Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Alise Merritt with Zaca Mesa Winery

I had the pleasure of recently interviewing Alise Merritt with Zaca Mesa Winery. She will be the guest of Napa Cafe at their wine dinner with Zaca Mesa on Wednesday May 11. For more information about this outstanding opportunity to taste some wonderful wines alongside expertly prepared food click here.

When people ask you "What's a roussanne or viognier?" how do you respond to them?

"I generally say they are an “alternative white” and do my best to pour a splash in a glass for them to taste! Viognier is becoming more widely known. Roussanne is a beautiful wine that so many of us in the trade enjoy sharing this jewel with our friends and favorite wine customers – which usually have not ever heard of Roussanne. I’ll test the waters to see how much interest is shown and allow that to dictate how detailed I get in my explanation. Some just want to taste and enjoy while others may want to know where the name Roussanne originated. Which, btw, when the Roussanne grapes ripen they turn to a russet color (reddish brown) and “roux” is French for russet!"

Syrah, unfortunately, seems to be one of those grape varieties that ebbs & flows with trends. Zaca Mesa thankfully seems to ignore what trends say & just continues producing beautiful syrah. What do you see out in the market in response to your syrahs?

"It’s no surprise that when I meet with someone within the trade that loves Syrah and is enthusiastic, they are able share their passion and create a huge following. On the other hand, if I meet with someone that says they love Syrah but are unable to move it (restaurant, retail shop, wine club, etc.) or they might say their particular market “isn’t a Syrah market,” they are usually right. Regretfully Syrah may be the last one invited to the party but is often times the belle of the ball!"

Rhone & Rhone style wines are some of my favorite. Have you seen the thirst for these types of wine increase, remain steady or decrease over the course of your time with Zaca Mesa?

"People within our profession (Restaurant Owner, Sommelier, Retail Consultant, Food and Beverage professional, etc.) love Rhone style wines and in particular Syrah. We are quite passionate and are always trying to convert and enlighten those that will listen and take the time to taste these beautiful wines! Since blends have been one of the popular trends, I’ve seen an openness, willingness and thirst for our wines."

Zaca Mesa has been blessed with some very good critical acclaim & scores. Is that a double edged sword?

"Scores, accolades and acclaim are a great deal like life and we roll with it. We’ve discovered that in general Wine Spectator leans toward our Syrah, Wine Enthusiast our Whites and Robert Parker (no surprise) our blends and it shows in the scores. So there’s usually some kind of solid acclaim out there for our wine. We hope that people will use these as a guideline and allow their taste buds to be the judge as to whether or not they enjoy our wine!"

What's your latest favorite pairing with which Zaca Mesa wines?

"Wasabi covered almonds and our Viognier!"

Join Alise Merritt of Zaca Mesa Winery at Napa Cafe on Wednesday May 11 at 6:30 p.m. for a fun night of great wine & delicious food. Cost to attend is $55 per person plus tax & gratuity. For reservations please call 901.683.0441.

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