The Meeker Vineyard
Charles and Molly Meeker bought their first vineyard in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley in 1977, and thereafter, in 1984, established their winery — The Meeker Vineyard — with Charlie as the winemaker. In its early years, the winery specialized in Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay.
The winery’s first red wine release, a 1984 Zinfandel, was an instant success, winning eight wine competition medals and becoming the third most awarded Zin in the country that year. Thereafter, among other awards, the 1985 Meeker Zin was a Wine Spectator “Best Buy”, the 1986 Zin was a “Spectator Selection”, and the 1990 Zin was included among the Wine Spectator’s “100 Best Wines of the World”. During this period Charlie was also honored to present a Meeker Zinfandel at one of the famous Windows on the World wine dinners in New York. And Zinfandel wasn’t the winery’s only success – for example, the Spectator gave a 91 to one of Charlie’s early Chardonnays.
All this while Charlie was working full time in Los Angeles in the motion picture business (first as an attorney, then as a film producer, and later as a studio executive), so his winemaking career was confined to weekend and holiday trips (many, many trips!) to Dry Creek Valley. Finally, in 1990 when Charlie became President of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, this two-career life became too much, and the Meekers hired a full time winemaker for the winery. (Read Charlie’s and Molly’s full bios for more stories.)
We Started Tasting in a Tipi
During the 1980’s, Meeker wines were generally distributed in a number of states throughout the country, but this began to change in the early 1990’s when Sonoma rapidly became a prime target for wine-tasting tourists. At this point, The Meeker Vineyard winery consisted of a 1,664 sq. foot building with no tasting room and only a tiny wine lab in which to welcome growing numbers of visitors. In an act of desperation, Meeker erected a 40-foot-tall tipi (an authentic Sioux tipi in every respect except size) beside the winery and began using it as a tasting room. This crazy idea worked, and the tipi remains part of our logo to this day.
In 1993 Meeker formed a wine club – named, naturally enough, the Meeker Tribe. This club currently has about 2,000 members from around the country.
In the late 1990’s Charlie and Molly sold their original winery property and bought a new property at 5377 Dry Creek Road, on the eastern side of Dry Creek Valley. They are currently working with their architect, a consulting engineer, and Sonoma County Planning to obtain the necessary zoning and building permits for the new Meeker winery. In the meantime, the winery is operating out of a rented facility in Santa Rosa.
In 1999 Molly and Charlie left Los Angeles and moved full time to Sonoma County. Molly is now primarily involved in marketing Meeker wines, while Charlie has resumed his vocation as winemaker. Under Charlie’s ambitious leadership, the winery is now producing an average of about 16,000 cases per year. Charlie is focused on inventing new ways of making wine and making “Big Reds”, including Four Kings (a Bordeaux blend), Kiss Ridge Vineyard Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Winemaker’s Handprint Merlot, a proprietary co-fermentation blend named Barberian, Cabernet Franc, Fry Creek Valley Zinfandel and Dry Creek Valley Petite Sirah.
A Family Operation
The Meeker Vineyard is a truly family operation. Molly & Charlie’s son Lucas joined the winery full time in 2007 after graduating from Colgate University. Starting off scrubbing tanks and washing glasses, he’s worked his way up to designing labels and making wine with his dad. Molly & Charlie’s daughter Kelly lives in Portland, where she works for OpenSesame, a tech startup, and manages the winery’s social media, website and marketing.
The Meeker Vineyard family prides ourselves on our unconventional attitude towards the wine business: We like to say we take nothing seriously but the wine itself. We have fun, listen to the blues and love to share a glass of wine and a good time.
The Meeker Vineyard tasting room is currently located in the 105-year-old Geyserville Bank building in the farm town of Geyserville, about six miles north of Healdsburg between Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys. In 2001, the Meeker tasting room was cited by The Wall Street Journal as one of the most enjoyable wine tasting experiences in all of Napa and Sonoma Counties.
As Molly says, “If you enjoyed tasting in a tipi, try it in a vault!”