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Neyers Vineyards Bruce's Journal

A Visit with Daniel Brunier

By Bruce Neyers

Friday 26th April, 2024


Lunch with an Old Friend – A unique tie to the south of France


We had some good news last week when I learned from our old friend Daniel Brunier that he was going to be in California for a few days. Daniel is the co-owner of the Châteauneuf du Pape property Domaine Vieux Télégraphe. We became close friends during my 25-year stint with Kermit Lynch. He and his wife Cecile were free on Sunday and drove up to join us for lunch. Our last get-together was pre-Covid, so catching up with his side of the wine world was a great pleasure. Barbara had some ideas for a new dish — a play on an old favorite for this cold, frosty weather of early spring — and she made an exotic version of Butternut Squash soup. Daniel loves California wines, so I opted to serve among others our 2021 Carignan ‘Evangelho Vineyard’, a favorite wine of mine that we produce from this rarely encountered but absolutely lovely variety. Barbara made the soup on Saturday evening, then let it sit overnight.


There is not much Carignan in Châteauneuf du Pape, but the grape is widely planted in nearby appellations, like Corbières and Faugères. One of Daniel’s wines, Pigeoulet Rouge, has some Carignan in the blend, though, and he’s very familiar with the grape. He remarked that it was crucial for Carignan grapes to come from old vines. A small crop was essential to ensure even ripening and maximum flavor. He smiled when I told him that the Evangelho grapes came from own-rooted vines, many of them more than 125-years-old, and that the crop averaged barely 1 ton per acre. Even the oldest Carignan vines in the southern Rhône rarely boast these figures. In Corbières, celebrity winemaker Maxime Magnon is looked at as the master of Carignan. His three bottlings are all made from 100-year-old vines, and are among the most important wines in the region, sought after by Michelin-starred restaurants throughout France.


With the help of our daughter Elizabeth, Barbara put the finishing touches to the soup, and served it with a platter of assorted charcuterie and cheeses. The aroma of the Carignan was magnificent – grapey, yet loaded with a rustic combination of mineral and earth. It was soft and complex, and filled with exotic tropical and candied fruits. Daniel complimented me on the wine, but I thought of our winemaker Tadeo Borchardt, and the countless hours he had spent with vintners here and abroad, seeking advice, researching techniques – these grapes are crushed by foot using a traditional French pigeage — and carrying samples to France to taste with winemakers whose opinions he valued. And Barbara’s soup was marvelous. We finished it off that night with a new bottle of Carignan.


Butternut Squash Soup



    • 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
    • 1 medium white onion, peeled and cut into cubes
    • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 ½ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
    • 1 ¼ teaspoons smoked paprika
    • 1 ¼ teaspoons garam masala
    • 2 teaspoons diamond crystal kosher salt
    • 6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth


For the Garnish:

    • 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
    • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
    • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
    • 1 ½ teaspoons fennel seeds
    • ¼ cup finely chopped toasted pistachios
    • Sourdough bread croutons



  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. On a baking sheet toss together the squash, onion, garlic, olive oil, 1 ½ teaspoons black pepper, smoked paprika, garam masala, teaspoon salt.
  3. Bake approximately 40 minutes or until the squash is caramelized on the edges.
  4. While the squash and onion mixture are baking, cook the sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat, until they are lightly browned.
  5. Once the seeds have cooled completely, coarsely grind the mixture in a mortar and pestle. Mix with the pistachios and set aside.
  6. Cook the croutons in olive oil until lightly browned and set aside.
  7. Place the roasted squash mixture in a blender with the broth and blend until smooth.
  8. Add the remaining black pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt.
  9. Heat the soup for 5 minutes and garnish with the croutons and the pistachio and seed mixture.
This dormant Carignan vine on the Evangelho Vineyard was planted in the 1880’s, and is not grafted onto phylloxera-resistant rootstock. The yield from this parcel is barely 1 ton per acre.

Butternut squash soup used to strike me as bland, but this version has Barbara’s twist of a broad mix of wine-compatible spices, and a crown of chopped pistachios. It’s topped off with sautéed croutons made from a fresh sourdough baguette.

Neyers Vineyards Carignan label

The most important sign of spring in our world is ‘Budbreak’, when the new growth of the vines begins. These tender new buds are very fragile, and the local deer love to eat them, so a good perimeter fence is crucial. The new buds are also subject to frost, so we have the vineyard equipped with wind machines to move the cold air, and a sprinkler system to cover the buds with ice, which ironically protects them. Photo by Lizzie Neyers Mix

The wisteria is blooming now all over the Napa Valley, making it an especially attractive time to visit. These wisteria vines surround our tasting room patio, and add a unique touch of beauty to the winery. Let us know if you can arrange to come by and taste some wines with us. Photo by Lizzie Neyers Mix