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RIP: Meiomi Pinot Noir (That We Once Knew)

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It Happened Before: Folie à Deux’s Menage à Trois

I used to drink Menage à Trois in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  Back then it was a red blend only. Yes, it was a superstore wine, but it was from a small Northern California winery that

put out a drinkable red to which folks at the time gravitated.  Because of popularity, it then started arriving in stores like World Market.  And now it is everywhere except at independent wine merchants.

I am not proud, that is what my palate liked. It was simple and jammy with low tannins and acid and very easy to drink. Heck, Gary even drank it, and that is saying something.  It became very, very popular.  Then in 2004, the big boys came in and swooped it up.

Big Boys Swoop In

Trinchero Family Estates, the inventors of White Zinfandel (you know, Sutter Home) swooped in and paid $16 million for it lock, stock and barrel. Now 13 years later there is “Menage à Everything”; Silk, Midnight, White, Rosé, and varietals as well.  They still are offering the flagship three varietal, red blend, but is the same?  In a word, No.  It went from jammy and drinkable to downright sweet and simple.  I do not know this as fact, but I am guessing there is also plenty of added sugar.

It also went from relatively small production to mass production which means that production standards change to meet the demand.   There was a price drop from $12-ish to $8-ish.  And now this wine is everywhere.  Make no mistake this wine is still exceedingly popular, but it is no longer the wine that the two California psychiatrists that owned Folie à Deux made.  I bid you farewell years ago. RIP, Menage. No more threesomes for me, RIP!

RIP: Meiomi Pinot Noir

I remember the first time I bought Meiomi.  It used to be primarily sold at Independent Wine Merchants, and it cost roughly $22.00 a bottle.  This was in my “I only drink Pinot Noir” days and the owner of the store used to ridicule me because she claimed that Meiomi was not a true Pinot Noir.  Note: In the US a wine can have 25% of another varietal(s) and still be named the primary.  According to my research, Meiomi is roughly 97 percent Pinot Noir, with small amounts of other grapes, including Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, and Grenache, depending on the wine. The grapes were sourced from all over California so maybe that was her issue.  I loved it, and her customers wanted it because she sold the crap out of it, even though she was not a fan.

Meiomi Pinot Everywhere and not a Drop to Drink

And then a couple of years ago, it disappeared from her store, and it started appearing everywhere. And again the price was falling fast.  Now it sells for roughly $16.00 a bottle. It turns out, Constellation Brands, a Fortune 500 International Beverage conglomerate bought Meiomi for $315 million. A hefty price for a single brand with no vineyards included in the price. But just like Menage à Trois, and Mark West and many others Meiomi is now mass produced and with that the wine has lost its luster (IMHO). I will never understand, why is it that when wine goes mass market, it turns into a sugar bomb?

 

Is it possible to make a quality wine and still be owned by a mass market company? Sure, I just wish they would have tried a little harder with these two brands.  Why? Because these two brands helped turn me into the wine drinker that I am today.  This may be the wine snob in me talking, but I do not see them being a stepping stone wine any longer.  While riding the coattails Meiomi will fetch $16 a bottle but it should sell for under $10 based on the changes in the wine.

Lastly, please allow me to apologize to anyone that currently drinks and likes these wines.  The reason I wrote this post is that I miss the wines that they were.  They are now a different wine under the same name.  If these wines are what you like? Cheers to you!  If you wonder what happened to the wine you used to like? It may be that your palate has changed or more likely that these wines have changed.

Totally Off Topic

I just have to share these pictures of birds in our backyard this summer.  We have been honored to have a mated pair of Painted Buntings and now this week a family of Green Herons.  I just love the animals that come to us because we keep our backyard yard more “natural” with plenty of food and water. I hope these images put a smile on your face as these birds do mine.

 

 

That is all for now.

 

Cheers,

rick

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14 Comments

  1. Chris brum

    Meiomi was always a huge, jammy, high sugar wine. It was like that before and after the Constellation sale. Bravo to the winemaker for tapping into America’s sweet tooth with a well crafted wine. And if it gets more people to transition to wine; all the better.

    • I agree with almost everything you said. It was all those characteristics that you said but it became even more so once in Constellation’s hands. Those who were fans… noticed a big difference that was over the top. New fans of Meomi will never know the difference and yes the more the merrier.

  2. Thomas

    Hey Rick,

    I’ve just started enjoying Meiomi, Pinot Noir within the past year. I’m sorry to hear that I’m drinking an inferior version of the wine. Do you happen to know what year/vintage the company was sold off? I’d like to find a better vintage for own personal tasting and to compare an older vintage to the current year.

    • The brand was sold in 2015. That said I do not know the last vintage that Joe Wagner produced under his own brand. I think you will be hard-pressed to find an earlier vintage as this wine is now a grocery and big box store wine. But if you like the current wine, that is great. Everyone’s palate is different and that is a beautiful thing. Lastly, I am sorry that I left you with the impression that it is “inferior”. It is definitely different and it is definitely not for me any longer but you enjoy it so that is what matters. If you do happen to find a stray bottle of an older vintage, I would love to hear back from you.

    • Dawn

      Meomi has high residual sugar, that’s why millennials love it. It’s a nice stepping stone from barefoot, lol.

      • A lot more now than it used to. But hey… everyone starts somewhere.

    • Christopher

      2013 was the last good vintage of meiomi. After that it was sold off, and from what I was told only the name was sold. All the grapes in the wine are no longer being used under the meiomi name. That’s right, the 2014-16 isnt even the same wine as 13 or earlier. I’ve been told this by people who work for the companies that bring in constellation wine and have heard from their superiors.

      • Thanks for sharing… I am aware of the sale and the changes as you describe. There is so much more to this saga…. Oy!

  3. jamie

    Came across your blog in search of a new wine to replace my love for meiomi. i miss the old meiomi!!! have you found a new pinot noir that you love in its place? please let me know!!

    • I will definitely respond to you. I am at a wine conference and working 12 hours a day so look for a response later in the week when I get home.

    • Jaime: I promised a reply when I returned from my trip. The short answer is there really is no replacement. Meiomi is a blended non-vintage Pinot Noir with grapes selected from all over California to create a very specific flavor profile. It has a “sweetness” to it that most vintage Pinots do not usually have. That said, what I would do it I were you, go to an independent wine store where the workers are intimately familiar with what they sell and tell them that you liked Meiomi before it was sold to Constellation and ask what they have that is close for roughly $20.00 – since that is what Meiomi used to sell for when you liked it. If they “have no idea” then find a better store. Independent stores taste a lot of wine and should be able to guide you. I wish I had a replacement but this may be a time for experimentation.

  4. Steven E. Clem

    It is interesting that you mentioned these two wines, because they were both instrumental in my “wine journey” as well. For a number of years, Manage a Trois was the “table wine” my parents kept on hand, and was one of the first reds I tried and enjoyed. And until recently Meomi was the “crowd-pleaser” red I would often serve at parties. It is understandable that these brands’ new owners would seek to maximize profits by making changes to reduce costs and appeal to a wider audience, but it is always sad to see a quality brand lose some of its luster. Oh well, time to do some “research” in our quest for new brands!

  5. Suzanne Harwood

    There was an interesting article about the guy who founded and then sold Meomi in Wine Spectator a few months ago. I’ll find and send. Yeah pictures!!

  6. Gary Dean Link

    I love my backyard!

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