Meyer Family Vineyards – Top BC Wine Exporter

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Author: Julian Park

BC Wine Trends
Your First Source for the Best Value BC Wine

Background

After a decision to change careers and enter the wine world Jak Meyer and Janice Stevens-Meyer spent three years searching for the perfect vineyard site in the Okanagan Valley.  

In 2006 they purchased a small 1.62 Hectare vineyard on the Naramata bench. In late 2008 they purchased a 6.9 Hectare property in Okanagan Falls. Their business philosophy is to hire the best winemaker and viticulturists and focus on small lot single vineyard wines using traditional  Burgundian methods.

They produce less than 6000 cases annually from mature 18 to 20-year-old vines, they strive to produce the finest wines possible. Meyer is one of a small group of BC wineries focused on terroir and sub-appellations to make exceptional wines (2).

The 2013 McLean Road Vineyard Pinot Noir was nominated in the April Decanter as one of the best Pinot Noir in the World outside of Burgundy and receiving a Highly Recommended rating.

Vineyards

Meyer Family Vineyards thrives on having each wine reflects the single vineyard of its origin, the soil, the climate, the slope. 

The carefully selected grapes are grown on three main vineyards:

1. McLean Creek Road Vineyard, Okanagan Falls, BC

This is the home vineyard where the tasting room is located. The vineyard has a predominantly steep southerly aspect with the soil comprised of alluvial and glacial deposits making up a mix of gravel and sandy loams.  

The largest of these blocks has a steep southerly aspect for capturing the full range of the sun, the second block has a gently sloping westerly aspect giving a slightly higher temperature from the afternoon sun and the third and coolest of the blocks has a north-west aspect.

Varietals grown include Chardonnay – 3.5 acres; Pinot Noir – 8.5 acres planted and Gewurztraminer – 4 acres.

2. Old Main Road Vineyard, Naramata, BC

This vineyard is located on a terrace that has a gentle northerly aspect with the soil comprised of alluvial deposits making up a silt loam overlying a clay loam. The fifteen-year-old vineyard has 4 acres planted with Chardonnay vines.

3. Reimer Vineyard, Kelowna, BC

This vineyard has a moderately steep northwesterly aspect with the soil comprised of alluvial and wind-blown deposits making up a silt loam overlaying a gravel loam. The 6-acre vineyard is planted with 100% Pinot Noir; a mix of French Pommard and Dijon clones.

Chris Carson – Winemaker

Chris returned to Canada in 2008 after eight years spent in New Zealand, California and Montrachet. He brings his expertise in crafting award-winning wines. Chris is hands-on in the vineyard, following the grape from pruning to harvest and creating excellent wines.

He especially loves the heartbreak grape, Pinot Noir and supervised the planting of 9000 new pinot vines at the McLean Creek Road Vineyard. A graduate of Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand with his Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology, Chris Carson brings with him his extensive enthusiasm and skills in all areas of winemaking and production.

The Wines

Meyer Family Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir 2017 The fruit is sourced from three different vineyards in the Okanagan Valley; our estate vineyard on McLean Creek Road in Okanagan Falls; Teasdale Road Vineyard in South East Kelowna and a vineyard in Kaleden, BC. The combination of these three different vineyards each having their own unique aspect, elevation and soils has produced a well-rounded Pinot Noir that showcases the Okanagan as a whole.

Meyer Family McLean Creek Rd Pinot Noir 2015 At the winery the fruit was gently de-stemmed via gravity into small open top fermenters (with 15% kept as wholecluster) and allowed to cold soak. After cold soaking, an indigenous yeast fermentation began lasting two weeks and peaking at 32 degrees Celsius, with gentle hand plunging of the must done throughout. After a post-maceration period, the wine was transferred to 100% French oak barrels (25% new) where it remained for 11 months. A natural malo-lactic fermentation occurred in late spring.

Clear and medium ruby colour.  Clean, medium intensity, primary aromas of violet, strawberry, black plum, hint of black pepper, secondary aroma of vanilla. On the palate, dry, medium acidity, medium tannins that are soft, primary flavours of ripe raspberry, wild strawberry, black plum and vanilla, medium finish.  An outstanding wine; well balanced, good length, intensity and concentration. 

Meyer Family Okanagan Valley Chardonnay 2017  The wine is a blend of our two estate vineyards; Old Main Road vineyard planted in 1996 on the Naramata Bench, McLean Creek Road vineyard planted in 1994 in Okanagan Falls and JAK’s sister Terry Meyer-Stone’s vineyard on Anarchist Mountain in Osoyoos, BC. This Chardonnay is a blend of many separate small batches picked through the dates listed above; the unique terroirs of the three vineyard sites yield a wine with elegance, finesse and length.

Meyer Family Rosé  2017 The Pinot Noir was sourced from our estate vineyard McLean Creek Road in Okanagan Falls; Parminder Hans’ vineyard on Teasdale Road in East Kelowna and Windy Ridge Vineyard in Kaleden, BC. The combination of these three vineyards with each having their own unique aspect, elevation and soils have produced a rosé wine with great complexity while still maintaining our stylistic elegance and finesse. Crafted using the saignée method, our 2017 Pinot Noir Rosé is a blend of indigenous ferments from multiple plots. Only 12-hours of skin contact, this dry Rosé is fresh and bright making it a natural accompaniment to summertime. Drink this wine now or through 2021.

You can find the complete listing of wines and their tasting notes here.

Export Prowess

I had the opportunity to discuss with Jak Meyer how he was able to successfully develop such a strong export channel for Meyer Family Vineyard wines.  Here is a summary of the Q&A.

  1. How were you able to achieve the full corporate listing in 169 Marks and Spencer stores in the UK? This came about due to Marks and Spencer coming to BC looking for a Canadian wine. I was introduced to them due to the fact that I was already exporting to the UK through Ellis of Richmond and interested in export markets. It is still shocking how few BC wineries are actively pursuing this market! I met with them and we negotiated a deal to be able to provide the wine and the label and at a price that made us both very happy.
  2.  Any info you can share on how you successfully entered the other 6 markets.  Not sure if China is one of the Markets, but I would be really interested in this story? Again my interest in exporting is twofold. One to expand our sales channels and have some diversification. I always said the day that there is an earthquake in Vancouver half the BC wineries will be out of business overnight. Secondly, I was tired of hearing the comments of either “oh you make ice wine or didn’t know you made wine in Canada”. I felt it is important to get our wines outside of BC in order for the rest of the world to know about them. The distributors I have found have been from continually looking for opportunities and people interested in importing our wines. I expect to grow our US distribution and add a distributor into Norway this year. Our agent in China is an ex-Vancouverite who I knew already. He was starting out with a small firm and I was interested in working with him and growing slowly.
  3.  What distributors are you employing? We have been with International Cellars since about 2010 who represent us for Western Canada. I have distributors in Quebec and Newfoundland. I self-distribute to Nova Scotia and Ontario. I have distributors in each of the export countries we deal with as well.
  4. Any comments on the keys to success for exporting BC Wine? It is like any other sale to any other person. You have to be willing, actively looking and patient. I have gone from banging on doors to getting a call every month or two unsolicited asking if we are interested in exporting. I can definitely feel the momentum shifting and interest growing.

Future Plans

 “We are now in the 6,000-7,000 case per year range. It is my interest to increase sales to about 10,000 cases which we have the capacity for now.  However, I am only interested in increasing our higher end single vineyard premium wines. I am fully aware this is a slow growth but is also a very loyal and long-term approach. We feel the greatest opportunity is direct shipping and marketing our BC Wine across Canada by way of online sales and our wine club.”

By Jak Meyer

I would definitely recommend a trip to Meyer Family Vineyards the next time you are travelling through Okanagan Falls.

Sources:

  1. Background information and BC Wine tasting notes provided by Meyer Family Vineyards.
  2. Anthony Gismondi: B.C. Pinot Noirs snapping at Burgundy’s heels

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