There are few more affable and humble winery proprietors than Jak Meyer and Janice Meyer-Stevens. Since they launched Meyer Family Vineyards in 2006—after purchasing a cool climate, north facing chardonnay vineyard in sought-after Naramata—they have turned British Columbian wine on its head with world-class quality chardonnay and pinot noir.
The Meyers started by making about 600 cases of wine under contract at another winery. The important first step was that the focus was always about quality. “When we first started making wine, we didn’t plan on getting much bigger,” says Jak Meyer. Nevertheless, after a few years Jak and Janice purchased a winery in Okanagan Falls in 2009. The initial plan with the new winery was to expand to 3,000 cases, but with the realities of the business and good demand for the wine, they have since grown to above 5,000 cases. Having focused on top quality from the start and now having their own vineyards and winery, the final step to get really serious was hiring chardonnay- and pinot noir–loving viticulturist and winemaker Chris Carson. The Meyer brand has blossomed since.
Carson was the perfect fit for the Meyers. “We were so fortunate to find Chris,” says Jak. “He is so passionate about pinot noir and chardonnay, it’s all he wants to do and he has the same philosophy to produce the types of wines we want to make.” Carson is in charge of both viticulture and winemaking, meaning that he can start the winemaking in the vineyard. His philosophy for great wines starts in with the grapes and the winemaking is all about simply letting the quality and character of the vineyard show through.
Why are the Meyer pinot noir and chardonnay so good? “The sites themselves are important,” says Jak. “But one is not better than another. They are different, they are unique. Then, it is Chris’s philosophy in making wine. Good management of the vineyard and picking on flavour and acidity rather than on sugar. It is a hands-off winemaking style, using top quality barrels; usually around 25 per cent of them are new.” The result is clean, crisp and fresh wines that not only showcase the vineyard but are also complex and interesting.
The wines are getting deserved attention. Meyer talks of a recent visit to London and tasting the wines with an impressed Steven Spurrier at his home. Numerous medals, trophies and high scores continue to flood in for the entire range of pinot noir and chardonnay. Demand beyond B.C. has meant the wines are now available in the United Kingdom, United States, and Japan with more markets soon to follow. Meyer seems like a good ambassador to show the wider world what B.C. is capable of.
What does the future hold for Meyer Family Vineyards? “We have a sparkling program underway with a couple of vintages already aging in the cellars,” says Jak. As for the signature chardonnay and pinot noir, it sounds like more of the same drive for quality, honing the style as the vineyards are better understood. The 2012 vintage, which Carson sees as the best yet, will see the first release of a top tier Micro Cuvée pinot noir that is expectedly impressive. “I think the wines get better each year as Chris gets to know the vineyards and how they behave,” says Meyer. So the future looks bright for pinot noir and chardonnay, and with an international mindset, Meyer could well help to put Canadian wine on the world map.