The Early Beginnings of the Merry Edwards Winery
Merry Edwards was bitten by the winemaking bug at quite an early age. She was already experimenting with home-brewing and home-winemaking as a college student at University of California Berkeley. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Physiology, she began graduate school at UC Berkeley to study nutrition. It was during this time that a friend studying wine at UC Davis got her interested in winemaking. As she became a wine enthusiast, Merry shifted her studies to wine and transfered to UC Davis. In 1973, she received her Master’s Degree in Food Science with an emphasis in Oenology. At that time, there were only 3 women in the master’s program. Out of the three, only Merry would become a winemaker.
In 1974 Merry Edwards was hired as winemaker at Mount Eden Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She successfully orchestrated three vintages at Mount Eden Vineyards, earning a reputation in the world of California wine. During this time, Merry also identified a field selection from Mount Eden’s Pinot Noir vineyard, which eventually came to be known as UCD clone 37 (or, more commonly, the “Merry Edwards selection”), highly sought after in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma.
A Focus on Clones at Merry Edwards
Inspired by the Pinot Noirs made by her friend and mentor Joe Swan, Merry made several trips to Sonoma County in California in the mid-1970s. She was drawn to the juicy, rich, fruity style of the wines produced in this region. In the summer of 1977, Merry was hired by winegrower Sandra Steiner (now Sandra McIver) to help build Matanzas Creek Winery from the ground up. Here, Merry produced 7 award-winning vintages, putting the Matanzas Creek brand on the map. It was also during this time that she developed a unique style of Sauvignon Blanc. The latter would later become a model for her highly regarded, signature Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc varietal wine.
Merry had for a long time been fascinated by the concept of clonal research, first introduced to her by Dr. Harold Olmo back at UC Davis. Before arriving at Matanzas Creek, she took a trip to Burgundy and pursued her interest in clones at the University of Beaune, the center of Pinot Noir clone research at the time. Merry was inspired by the rich diversity of clones planted in the university’s experimental vineyard and how this variation translated into nuances in the glass.
In California, back in the 1970’s, the important of clone research was not yet being recognized, and Merry’s clone-focused approach to viticultural was considered borderline heretic. With the support of Joe Swan and Dr. Olmo, however, Merry explored this interest and planted seven different clones in the Chardonnay vineyard of Matanzas Creek. The different clones were harvested and vinified separately in a series of barrel trials, one of the very first thorough clonal trials conducted in the history of the Californian wine industry. In 1985, Merry joined Dr. Olmo in presenting the first ever clonal seminar at UC Davis.
The late 1980’s presented many challenges to Merry’s career as a winemaker. Her small family-owned winery Merry Vintners ceased its production when lenders recalled their loans. The investment company behind Laurier Winery, where she had been serving as vice president and winemaker since 1989, also filed for bankruptcy in late 1990. At this time, a resourceful Ms. Edwards adopted her consulting business as her full-time profession. Her reputation and expertise had made her advice a sought-after commodity in California, and her involvement with a winery was shown to enhance the brand.
Terroir-Driven Wine from California
In 1996, Merry purchased a plot of land in the Sebastopol Hills area of the Russian River Valley, a region with a great variety of micro-terroirs. Here, experimenting with different clones and techniques could yield truly fantastic wines. She began producing wines under the Merry Edwards label from select Pinot Noir black fruit across the Russian River Valley. It was in that same year that Merry met her future husband andpartner Ken Coopersmith, with whom she planted that first vineyard, Meredith Estate, in 1998.
In 2001, Merry and Ken purchased the Coopersmith Vineyard and set up long-term leases on several other properties in the region. For example, she began producing a single-vineyard Merry Edwards Oliver Lane Pinot Noir with plush cherry flavors from Olivet Lane every year. In 2014, Merry planted Sauvignon Blanc on some of the lower slopes of the Meredith Estate, as well as on their new property in Forestville.
After many years of producing wines as a guest at the wineries of others, Merry and Ken decided to establish their own winery. The construction of the Merry Edwards Winery by the Coopersmith Vineyard, began in 2006 and was finished in time for the 2007 vintage, which was the first to be fully estate-grown, -harvested and –vinified. In 2010, Merry extended the winery to make room for the production of her signature barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc from the Russian River Valley, which was becoming an increasingly popular partner to her Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.
From humble beginnings studying oenology at UC Davis through building her own brand, Merry Edwards has always stayed true to who she is as a winemaker: spirited, bold, independent and scientific. Her wines reveal a pure reflection of her personality and are produced with an eye towards sustainability.
Merry Edwards Winery Acquired by Louis Roederer
In 2013, the 40th anniversary of her winemaking career, Merry Edwards was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner Hall of Fame and won the James Beard Award for Best Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional in the United States. Only 2 other women in history have ever received both awards: Zelma Long and Jamie Davies.
In early 2019, the renowned Merry Edwards Winery and its 79 acres of vineyards have been acquired by the prestigious Louis Roederer Champagne. "Over the years, we have had opportunities to look at renowned wineries in Northern California but it is not until I met Merry Edwards that I felt my heart beating,” said Frédéric Rouzaud, Owner and CEO of the great Maison de Champagne. “Her personality, her story, her wines won me over.”
With her elegant, thoughtfully crafted wines in each vintage and her inspiring legacy as one of the first female winemakers of California, it is safe to say: she has won us over too…
If you have any questions on Merry Edwards Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County in California, United States or the score of each wine on Wine Searcher or the price of a particular bottling, do not hesitate to reach out to us directly!