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Famed California winemaker visits Meridian

By Staff
Jan. 30, 2002
From my first taste of Karly Warrior Fires zinfandel I loved it. It was introduced one night at a private tasting here and the combination of peppery, rich, full-bodied flavor was an instant hit with everyone in attendance.
A few weeks, later we poured a glass for Northwood Country Club manager George Constance and he quickly added it to his club's wine list. It is now one of the most popular they offer. That is equally true at local package stores where it has become a major seller.
Earlier this month the winemaker for Karly wines, Garth Cobb, came to Meridian from California for a meeting with his Mississippi distributor, Norm Rush. Cobb is a youngish-looking man, not yet 45 I would guess, complete with mustache and an Italian look.
The winery, by his own definition, is a very small family operation named after his mother, whose first name is Karly. The staff consists of his father and mother, his wife who is the tasting room manager, two full-time employees and two part-time who help out in the tasting room. Their total output is only 12,000 cases per year, 8,500 of which are red zinfandel. Only 2,000 are what I consider their premium wine, the Warrior Fires; 4,000 are of their least expensive wine called Pokerville; 2,000 are their middle wine, Buck's 10 Point; and 500 are a new blend called Sadie Upton which is competitive with the Warrior Fires in quality although it differs in flavor. Mississippi is one of their chief markets.
The vineyard that gave Warrior Fires its name is on an old Indian campsite. The ground is literally blackened from former campfires and it imparts a unique flavor to the grapes grown at that location.
We asked if the ultimate quality of the product depends on the grapes or on the winemaker.
He said what drives their zinfandels is they tied up some really nice sites long before there was a demand to purchase grapes from old vines.
The winemaker said they produce three different styles of wine because there are three different types of wine drinkers.
We pointed out they already had three very successful zinfandels in the Warrior Fires, Buck's 10 Point and the Pokerville. Why did they find it necessary to produce a fourth, the Sadie Upton with it's very limited 500 case output?
You'll understand how Cobb feels about the way Mississippi wine lovers have taken to Karly wines when I tell you the total vineyard for the Sadie Upton wine is 2 acres in size. The state warehouse has a small supply. If they have not sold out, it will be one of the wines we serve at our February tasting.
More of our conversation with winemaker Garth Cobb in an upcoming column. And speaking of tastings, for those of you have made reservations, we'll see you at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow night at Northwood Country Club for our blending tasting, which incidentally, will be conducted by the distributor mentioned earlier in this column, Norm Rush himself.
Stan Torgerson is a longtime Meridian resident who writes a weekly wine column.