Neyers Vineyards Bruce's Journal
Moving Along in the Viticulture Year
By Bruce Neyers
Thursday 23rd February, 2023
I know, I know – last month I asked (pleaded, perhaps) for more rain, but I didn’t ask for nine Atmospheric Rivers. That’s what we got, though, and we’re grateful for a respite. We now average two clear days per week, but we’re fitting as much vineyard work into them as possible. The crew is replacing damaged end-posts, repairing the trellis system, servicing the wind machines, cleaning up the frost protection reservoir, and filling it while water is plentiful. The good news is we suffered no erosion or other water damage issues during the storm systems. We had finished our pre-pruning and cover crop seeding before the rainy weather moved in, so we’re still on schedule, and the vineyards are carpeted with a lush green blanket.
When we finish pruning, we’ll begin to mow and mulch the cover crop. We can start without being too concerned about ground moisture, as we developed our vineyards after installing an engineered system of drainage lines to divert excess ground water to the culverts on the borders of the property. From there, it goes to Conn Creek, then further into the City of Napa fresh water reservoir at Lake Hennessey. The soil retains water, but just enough for the healthy growth of the vines. We had no tree loss this year, thanks to Pacific Tree Care, who carefully thinned our stands of redwood and oak last year.
Our middle daughter Ali and her husband visited from Virginia over the holidays, and Barbara was delighted to have some additional folks to feed for a week or so. We had dinner at home almost every night, and with this cold, rainy weather, regularly enjoyed meals from the ‘hearty food’ side of Barbara’s repertoire. One of my favorites was her French Onion Soup. I’ve always loved this dish during my travels through France, and I grew especially fond of the Burgundian version. Her recipe is below, and she assures me it’s an easy afternoon’s work. Before we sat down to enjoy it, though, my daughter asked if we could try a bottle of the Zinfandel she knows and loves. I was happy to accommodate her, and opened a bottle of Neyers 2019 Zinfandel ‘Vista Notre’. The onion-laden broth of Barbara’s soup was almost ‘sweet’, with an undertone of brisk, savory flavors. The croutons were from a rustic farm bread she uses, so they’re crunchy and filling. And then there’s the Gruyère cheese, melted to fill each crouton, and serving as the primary attraction to this dish, wherever you have it. That trio of sensations is evenly matched by the features of the Vista Notre Zinfandel, with its wild-berry aroma, smooth, easy-to-drink flavors, and that exotic, long finish. We can’t imagine a better meal, and it was delicious on that damp, chilly evening.
A few days later, I heard from an old friend of mine – a retired physician living in San Francisco. He forwarded me a flyer he’d received from a wine merchant in the east. It offered the Neyers 2019 Zinfandel ‘Vista Notre’, with this note:
Perhaps the finest Zinfandel Neyers has yet made
You don’t need to wait to serve the Neyers ‘Vista Notre’ with Barbara’s French Onion Soup, as this mineral-laden, low-alcohol beauty improves almost everything you can imagine. It’s even delicious all by itself. But try it with a bowl of this hot and hearty soup, and you might begin to wonder why you’ve never experienced the two together before.
French Onion Soup
- 6 cups thinly sliced white or yellow onions
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 quarts beef stock, for boiling
- 1 ½ cups grated Gruyere cheese
- 6 slices Levain bread or rustic sourdough bread 1-inch thick, lightly toasted
- Cook the onions slowly with the olive oil in a covered heavy-bottomed saucepan until soft. Approximately 15 minutes.
- Uncover pan and raise heat to moderate and stir in salt and sugar.
- Stirring frequently, cook for 30 to 40 minutes until the onions have turned an even golden brown.
- Sprinkle in the flour and stir for approximately 3 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and blend in the boiling stock.
- Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more.
- Ladle soup into broiler safe bowls. Place slice of bread on each bowl slightly submerged and cover the bread with grated Gruyere cheese.
- Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Salt and pepper to taste.