Remembering Justin

May 15, 2020

Remembering Justin

I was excited to finally be going to Napa Valley in the spring of 1979. I had read about all of the fantastic things going on there and was looking forward to my trip. I arrived in San Francisco, rented a car, and drove straight to the valley. My first appointment was with a man I had met several times on his visits to Marty’s Wine Shop in Dallas. He was a Franciscan Monk who had fallen in love while attending University of Davis to study winemaking. He was starting a small Cabernet only winery in an old dairy barn in the middle of Napa. I met him in Dallas as the winemaker for Christian Brother, better known for Brandy than wine. He asked if I was interested in purchasing some of the wine he was making. I was the California wine buyer for the shop. No one else wanted that area in the shop, preferring Burgundy Bordeaux, Germany, Italy and Champagne. I was managing this section of the shop and I kept getting calls about Napa wines from Stags Leap, Chateau Montelena and Heitz. The Judgment in Paris tasting news had reached our shop. None of those the wines were available of course, but that planted the seed of my interest to dig deeper into California wines. So when Justin Meyer asked me to buy the 5 cases he had available for Texas, of a 5 year old Cabernet from Alexander Valley, not Napa, I bought it anyway. It was in 1.5L bottles and from the not so great vintage of 1972.

I drove to meet Justin at the dairy barn he and his partner Ray Duncan had converted over to a winery in the middle of Napa Valley on Oakville road. He made winemaking seem like such a natural thing to do. He had been making wines for Christian Brothers for 15 years and had such a comfortable way of dealing with Cabernet. “Rack the barrels and get the sediments -gross lees- out and then top them off and let them sit.” He was proud to age his wine 5 years before releasing them. As a young man, I thought 5 years is like forever….Stout Family Napa Cabernets are aged 5 years before they are released. Time passes quickly.





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