Harbor Winery Retrospective Tasting

Posted by: TomHill

Harbor Winery Retrospective Tasting - 04-12-2019 13:50:13

RickMinderman just put up a video:
HarborWnryRetrospectiveTasting
on a tasting DarrellCorti hosted on a retrospective of the wines from HarborWnry, whose owner, CharlieMeyers, died last yr.
Charlie is best known for putting AmadorCnty/ShenandoahVlly on the map. He was an English professor at SacCityCollege who was making Ho-Made wine. Up in the SV, there were a number of very old (mostly Zin and Mission) vnyds. There was only one wnry (d'Agostini) up there at the time. The wines were old-timey & rustic. Most of the grapes up there were being fed to the pigs. Charlie hooked up w/ KenDeaver to purchase some Zin for his Ho-Made wine. Think it was the '64 vintage. Around '67 or so, Charlie showed his Zin to DarrellCorti, which is where Charlie bought most of his wines. Darrell was blown-away by Charlie's Zin.

The next year, BobTrinchero was whining to Darrell about the horribly high prices for NapaVlly Zin that went into the SutterHome (not White) Zin. Darrell suggested he contact KenDeaver and in '78, the SutterHome DeaverVnyd Zin was released. It received an amazing reception in the wine world..at least as much as a Zin would receive. And the rest, as they say, is history. I first tasted that SH Zin in the early '70's, and it was dynamite. I also tasted Charlie's '68 Deaver Zin, that he gifted me, that was also outstanding. The label was a stripe of brown adhesive tape marked "Zin '68". Still have it in my collection.

It was sometime in the early '70's that Charlie went commercial (still teaching English for his day job). He called it Harbor Wnry, in honor of it location on HarborBlvd in the low-rent West Sac district. It was right behind Wingo & Sons Upholstery Shop. I remember walking into this only address, 610 Harbor Blvd, and asking if HarborWnry was near there. The guy directed me around the outside and outback to this unmarked wooden door with no signage of HarborWnry, but I could tell from the smell that (good) wine was being made inside. That was when I first met Charlie & we instantly hit it off.

When I would go to Sac, Darrell would often invite me for dinner and it would almost always include Charlie. He was a very loveable curmudgeon with an acerbic wit. In his later yrs, Charlie became pretty much of a recluse and I didn't see much of him. The diners always included John, who was Charlie's officemate at SacCityCollege. At one of these dinners, when Darrell seated us at the table, for apps, he started opening up cans of tuna fish, gave us pencil & paper, and passed the cans around and ordered us to take TN's on the tunafish. I remember asking Darrell in sort of an annoyed voice....."canned tuna fish"?? Darrell had just been on a trip to Portugal, fell in love w/ their canned tuna, and wanted to taste it on us. He was the first, I believe, to import the As do Mar Portuguese canned tuna. I recall Charlie also being taken aback by Darrell's app that night. But the Portuguese (and Spanish) tune is far & away superior to the US canned tuna.

In '64, Charlie also made a Peverrella wine from grapes at UC/Davis. At this point in time, UC/Davis was touting this obscure Portuguese white grape as being recommended for making white wine in the CentralVlly, but it never did take off as a wine grape.

Charlie also made one of the first Calif passito wines, from KenDeaver's very old Mission grape. Unfortified, but harvested late, it was a very sweet dessert wine, labeled Mission del Sol, that aged very well. Much like an oloroso sherry w/o the alcohol. Another of my favorites.

In 1978, the Deaver Zin came in very overripe. Charlie made the wine anyway (think that was the time that he dropped Deaver Zin from his production). It reached a high alcohol level and the fermentation stuck with a fair amount (3%-4%) residual sugar. I remember Charlie tasting Darrell, John, and me on a barrel sample. It was actually a pretty good LateHrvst Zin. But Charlie was ashamed of the wine and commented "I'm really going to have to do a number on my customers to unload this stuff!!"
So he labeled it "Country Style" Zin, in honor of those early Calif wines that had stuck fermentation and sold it for a song. Our group bought some 4-5 cs of CountryStyle.

Often overlooked, Charlie made Chard/Cab/and (pffffttt...in my best BillTheCat accent) Merlot, often from NarsaiDavid's vnyd. Also Fay Vnyd I believe. I actually like the Merlot as it was not as soft/soupy as NapaVlly Merlot can be. They sold for about half the price (or less) than many of the acclaimed NapaVlly wines...and were just as good. But I never thought he received the recognition that he deserved for them. I think it was his NapaVllt Semillon that first raised my awareness of the great potential that Semillon has in Calif.

His daughter, Margaret Meyers, furnished most of these wines from Charlie's cellar. I once met Margaret long ago. She had come into Corti's (the original shop out on FreeportBlvd) to pick up some wine for her Dad. This was afore I'd actually met Charlie, but was already buying his wines. Darrell introduced us over a rack of wines and we shook hands. Then Darrell added "he makes atomic bombs down in LosAlamos". I can never forget Margaret's look of horror that crossed her face as she recoiled in disgust!! Don't think she got any radiation from me, though.

Anyway...the video is a glimpse of history worth viewing. Darrell at his professorial best. And Charlie was one of the best & I'm honored to call him "friend".

Tom