Neyers Vineyards

Bruce's Journal

March 7, 2019

Vines with a Unique History

The 2017 Pinot Noir ‘Placida Vineyard’ – A Wine Spectator Favorite

We are delighted to report that our 2017 Pinot Noir ‘Placida Vineyard’ was tasted recently and awarded a score of 90 POINTS from the editors of the ‘Wine Spectator’. The full review will appear in the March 31 issue. Here’s what they had to say:

Neyers 2017 ‘Placida Vineyard’ Pinot Noir
“Well-knit, offering delicate dried red fruit and spice flavors that are filled with minerally richness. Sandalwood and smoke notes emerge on the finish. Drink now through 2022. 505 cases made.”
90 POINTS – Kim Marcus

We are just wild about this newly released bottling of Pinot Noir. The fruit came entirely from a one-acre parcel of heirloom vines on Chuy Ordaz’s Russian River Valley vineyard. Chuy sourced the budwood from the old Joe Swan Pinot Noir Vineyard in Forestville. This plant material originated in Vosne-Romanée, and was never subjected to the plant indexing and cloning program at U.C. Davis, adding to its historical importance.

February 26, 2019

A Remarkable Legal Mind, a Delicious Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Great Restaurant

by Bruce Neyers

Terra Restaurant opened in St. Helena in 1988, and it was clear from the start that it was going to be a big deal in the Napa Valley. It was founded by Carl Doumani, the legendary figure who rebuilt the original Stags’ Leap Winery Estate in the early 1970’s. Recognized for his taste as an art collector, respected for his success as a vigneron, and admired for his wisdom as a businessman, Carl has never failed at anything. In the mid 1980’s, his oldest daughter Lissa became the pastry chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Hollywood, and later married Spago’s talented chef Hiro Sone. When the beautiful fieldstone Duckworth building in St. Helena came on the market in 1987, Carl bought it for a restaurant, with plans to install Lissa and Hiro as the operating partners. Their agreement with Spago still had several months to run, however, so Carl persuaded Barbara Neyers – yes, that Barbara Neyers — to take a leave of absence from Chez Panisse and serve as the temporary Manager. Her primary responsibility was to hire and train the staff until Lissa and Hiro arrived to run the business. It soon became one of the most popular restaurants in town, and after Barbara moved on we still ate there frequently. In June of 1995 Barbara and I celebrated an important anniversary at Terra, and when we entered the restaurant, the hostess – a young woman who Barbara had hired – led us to our favorite table, in the far corner of the main dining room. She mentioned that we would be sitting next to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her husband, who were celebrating their wedding anniversary. Justice Ginsburg had just been confirmed to the US Supreme Court, and had already begun establishing the reputation that follows her still today. As we approached their table, we noticed that they were drinking a bottle of Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon, thanks to the help of a clever server. We had brought some older wines for the evening, and after they were opened, Justice Ginsburg turned to us and mentioned how much they enjoyed our wine. I thanked her, and congratulated them on their anniversary. We poured them a glass of one of the wines we brought with us – a red Bordeaux — and she remarked that our wine was better. I didn’t argue. Later their check arrived, and we said goodnight to them, as the evening concluded. But as they walked towards the exit, I grabbed a copy of the day’s dinner menu, and handed it to her with my pen, asking for her autograph. She wrote us a lovely note, signed the menu, which I later had framed. It hangs on the wall in my office today, as a constant reminder of this marvelous woman, notable for her intellect, her fairmindedness, and her genial disposition — to say nothing of her taste in Cabernet Sauvignon. It was exhilarating to have met her.

Over the past 20 years we have produced Cabernet Sauvignon only from our Conn Valley Ranch, on the vines Dave Abreu planted for us in 1994 and 1996. We have just begun to ship the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Neyers Ranch’, and Dave would be proud of the wine we made from those vines. Planted using 3’ by 6’ spacing, in rows that run east and west parallel to the arc of the sun, the vines are farmed organically and sustainably. Budwood came from the Thorvilas Vineyard that Abreu also manages. This plant material is believed to have originated at Château Margaux. From ten acres of vines, we harvested a total of 25 tons. We think of this wine as one with an especially bright future, and we’re intrigued with its combination of ripe cherry flavors, slight minerality, and an aroma of tobacco leaf. There is an underlying suggestion of chocolate, something I have long appreciated in Napa Valley Cabernet.

February 21, 2019

The World’s Greatest Soup

by Bruce Neyers

Time Spent with a Legendary Food Scholar

~ by Bruce Neyers

Barbara and I traveled to Lake Tahoe recently on a sales trip planned with our California distributor’s ‘Mountain Man’, Jeremiah Schwartz. Jeremiah is the Sierra resort area’s most respected wine salesman, and I’d been looking forward to working with him for some time. Ski season in northern California usually begins at Christmas, and this year the Tahoe resorts were getting off to an early start with an unseasonably deep snow pack.

Our day promised to be a busy one. Jeremiah planned to begin on Tuesday morning, so we opted to leave home on Monday for the long drive. This allowed time to stop in Sacramento for one of life’s greatest pleasures — a visit to Corti Brothers Grocery Store, arguably the world’s finest source of rare and original foodstuffs. The owner and genius behind Corti Brothers is Darrell Corti, a man whose knowledge is beyond words. Darrell invited us to join him for lunch at one of his favorite Sacramento restaurants, The Waterboy on Capitol Avenue.

We arrived at the store an hour earlier than expected though, as we wanted to spend some time walking through the aisles, searching for treasures. Barbara had just received the Corti Brothers ‘Holiday Season 2018’ brochure, and when I came home and found her standing up in the kitchen reading it, she had already circled ten or eleven items — artichoke hearts in olive oil from Abruzzo, wild rice from Minnesota, air-dried Baccalà from Norway, dried pasta from Trento, fine salt from Japan, and luxurious handmade soap from Liguria. Within an hour after we arrived at the store, we had located all of the circled items on her list, then filled up another cart with breadsticks, prosciutto, fresh fava beans, tomato sauces, olive oil, blood oranges, pistachios, dried salami, an assortment of marmalade, and a selection of biscotti that would rival the greatest bakery in Milano. We had barely made it through half of the store. We had two bags of provisions to take home at the end of our trip, with some black truffles still to be shipped.

Darrell was busy waiting on customers, but as he saw us leaving with our shopping bags, he told us to meet him in the parking lot behind the store. We loaded into his car and headed off to lunch. The Waterboy bills itself as a casual neighborhood restaurant, and once you visit there you’ll wish it was in your neighborhood. The menu is a thoughtful mix of dishes from northern Italy, southern France, and California. The special that day was ‘Pasta e Fagioli’, a traditional Italian soup that often serves as a meal in itself. The restaurant was donating a portion of that day’s proceeds from sales of the soup to victims of the recent northern California wildfires, and each of us ordered it as a starter. It arrived, looking and smelling delicious, and was placed before us amidst a loud chorus of ‘wows’. It’s basically a soup of pasta and beans, in a flavorful broth of olive oil, garlic, herbs and sautéed vegetables. It has been called the most national dish of Italy, as each Italian region has its own, local version. This version was simply delicious. Barbara indicated she’d like to make the soup when we returned home, so I asked Darrell which pasta we should use. He began by explaining that the normal version of Pasta e Fagioli was made with a wide rigatoni called ‘Mezze Maniche’. The soup before us, he went on, was made using ‘Orecchiette’ or ‘little ears’, a pasta more common in southern Italy. This was perfectly fine, Darrell explained, but using ‘ditalini’ or ‘ditaloni’ would have been more consistent with the northern Italy direction of the kitchen. No question Darrell fields gets a casual answer. I bit into the garlic crouton accompanying the soup. Confirming that this was a place where attention to small details is important, it was absolute perfection – crisp yet chewy.

We finished our lunch, said our goodbyes, and headed off to Lake Tahoe. We returned home later in the week with our several bags of gourmet treasures, and Barbara announced that she had located a recipe for the ‘Pasta e Fagioli’. It came from her longtime friend and former Chez Panisse colleague, David Tanis. David now writes a weekly column for the ‘New York Times, and with David’s help, Barbara prepared Pasta e Fagioli, using our Corti Brothers ingredients. It was delicious. I opened a bottle of Neyers Carignan from the ‘Evangelho Vineyard’, a wine I especially like to drink when Barbara is being creative in the kitchen.

Grapes for this wine come from vines more than 140 years-old. They are own-rooted – not grafted on to rootstock — as the soil is too sandy for Phylloxera to live. The crop yield is barely one ton per acre. Tadeo insists on crushing the grapes by foot – no mechanical crushing device is used – and the wine macerates on the skins for 35 to 40 days before we drain the tank and press the skins. It’s a strikingly attractive wine, with a bright ruby color, and an exotic aroma of tropical fruit, mineral and wild plum. Most importantly, it’s soft already, and just as easy to drink by the glass as by the bottle.

By the way, if you don’t already receive the monthly brochure from Corti Brothers, contact them at http://www.cortibrothers.com and ask to be included. It’s a great read.

February 14, 2019

Neyers 2017 Sage Canyon Red in Wine Spectator

-by Bruce Neyers

Word just arrived that the March 31 issue of the Wine Spectator will include reviews of several California wines produced from traditional southern Rhône grape varieties. We were delighted to learn that our 2017 Sage Canyon Red was one of the highest scoring wines, and received the following review:

“Loaded with personality yet balanced and well-knit, offering lively, floral pomegranate and cherry flavors accented by savory bay leaf and white pepper notes, finishing with snappy tannins. Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. Drink now through 2024. 1,575 cases made.”  –Tim Fish Score 91 POINTS

The Neyers 2017 Sage Canyon Red is a blend of 45% Carignan, 25% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre and 15% Syrah. We retain 100% of the stems during the long skin contact fermentation – using exclusively wild, natural yeast – so the grapes are crushed entirely by foot, using a traditional French ‘Pigeage’. There is no mechanical grape crushing. The new wine is then aged 1 year in 60-gallon French oak barrels. The 2017 may be the finest version to date.

The photo here is of our winery tasting room last spring, with the winery in the background. Both are in the heart of the Sage Canyon region of Napa Valley.

January 8, 2019

Chuck Furuya Looks at Neyers Sage Canyon Red

Hawaii restauranteur and Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya is one of our favorite wine personalities. During the 40 years or so that I’ve known him, he has done as much to advance the interest in fine wine as anyone I’ve met. It’s always a source of great pride for us when he selects one of our wines for his feature stories in the Honolulu press. Here’s something that just came our way from Chuck on the Neyers Sage Canyon Red:

By the Glass: Here’s to a new year of finding great wine
By Chuck Furuya, Special to the Star-Advertiser
“There’s never just one answer to any challenge. In terms of finding great values in wine, there are indeed numerous approaches, and I’d like to discuss a few here as we enter the new year eager to taste more good wine:

Carignan variety: First, consider wines produced from the Carignan variety, a widely grown though relatively lesser-known grape. Most of these wines aren’t as showy or flamboyant as those produced from Cabernet, Syrah, Malbec or Grenache varieties. Still, Carignan-based reds can be quite delicious, interesting and wonderfully food friendly. They are also reasonably priced. I would be remiss not to mention the Neyers “Sage Canyon Cuvee” (about $26). The core of this delicious, joyous, spunky red-wine blend is 139-year-old-vine Carignan, all foot crushed, wild-yeast fermented and aged in old oak. This is a wonderful drink, especially for hanging out with friends at a barbecue.”

To view Chuck’s piece in its entirety, go to:
https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/01/01/food/crave-by-the-glass/by-the-glass-heres-to-a-new-year-of-finding-great-wine/?HSA=4287a1b69bb3794f4108d941b17cb2e5f1f85dbf

This is the time of year when Barbara often roasts a chicken on Sunday, and our favorite wine for that meal is the Sage Canyon Red. We are currently offering the 2017 Sage Canyon Red, a blend of 45% Carignan, 25% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre and 15% Syrah. It’s delicious with pot roast too. The photo above is an old Carignan vine on the Evangelho property in Oakley.

January 7, 2019

Neyers Now Open to Visitors on First Sunday Every Month

Beginning this Sunday January 6, the winery will be open for visitors from 10:00am to 3:30pm on the first Sunday of every month. Under Napa County regulations, visitors must make prior arrangements with us before they visit, and that can be done by calling us at 707/963-8840, or visiting our website, HTTP/NeyersVineyards.com. Relax a little and come enjoy our remarkable wines with our special brand of hospitality at Neyers Vineyards. We’ll hope to see you. If you miss us on January 6, we will be open again on Sunday, February 3.

January 7, 2019

The World’s Greatest Soup

Barbara and I traveled to Lake Tahoe recently on a sales trip planned with our California distributor’s ‘Mountain Man’, Jeremiah Schwartz. Jeremiah is the Sierra resort area’s most respected wine salesman, and I’d been looking forward to working with him for some time. Ski season in northern California usually begins at Christmas, and this year the Tahoe resorts were getting off to an early start, with an unseasonably deep snow pack. Our day promised to be a busy one. Jeremiah planned to begin on Tuesday morning, so we opted to leave home on Monday for the long drive. This allowed time to stop in Sacramento for one of life’s greatest pleasures — a visit to Corti Brothers Grocery Store, arguably the world’s finest source of rare and original foodstuffs. The owner and genius behind Corti Brothers is Darrell Corti, a man whose knowledge is beyond words. Darrell invited us to join him for lunch at one of his favorite Sacramento restaurants, The Waterboy on Capitol Avenue. We arrived at the store an hour earlier than expected though, as we wanted to spend some time walking through the aisles, searching for treasures. Barbara had just received the Corti Brothers ‘Holiday Season 2018’ brochure, and when I came home and found her standing up in the kitchen reading it, she had already circled ten or eleven items — artichoke hearts in olive oil from Abruzzo, wild rice from Minnesota, air-dried Baccalà from Norway, dried pasta from Trento, fine salt from Japan, and luxurious handmade soap from Liguria. Within an hour after we arrived at the store, we had located all of the circled items on her list, then filled up another cart with breadsticks, prosciutto, fresh fava beans, tomato sauces, olive oil, blood oranges, pistachios, dried salami, an assortment of marmalade, and a selection of biscotti that would rival the greatest bakery in Milano. We had barely made it through half of the store. We had two bags of provisions to take home at the end of our trip, with some black truffles still to be shipped. Darrell was busy waiting on customers, but as he saw us leaving with our shopping bags, he told us to meet him in the parking lot behind the store. We loaded into his car and headed off to lunch. The Waterboy bills itself as a casual neighborhood restaurant, and once you visit there you’ll wish it was in your neighborhood. The menu is a thoughtful mix of dishes from northern Italy, southern France, and California. The special that day was ‘Pasta e Fagioli’, a traditional Italian soup that often serves as a meal in itself. The restaurant was donating a portion of that day’s proceeds from sales of the soup to victims of the recent northern California wildfires, and each of us ordered it as a starter. It arrived, looking and smelling delicious, and was placed before us amidst a loud chorus of ‘wows’. It’s basically a soup of pasta and beans, in a flavorful broth of olive oil, garlic, herbs and sautéed vegetables. It has been called the most national dish of Italy, as each Italian region has its own, local version. This version was simply delicious. Barbara indicated she’d like to make the soup when we returned home, so I asked Darrell which pasta we should use. He began by explaining that the normal version of Pasta e Fagioli was made with a wide rigatoni called ‘Mezze Maniche’. The soup before us, he went on, was made using ‘Orecchiette’ or ‘little ears’, a pasta more common in southern Italy. This was perfectly fine, Darrell explained, but using ‘ditalini’ or ‘ditaloni’ would have been more consistent with the northern Italy direction of the kitchen. No question Darrell fields gets a casual answer. I bit into the garlic crouton accompanying the soup. Confirming that this was a place where attention to small details is important, it was absolute perfection – crisp yet chewy. We finished our lunch, said our goodbyes, and headed off to Lake Tahoe. We returned home later in the week with our several bags of gourmet treasures, and Barbara announced that she had located a recipe for the ‘Pasta e Fagioli’. It came from her longtime friend and former Chez Panisse colleague, David Tanis. David now writes a weekly column for the ‘New York Times, and with David’s help, Barbara prepared Pasta e Fagioli, using our Corti Brothers ingredients. It was delicious. I opened a bottle of Neyers Carignan from the ‘Evangelho Vineyard’, a wine I especially like to drink when Barbara is being creative in the kitchen. We bottled the 2017 Carignan in July, so I was eager to see how it was developing. Grapes for this wine come from vines more than 140 years-old. They are own-rooted – not grafted on to rootstock — as the soil is too sandy for Phylloxera to live. The crop yield is barely one ton per acre. Tadeo insists on crushing the grapes by foot – no mechanical crushing device is used – and the wine macerates on the skins for 35 to 40 days before we drain the tank and press the skins. It’s a strikingly attractive wine, with a bright ruby color, and an exotic aroma of tropical fruit, mineral and wild plum. Most importantly, it’s soft already, and just as easy to drink by the glass as by the bottle. The crop in 2017 was small, and from the five ton harvest we have barely 100 cases remaining. It’s going to be a favorite of mine for some time.

December 17, 2018

Dinner with Rusty Staub

Dinner with Rusty Staub: A baseball lover’s dream evening, with a look at Neyers Syrah

I met Rusty Staub 30 years ago on a summer afternoon when he drove up to the Napa Valley after broadcasting a NY Mets game at Candlestick. He was a wine buff and had been given my name by a mutual friend, so he stopped by my office to visit. We talked for a bit, then tasted a few wines, but before he left we agreed to get together for dinner during his next trip to the Bay Area. A month or so later he was back, and accepted my invitation to join us at home. Rusty was a great cook, but when he learned that Barbara worked at Chez Panisse he enthusiastically agreed to be merely a guest. He really couldn’t help himself though, and on his way to our place, he called to report that he had stopped at a fish market and bought some fresh salmon filets. He was marinating them on the drive, and wanted to grill them – himself – as our first course. I agreed, and walked outside to fire up the mesquite grill. We had invited a handful of friends to join us, and each brought some wine, but I knew Rusty loved Syrah so I had selected a few bottles of Northern Rhône wines from my cellar. Not surprisingly, I included a Neyers Syrah in the mix. Barbara had prepared a Daube of Beef, which was served after our grilled salmon starter. With the Daube, I opened magnums of St. Joseph from Trollat, Cornas from Auguste Clape and Noël Verset, Hermitage from Chave, and Côte-Rôtie from Jasmin, and Gentaz. I added a magnum of Neyers 1994 Syrah, and we began to taste through them all.

Rusty’s baseball career stretched from 1963 through 1985 and included far too many notable accomplishments to mention. Along the way, he was a successful restauranteur, a children’s book author, and the founder of several humanitarian organizations, major charities like the New York Police and Fireman Widows’ Benefit Fund. He was also a very talented cook. In 1969 he was traded to the Montreal Expos, and to fit in better with the community he learned to speak French. He had a soft but precise speaking voice – it was almost poetic at times — with just the slightest trace of that wonderful lilt that comes from being a native of New Orleans. I could sit and listen to him talk for hours. At one point that evening, the talk turned to baseball, and he began recounting some of his experiences. Someone asked him to name the best player he had played against. He declined but he offered instead to name the best at each position. I wrote them down, as Rusty’s All Star Team:

Catcher – Johnny Bench
First Base – Willie McCovey
Second Base – Joe Morgan
Shortstop – Ernie Banks
Third Base – Mike Schmidt
Right Field – Roberto Clemente
Center Field – Willie Mays
Left Field – Frank Robinson
Right Hand Pitcher – Bob Gibson
Left Hand Pitcher – Sandy Koufax

What a glorious list of stars! Rusty died in March of this year, at age 73, after a brief illness. There was a collective sense of loss in the Napa Valley, as every vintner who had met him considered him a friend. He always had time for anyone, and patience for everything. He devoted his retirement years to the betterment of the world, specifically by helping those in need, and left behind a wonderful legacy of respect and gratitude. At his funeral, Mets PR director Jay Horowitz remarked that “No one ever gave back to the community like Rusty.”

I think of Rusty and his love for Syrah every time I go into my cellar and bring out a bottle from one of my heroes. I think of him as well when Barbara cooks her Daube of Beef. She plans to prepare one next week to serve with our newly bottled 2017 Neyers Vineyards Syrah ‘Garys’ Vineyard’. After tasting it last week with Tadeo, I feel it’s a great success. Rusty would like it, I’m sure.

December 10, 2018

The 2016 Pinot Noir ‘Placida Vineyard’

Sandy Block on the Neyers 2016 Placida Pinot Noir: An MW’s observations

Sandy Block, a respected MW from Boston, is one of the world’s most cerebral wine personalities. From his headquarters in Boston, he has directed the enormously successful wine program at Legal Sea Foods for the past 20 years. In his recent observations for a local trade publication, he turned his attention to California Pinot Noir, and the 2016 Placida Vineyard bottling from Neyers that we make from grapes grown by the celebrated Chuy Ordaz.

‘Tasting dozens of Pinot Noirs blind, it’s unmistakable how dramatically individual a story each one tells. The grape is a chameleon. Highly reflective of its specific growing conditions, Pinot requires handling with utmost care, both in the vineyard and the winery. Its thin skins bruise easily and are rot-prone in humid conditions; because it buds so early in the season Pinot Noir is frost-susceptible; if cropped at too heavy a load the wine it makes will taste dilute; and, to cap everything off, it’s genetically unstable. At a minimum Pinot Noir requires a long, cool, but sunny and dry growing season, the kind of environment where every vintage poses fresh challenges and requires a new strategy to handle the grapes. The net/net is that in a world and a market that prize predictability, Pinot Noir is by its very nature capricious. Its low yields and the intensive manual vineyard work (shoot thinning, pruning, leaf removal and other canopy work) needed to ensure flavor concentration mean that it’s never inexpensive to produce. Why do winemakers persist? When done right, Pinot Noir is incomparable, with an exalted perfume, texture and flavor profile whose every sip offers intrigue and surprise. The following California Pinot Noirs are among the finest I’ve tasted recently.

NEYERS WINERY PINOT NOIR ‘PLACIDA VINEYARD’

RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY 2O16

Some consider Sonoma’s Russian River Valley the heart and soul of California’s Pinot Noir crop. The valley is a chain of low hills and bench lands surrounding the Russian River as it cuts a path westward from just north of Santa Rosa, emptying into the Pacific. The soils range from well-drained, loose-gravelly loam near the river, to rocky sandstone clays on the rolling hills. Pacific fogs roll eastward upriver reducing sunlight hours, prolonging the growing season (typically harvest is at least two weeks after Carneros) and often producing a fuller-bodied more concentrated and tannic wine. This Pinot is one of the exceptions to that more general formulation. With vines planted to the legendary Joseph Swan ‘Selection’ (rumored to have originated in the village of Vosne-Romanée) Bruce Neyers has created a wine of charm and elegance, with tealeaf, red berry and herbal garden scents. It’s an unfined and unfiltered wine of finesse that manages to walk a delicious tightrope between red fruit and more earthy flavor notes.’

December 4, 2018

From the Wine Spectator’s Tasting Highlights – Our 2017 Vista Luna Zinfandel

The hillside vineyards of Neyers Ranch

8 Zinfandels to Hunker Down With
by Aaron Romano

Tasting Highlights’ wine reviews are fresh out of the tasting room, offering a sneak peek of our editors’ most recent scores and notes to WineSpectator.com members.

One of the most appealing things about Zinfandel is that buying a bottle or two rarely breaks the bank. Many clock in around $30 or less, like the picks in today’s selection. These Zins come from all over California and are distinct to their terroirs, but each carries Zin’s hallmark fruit-forward appeal.

NEYERS Zinfandel California Vista Luna 2017 Score: 91 | $30
Refined and well-structured, yet showing a briary streak, with appealing black cherry, sweet anise and white pepper flavors. Drink now through 2025. 1,172 cases made.—T.F.