the tasting room, and I very much hope that I am there the next time you visit!

Making Sure Every Bottle of Wine is Just Right

You might notice a difference when opening your first bottle of 2011 Handprint Merlot, and it’s one that we’re really excited to share with you. The 2011 Handprint is the first wine from Meeker to be closed with DIAM

We are committed to using the wine closures that deliver you the best-tasting wines every time. That’s why we’ve switched most of our wines to screw caps to make sure you don’t ever get a “corked” bottle of wine. With traditional corks, taint affects 2-7% of all bottles of wine. That means something like 1 in 20 bottles of wine is ruined! Traditional corks also have more unreliable seals, which can cause problems like leaking bottles, pushed corks, and more.

We’ve continued to close the Handprint Merlot and Four Kings with cork because lots of people prefer cork on higher-end wines. We’ve now found a solution that is far superior to traditional corks and will replace all traditional corks for the Handprint Merlot and Four Kings moving forward. Here’s what you need to know:

  • DIAM corks are made primarily of natural cork, and they’ve been in the marketplace for more than 10 years. I wanted to be sure that we saw success and good history before switching Handprint and Four Kings to a new closure.

  • DIAM corks are 100% guaranteed to be 100% free of TCA 2,4,6 (the chemical responsible for cork taint or “corked” wine). They’re also guaranteed to be free of up to 160 other aromatic compounds that can change the taste of wine.

  • Not only does DIAM 100% guarantee the corks to be taint free, they have a 10 year guarantee to maintain their structural integrity and the seal of the bottle.

  • We’ve now eliminated the possibility of cork-tainted wine from all Meeker wines bottled after July 2014. That’s really exciting for us, and hopefully for you as well.

I just gave myself a high five I’m so excited about this closure. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or check out

Thanks, as always, for your continued support, and I promise to do everything I can to continue to bring you the best wines we can.

Making Sure Every Bottle of Wine is Just Right add in last

Contest Winner: Guessing the Date of our First Red Grape Harvest

small grape gif

Earlier this summer we launched our first Harvest Date Contest, challenging our Tribe members and fans to guess when our first load of grapes would arrive. Our first load of red grapes arrived Sunday, September 7 at 3:37pm. Fittingly for our newest release, it was the Dry Creek fruit for our Winemakers’ Handprint Merlot!

Longtime Tribe member Tom Martenson is our winner, with a guess that was just 20 hours off the mark. Tom and his wife Kristen take their duties as Tribe members and wine junkies seriously–they brought their whole wedding party to our winery for a tour, invited Molly & Charlie to their wedding, and travel to wine country often to quench their thirst for new wines and fresh adventures in wine country.

And, thrillingly, the grapes look great. The fruit, from Cam Mauritson’s vineyard off Canyon Road, is one of the star ingredients in the Handprint Merlot, delivering depth, tannin, and flavor. We’re grateful for our partnership with Cam and so many other fine growers–and proud to release another great Winemakers’ Handprint Merlot.

Some Stories Along the Way

charlie serious_1My dad loved wine. His name was Charles Rutherford Meeker Jr. I’m Charles Rutherford Meeker III. My grandfather, Charles Rutherford Meeker, Senior, was born during the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes. My great-grandfather was named John Quincy Adams Meeker. John Q. A.’s father was Thomas Jefferson Meeker, Jr. Thomas Jr.’s father, my great-great-great grandfather, was born in New Jersey in 1805 and named in honor of our country’s President at the time. Thomas Jefferson was not only our third President, but also loved wine, planted vineyards, and established the first winery in America. I guess that pretty much explains everything about me and my love for wine.

I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, and although I’ve happily lived in California since 1967, I’m still proud to call myself a Texan. My mother’s family was farming in East Texas when it was still part of the Republic of Texas, so my heritage in that great state runs deep. But back the in the 1950’s, when I was a teenager, Texas wasn’t what you’d call a hot spot for wine lovers. Lone Star Beer, bourbon and branch water, scotch and soda – that was pretty much it. Except, that is, for my father. The only alcoholic beverage Dad would drink was wine. He liked white wine, red wine and Champagne, but most of all, he adored red French Burgundies.

For 16 years, from 1944 to 1960, Dad was Managing Director of the Dallas Summer Musicals, where he oversaw the production of nine Broadway-type musicals each year – eight for two-week runs over the summer, and the ninth for several weeks each October during the annual State Fair of Texas. This job took Dad regularly to New York to see shows, hire personnel and otherwise work toward making the Dallas musicals a success — which they were, and still are, currently under the excellent management of my father’s protégé, Michael Jenkins.

I never specifically asked, but I’d guess that Dad developed his love for wine during those many business trips to New York City, then and now one of the great world capitals of wine appreciation. But when the Broadway stars came to do a show for my Dad at the State Fair Music Hall, what they wanted to do most of all was visit Neiman-Marcus – a world-famous store then located only in downtown Dallas. Stanley Marcus, the store’s co-founder, was Dad’s friend, and he would often personally open the store on Sunday – this was, keep in mind, the 1950’s — just so that one or another Broadway star could shop there. Mr. Marcus was also a great wine lover, and when he founded the Dallas chapter of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin (a society of Burgundy wine enthusiasts originally founded in 1703), my father was one of the first members. I was too young to accompany my parents to the Confrérie’s elaborate dinners, but I listened well to Dad’s reports when they returned home, and later, when I was living in Los Angeles, Stanley Marcus arranged for me to join the Confrérie’s chapter there.

My father enjoyed nothing more than sitting around with a group of friends and telling stories about his adventures in the theater business. Jack Paar (Johnny Carson’s and Jay Leno’s predecessor) had him as a guest on NBC’s The Tonight Show twice, so that he could tell some of those stories to a wider audience.

Dad didn’t live to see me move the family into the wine business in Sonoma County. If he had, he’d no doubt be amazed by the great success of California wine in the world today, and he’d be proud of what we’ve done with our family winery. Most of all, I know he’d enjoy hearing some of the stories I’ve got to tell about what happened along the way.

Don’t Be Prejudiced Against Pink: Rosé is Pretty Fabulous


In the early 1990s, when Charlie Meeker was still practicing as an entertainment lawyer, he often traveled to France where he represented the bank Credit Lyonnais. On many a warm evening in summer, Charlie enjoyed a cold, crisp glass of French Rosé on his hotel balcony. These wines were fresh, fruity, acidic – and decidedly not sweet.

He returned to the winery eager to replicate the many French Rosés he came to love, with a bit of a Californian twist. First, we call it Pink Elephant – irreverent at the core. But second, we make it in a decidedly nontraditional way. Historically, French Rosés are most typically made by crushing lighter red grapes like Grenache and Gamay and leaving them only briefly on the skins for gentle color and tannin extraction, and fermenting them dry – resulting in a ballerina pink color and fresh fruit characteristics.

As is his normal practice, Charlie decided to turn this on its head. Our Pink Elephant is a blend, made from the free run juice of our red grape harvests, some fruity red juice and usually a dash of Chardonnay for complexity. As a result, our Pink Elephant is not sweet. It’s a layered, acidic, light-bodied wine intended for summer drinking on your deck, in your garden or at a picnic.

We’ve been making Pink Elephant since the early 1990s, and for many years, it was tough to get folks in the tasting room to even taste Pink Elephant. They assumed it was like the fruit punch-tasting Blush they probably drank in college, with heavy sweetness and not a lot of wine characteristics. These Blush wines are easily conflated with Rosés, but they’re not the same thing.

So here’s the moral of the story for those of you looking for something a little lighter to drink when it’s hot out in the summertime: Don’t be prejudiced against pink. Ask the right questions and you might end up with just the right wine for you.

Contest: Guess the Date of our First Red Grape Harvest and Win!


This is shaping up to be a hot, dry year in wine country – with many vineyard managers and armchair prognosticators wondering if we’ll see some of the earliest-ever harvests of grapes in Sonoma County.

After an evening at the Haun Vineyard last week (in which Charlie and Graham tried to project the date we’ll bring in their beautiful Merlot grapes), we decided to open the guessing to our Tribe members (with great prizes).

So, we welcome you to participate in our first-ever Red Grape Harvest Date Contest. Here are THE RULES:

  1. Comment on this blog post with your guess (oops, I mean your scientific forecast) of the date and time we’ll harvest our first red grapes. Your entry should look something like: 9:15 am, September 14, 2014. You can show your work if you like, but make sure the date & time are up front!

  2. Deadline for entries is midnight on July 10, 2014.  Update: We’re extending the deadline to midnight Monday, July 14, 2014.

  3. One entry per person.

  4. We’ll keep you updated on this blog and social media with veraison spotting and Charlie’s Weather Reports.

  5. When we get the first red grape delivery at the winery, we’ll mark the time the truck pulls into our gates as the winner.

  6. The closest guess to the right date and time gets a coupon for 90% off any order up to $250. (Legally, in the state of California, we can’t give away wine.) Winner can pick up wine in the tasting room or have the wine shipped to legal destinations in the United States.

Questions? Email Kelly Meeker.

Information and Resources

Here’s a little background information to add to the fun.

  • We get grapes primarily from Sonoma County, but also from Mendocino County and Sierra Foothills (Yuba County). Update: For the purposes of this contest, we’re counting grapes for The Meeker Vineyard wines only, not Lucas J Cellars. 

  • We harvest a wide range of varietals, from Zin and Syrah to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

  • National Weather Service

No more tips. Let the games begin!

A Note from Charlie on Our Recent Winery Move

Dear Tribe,

We have excellent news!  As you may already know by way of email from Julia, we have moved our winery facility from Santa Rosa (where we were located for the past seven years) to a building at 5 Fitch Street in Healdsburg  Fitch Street runs north-south two short blocks east of Healdsburg’s famous town square, and our new facility is two blocks south on Fitch Street.

We have a long-term lease for about 11,000 square feet in the rear of the building, plus a large adjoining outdoor concrete work area.  We have also built a two-story winery office complex in one corner of our space at the building. Another winery, Longboard Vineyards occupies a smaller portion of the building, and has its tasting room at the front of the building.

Moving was a big job.  We had to move 11 large stainless steel fermentation tanks, plus about 1,200 barrels filled with wine, plus approximately 7,000 cases of bottled wines, plus lots of winemaking equipment, plus lots of office equipment and files.  And it’s amazing how much other miscellaneous stuff you accumulate over seven years at one location.

Our winery telephone numbers remain the same, and we are also continuing our long-time practice of using Molly’s and my residence address (5377 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448) as our winery mailing address. We are very pleased with our new space at 5 Fitch Street.

The owners of the building have just finished extensive remodeling, including a new, heavily insulated roof, as well as new wall insulation and paneling.  We are already looking forward to processing the 2014 grape harvest there and showing off the new winery facility to our Tribe members when they are in the Healdsburg area.  Come visit soon!



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