September 3, 2020
By Bruce Neyers
Paul Larson‘s Chardonnay vineyard last week. Note how well-groomed each vine is.
I met John Roenigk (pronounced Renn’ick) in early 1992, soon after I began working with Kermit Lynch. It was a trip to Texas and John’s store that kicked off my almost 30-year association with Kermit and his collection of the world’s greatest winemakers. John’s business is called The Austin Wine Merchant, and it’s a shop that I still find difficult to leave without buying more than I sell.
I am endeared to John as much for his reserved ‘aw shucks’ style of philosophizing, as for his vast wine knowledge. The broad selection of desirable wines in his store just ice the cake. These days though, I spend my time talking about Neyers wines to John, so I was more than a little pleased to hear from him recently asking for permission to write to his clients from around the world about the Neyers 2018 Chardonnay ‘304’. Here’s what he said:
“Bruce Neyers has a storied career in the wine trade. And he is one heck of a storyteller too, in the very best sense of the word. Formerly winemaker at Joseph Phelps Vineyards, he helped craft some of California’s most memorable and iconic red wines — read Joseph Phelps Insignia. In 1991 he joined Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, traveling the larger world of wine serving for years as their National Sales Manager. He and his wife Barbara have now semi-retired in the Napa Valley where they preside over their own Neyers Vineyards production. Having spent a good amount of time in Burgundy, Bruce brings a wealth of experience and, no doubt, expectation to this bottling. This Chardonnay ‘304’ is from an heirloom selection of Chardonnay, grown in a cool vineyard site in the Carneros District that results in naturally low pH and high acidity. The soils here are covered with rocks — it was once a creek bed. Initially somewhat austère aromatically, the wine would seem to introduce itself as French (this taster might have guessed it from the Mâconnais region of southern Burgundy, only later to learn that the inspiration is actually from further north in Chablis). Fermented entirely in stainless steel, one can almost smell the cool, nervy, vibrant Chardonnay grapes waiting giddily in the early morning for hand-harvesting and the eventual alchemy to follow. Ian noted green apple and hazelnut on the nose. Our wine buyer picked up notes of something cool and almost minty. And that same cool, nervy vibrancy is apparent on the tongue as well, with the call and response, the lively interplay between fresh fruit and acidity making for a delicious and refreshing white wine-drinking experience. And that’s what it’s all about!”
That’s high praise, John, and a great compliment. I’m humbled. We still have the 2018 Chardonnay ‘304’ available for sale. Stay safe.
Shot-Wente selection Chardonnay clusters developing in vintage 2020.