Best Wineries

Merriam Vineyards in Healdsburg

By Published On: September 13th, 2023

Merlot shines at this family estate.

With a breeze gently blowing and the fresh landscaping of trees, Merriam Vineyards is one of the most calming and peaceful wine tasting experiences.

Located in the hills of the eastern part of the Russian River Valley, Merriam Vineyards has been a family business for more than two decades. One of the wines they are most known for is their Merlot.

Merlot is not what typically comes to mind when talking about the Russian River Valley. But being in the Eastern Hills of the Russian River Valley, the micro-climate of their location enables them to grow Bordeaux style wines. 

Merriam Vineyards tasting room interior.
Merriam Vineyards tasting room. Photo Courtesy: Will Bucquoy.

The Tastings

The Merriam Estate property offers both indoor and outdoor options for tasting. Inside, the Windacre Lounge and Tasting Room with a wraparound porch is spacious with high ceilings and large windows letting in the outside light. Outside, there is a garden tasting area and a water feature driven tasting terrace.  

Whether inside or outside, enjoy a seated Single Vineyard Tasting which includes five estate-grown wines, including the flagship Windacre Vineyard Merlot.

Or go behind the scenes with the Elevated Tasting & Winery Tour which includes a guided estate vineyard and winery tour, followed by a tasting of their Single Vineyard wines. 

Elevated Tasting & Winery Tour at Merriam Vineyards.
Elevated Tasting & Winery Tour. Photo Courtesy: Merriam Vineyards.

The Story

Peter and Diana Merriam began looking for property to purchase in Sonoma in the late 1990s. The two met in college on the East Coast and fell in love with wine while traveling through France on their honeymoon.

Peter founded a wine shop in Massachusetts while Diana raised their four children. The wine shop featured great wines from Europe, but California wines grew in popularity in the 1980s. After tasting some of these wines and meeting the producers, Peter and Diana came to California in the late 1990s to explore.

The rural nature and diverse agriculture of the Russian River Valley attracted them.

Peter and Diana Merriam at Merriam Vineyards.
Peter and Diana Merriam. Photo Courtesy: Merriam Vineyards.

In 2000, Peter and Diana bought a 12-acre vineyard on Limerick Lane already planted with Merlot. Originally planted in the late 1800s, it is one of the oldest vineyard sites in Sonoma.

Peter and Diana called it the Windacre Vineyard, named after their 1920s home in Maine. A few years later, they released their first wine.

The Merriam’s had 2800 cases of Merlot ready to sell just as Merlot sales plummeted. But they held steadfast and kept the Merlot vines, and more than two decades later, their Merlot is one of their most award-winning wines.  

In 2003, they purchased a nearby property on Los Amigos Road. This is where they built their winery and tasting room and in 2009, they began planting new vineyards. 

Merriam Vineyards at night.
Merriam Vineyards lit up in the evening. Photo Courtesy: Will Bucquoy.

The Vineyards

The 12-acre Windacre Vineyard hosts Bordeaux varieties (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec), while the 21-acre Merriam Estate features plantings of Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, and a fence line of Petit Verdot.

Merriam Vineyards grapevine.
Red wine grapes ready for harvest. Photo Courtesy: Merriam Vineyards.

The Merriams, committed to sustainable farming practices since the beginning, have acted as stewards of the land. And when they planted the Estate Vineyard, they farmed organically from the start. The Estate Vineyard has been certified organic (CCOF) since 2021. 

Merriam Vineyards is committed to sustainable farming practices
Merriam Vineyards actively commits to sustainable farming practices. Photo Courtesy: Merriam Vineyards.

Part of being an environmental steward is building a healthy ecosystem.
The Estate Vineyard houses one of the few constructed wetlands in Sonoma County, providing enjoyment to an ecosystem of beneficial insects and wildlife.

Their wastewater runs through the wetlands before it arrives at the reclamation pond. The Estate has bees on the property who cross-pollinate crops, as well as insectaries. We also place owl boxes around the vineyard, which aid in natural rodent control. 

The Merriam Family    

Peter and Diana have four children, three sons, Stefan, Nicolas, and Evan, and one daughter, Danielle. Peter and Diana split their time between New England and California. Their son Evan relocated to California in 2017 and started in the cellar, working alongside winemaker Will Weese.

Today Evan is the Estate Manager, managing the day-to-day running of the estate.

Estate Manager Evan Merriam with his dog in barrel room.
Estate Manager Evan Merriam. Photo Courtesy: Merriam Vineyards.

The family actively participates in all aspects of the business. Each of the sections of the Estate Vineyard are named in honor of family members – Diana, Danielle (Peter and Diana’s daughter), and Evanthea (Diana’s late mother).

Diana’s vineyard comprises four acres of Pinot Noir, while Danielle’s Vineyard encompasses 2.5 acres planted with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. While the sons do not have vineyards named after them, they do have a wine named in their honor, called Three Sons Pinot Noir.

The Wines

Merriam Vineyards has three wine categories. The AVA Russian River wines, ranging in prices from $30-$40, and are made from estate and purchased fruit. The AVA wines include Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and red blends.

Merriam Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc with food.
Merriam Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. Photo Courtesy: Will Bucquoy.

Within the AVA Russian River wines is the SNED Red, an everyday blend made since 2009. The name SNED is the four children’s names (Stefan, Nicholas, Evan, Danielle) in birth order. 

The Single Vineyard Selections are all estate wines from the two estate properties. This includes Danielle’s Vineyard Semillon, Diana’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, Windacre Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Windacre Merlot.

The Windacre Merlot is one of their most award-winning wines and with notes of plum, violets, cassis, and spice, it is plush and elegant on the palate.

Merriam Vineyards wines.
Merriam Vineyards wines. Photo Courtesy: Will Bucquoy

Reserve Wines, including the Three Sons Pinot Noir is made from the best barrels of Pinot Noir and aged for 18 months in new French oak.

The Miktos Red Blend consists of Cabernet Sauvignon as the dominant grape in the Left Bank-style Bordeaux wine, while the Right Bank Blend features a dominant Merlot blend.And there are two Reserve Cabernet Sauvignons, the Rockpile and the Windacre. 

Family-oriented, and dog-friendly, Merriam Vineyards offers a calm and peaceful environment to enjoy different expressions of the Russian River Valley.  

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