Neyers Vineyards Bruce's Journal
Our 2021 Evangelho Mourvèdre
By Bruce Neyers
Friday 14th July, 2023
Looking back now, it’s difficult to recall exactly when my love for Mourvèdre began. It probably coincided with my introduction to Domaine Tempier Bandol, a monumental event in my career, and one for which I am eternally grateful to Kermit Lynch. In the spring of 1980, Barbara and I traveled to France for the first time since we lived there in 1974. Barbara had begun working for Alice then, and Kermit and Alice had arranged for us to stay overnight at Domaine Tempier. We arrived mid-week, just in time for lunch, and were treated to one of those legendary meals that made Lulu and Lucien Peyraud famous throughout the wine world. Lulu roasted a leg of lamb over vine cuttings, in the open fireplace in her Provençal kitchen. The lamb was suspended from the top of the fireplace by string, and the heat of the fire caused it to rotate as it cooked. She basted it with a mix of lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic, using a sprig of fresh rosemary. It was great theater. We drank several vintages of old Bandol Rouge, all from Magnums, and I was hooked.
We began Neyers Vineyards in 1992. That year we made only Merlot and Chardonnay, but the idea of producing Mourvèdre was in the back of my mind. The problem was locating the grapes, as the variety is not widely planted in California. In 1996, we located a small parcel of Mourvèdre in northeast Contra Costa County, and that eventually led us to the Frank Evangelho Vineyard in Oakley. We later arranged to buy Mourvèdre grapes, grown on these 100-year-old vines. I was astonished at the quality of the finished wine. Like many of the bottlings of Mourvèdre I’d enjoyed in France over the years, the wine Tadeo produced was beautifully aromatic, with the smell of earth, truffle, mineral, and ripe blackberry. The flavors were soft, though, and the finish was long and complex. Most of our annual production of Mourvèdre is included in our Sage Canyon red, leaving only a small portion of varietal Mourvèdre to be sold at the winery. From the 2021 harvest, we have wine available for distributors though. Try it, and marvel at the aroma and flavor, as I do.
Mourvèdre goes well with almost everything. While Lulu’s vine-roasted leg of lamb is perfect, so too is her Bouillabaisse. Back in the mid-1990’s, Barbara and I traveled to Venice. We met with Lulu, after attending the birthday party of a mutual friend. At dinner that night, a chef from our group ordered the Pasta E Fagioli. He remarked to Lulu how well the dish would taste alongside a bottle of Bandol. She agreed. Barbara and I tasted a remarkable version of Pasta E Fagioli recently at a favorite Sacramento restaurant of ours, and she decided to try her hand at it. She was also motivated by having recently joined the ‘Bean of the Month Club’ (true story!) at Rancho Gordo in Napa. Her version was delicious, and since it drew on suggestions from several sources, she created this recipe. I opened a bottle of Neyers Mourvèdre to go with it. It was so good, I opened another. We finished the second bottle while watching an old movie together. It was a memorable evening.
The recipe is below.
Pasta e Fagioli
Serves 4 to 6
- 3 cups cooked Rancho Gordo beans, preferably Borlotti Lamon
- 4-6 cups vegetable broth
- 2 slices of pancetta ¼-inch thick, chopped
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 celery ribs, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 8 ounces rigatoni
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Sauté the pancetta until crisp and set aside.
- In the olive oil sauté the onion, celery and carrots until soft.
- Add the tomato paste to the onion, celery and carrot mixture and cook until the tomato paste is heated.
- Add 4 cups of the vegetable broth and simmer the mixture for approximately 15 minutes, or until the mixture begins to reduce.
- Cook the pasta in salted water according to the package directions.
- Heat the cooked beans.
- Drain the pasta and combine with the heated cooked beans, pancetta, and the mixture of broth, tomato paste, onion, celery and carrots. Cook briefly to bring the flavors together.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve each bowl with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.