Merry Edwards shattered the glass ceiling in winemaking in the 1970s when she began her career.
“When I joined the ranks of the men of winemaking I was the upstart girl from Pasadena,” she joked.
The vintner/winemaker is behind our wine-of-the-week winner –– the Merry Edwards, 2016 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc at $36.
This is a gorgeous sauvignon blanc, lush yet balanced. This impressive bottling has grassy aromas, with a hint of lemon zest, and on the palate, notes of grapefruit, mineral and tangerine. The sauvignon blanc is complex and finishes crisp.
You might also pick up a note of perseverance in the bottling.
When Edwards was looking for her first job as a winemaker, she said she encountered gender discrimination time and again. But she stayed the course, rejecting positions as a laboratory technician, the traditional role of women in the industry at the time.
“There are many more women studying wine today,” Edwards said. “Whether there will be more women winemakers, only time will tell.”
Edwards decided to create her namesake brand in 1997 when Bill Bourke suggested they collaborate. The investor, who became her mentor in business, was originally a member of her growing fan club who wanted to sample her bottlings each year.
Food, Edwards said, was her gateway to wine. In 1971 she was studying nutrition at UC Berkeley when she heard about the winemaking program at the University of California at Davis. Edwards transferred to UC Davis and earned her master’s degree in Food Science with an emphasis in Enology. There were three women in the master’s program, but Edwards was the only one to become a winemaker.
“I loved the yin yang of winemaking, the intuition coupled with the science,” Edwards said. “It’s like being a chef. First you have to learn the rules and then you can play.”
“The rules,” for Edwards, include delivering consistency from one vintage to the next.
“I’m the girl scout of winemaking,” Edwards said. “You can count on me. If you open a bottle I want to make sure that you’ll never be disappointed.”
Sauvignon Blanc, Edwards said, is one of the two great white wines of the world.
“We are treating her with respect,” she said. “We’re not going to turn her into a picnic wine.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 707-521-5310 or firstname.lastname@example.org
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
Spirited Winter Reds
Clos de Gilroy
Clos de Gilroy, 2016 Central Coast Grenache, 13.1% alcohol, $20. ★★★★: A feisty grenache with notes of raspberry, cherry and anise. It has a spicy finish and nice length. Well crafted. An absolute steal for the quality.
Bedrock Wine Co., 2016 Bedrock Heritage Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County Red Wine, 14.6%, $46. ★★★★1/2: A complex red with layered flavors of black raspberry, plum and licorice. Great bones -- structure. The red varietals include zinfandel and carignane. Impressive.
San Lorenzo, 2015 the Pearl Old Vine, Sonoma County Red Field Blend, 15.4%, $70. ★★★★1/4: A snappy red field blend with aromas and flavors of blackberry, cinnamon and licorice. Firm tannins. Blend includes carignane, zinfandel and petite sirah.
Shafer, 2015 TD-9, Napa Valley Bordeaux Red Blend, 15.3%, $60. ★★★★1/2: A striking Bordeaux Red Blend with a bowl of tasty fruit -- currant, plum and cherry. It has great minerality, with herbs and spice in the mix. It’s a complicated, big boy Bordeaux that turns heads. Striking.
Donelan, 2014 Cuvee Moriah Sonoma County Grenache, $50. ★★★★: This Rhone red has tangy high-toned fruit coupled with savory spice and crisp acid. It has notes of pomegranate, red currant and cardamom. The Donelan has a round texture and finishes crisp.