Merry Edwards

Merry Edwards

Merry Edwards Winery (Winemaker Emerita & Former Owner)

Merry Edwards is one of California’s first woman winemakers. Now in the fourth decade of her winemaking career, Merry has earned the universal respect of her winemaking peers, grape growers, and academicians.

Merry was fascinated with food chemistry and fermentation from an early age. She purchased a book on home winemaking and began to ferment fruit wines as a college student. In 1970, when Merry earned her B.S. degree in Physiology from the University of California, Berkeley, her friends knew her as the accomplished amateur who made The Merry Vintners wines.

In 1971, while attending graduate school in nutrition at Berkeley, Merry met Andrew Quady, now of Quady Winery, who was studying winemaking at the University of California, Davis. She was surprised to learn one could study winemaking as a discipline. Within a month, Merry shifted her graduate studies to wine at Davis. In the winter of 1973, she earned a master’s degree in Food Science with an emphasis in Enology. Of the three women in her master’s program, only Merry became a winemaker.

She began her career at Mount Eden Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1974 and went on to become the founding winemaker at Matanzas Creek in 1977, where she remained until 1984.

In 1984, Merry left Matanzas Creek to devote herself full time to consulting and Merry Vintners, a small winery that she and her family founded in the Russian River Valley. Dedicated exclusively to Chardonnay, Merry Vintners enjoyed widespread recognition. Unfortunately, the family business was caught in the industry’s downward cycle in the late 1980s. Lenders called back the loans of many small wineries, including Merry Vintners, and it ceased production in 1989.

Financial restraints interrupted Merry’s career once again when Vintech, an ill-fated investment company, filed for bankruptcy late in 1990. Vintech had recruited Merry as vice president and winemaker of Laurier Winery in 1989. She produced two vintages in the new, state-of-the-art winery she helped to build before the bankruptcy pre-empted their release.

Merry’s successful consulting business then became her full-time profession for a number of years. Her esteemed reputation and expertise placed her in the category of a consultant superstar whose name enhanced the reputation of her or his client’s brand.

In 1997, she co-founded a business venture that allowed her to produce Merry Edwards wines from select Pinot Noir grapes from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast, including, for the first time, her own vineyards. Merry had always wanted to make wine from the ground up and advises novice winemakers to begin their careers with a dual degree in Viticulture and Enology. She believes it is very important to do everything possible to obtain quality, and that begins in the vineyard.

In 2006, Merry and her husband and partner, Ken Coopersmith, began construction of their own Merry Edwards Winery. The 2007 harvest was produced entirely on site, and the winery formally opened for visitors in 2008. They plan to purchase property to plant Sauvignon Blanc, which has now become an important partner to her Pinot Noir.

Merry Edwards Winery focuses on producing Pinot Noirs with a sense of place from Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. Two regional blends and six vineyard designates are bottled. In 2001, a barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc blend was added to the portfolio.

In recognition of her many contributions to and accomplishments in the wine industry, Merry was inducted to the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame in 2013. She is only the third woman to be honored in this way. That same year, she also won the coveted James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional in the United States.

In 2017, Merry was honored with the Tête du Cuvée award, the highest award given at the Côtes du Coeur, the annual fine wine action and celebrity chef dinner benefitting the American Heart Association (AHA). The award is in recognition of her long and passionate support of the AHA. She is also the recipient of the Wine Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019, presented by the California State Fair Board.

Merry stepped aside as her winery’s winemaker in late 2018, naming Heidi von der Mehden as her replacement, and remained active as the chief executive of the firm. In early 2019, she and her husband sold the winery to Champagne Louis Roederer but will assist the new owners with the transition for at least a year.

Gardening, cooking, exercise, and family balance Merry’s life. Merry raised two sons while successfully managing her career. Today, she enjoys tending to her country gardens, preparing dinner for her family, practicing Bikram yoga, keeping up with two grandchildren, and sharing quiet moments and collaborative projects with her husband.