Meritage: What’s in a Name?

One evening this past winter, a friend was perusing my trophy shelf, where I exhibit my wines that have won medals or ribbons in amateur winemaking competitions. He picked up one bottle of red wine that was bedecked with a blue ribbon awarded by the Virginia State Fair. The wine was my 2001 Meritage. My friend scrunched up his forehead, trying to make sense of this strange, unfamiliar wine name and asked, “Meritage . . . what flavor of grape is that?” Have you been browsing through the shelves of California wines lately and found yourself staring curiously at a bottle whose label proclaims it to be a “Meritage?” Are you even further confused when you see two bottles right next to each other — one a deep garnet red wine and the other a pale straw white wine — and they both claim to be Meritage? Perhaps in these pages we can clear up your confusion and point you the way — both as wine lover and winemaker — to see a little Meritage in your own future. It’s