Neyers Vineyards

Bruce's Journal

June 5, 2020

A Well-Developed White from Heirloom Shot-Wente Selection

by Bruce Neyers

Cluster of Shot-Wente selection Chardonnay grapes

A cluster of Shot-Wente selection Chardonnay – note the mix of small and large berries

The June 2020 issue of The Somm Journal included a review of our 2017 Chardonnay ‘Carneros District’, scoring it 93 POINTS.

Neyers Vineyards 2017 Carneros Chardonnay
“The heirloom Shot-Wente in this well-developed white is grown in three different Carneros vineyards. The selection was first developed in 1938 by the Wente Brothers in the Livermore Valley. Its ratio of skin to juice enhances the flavor profile of the wine, fermented in 100% French oak (30% new). Subtle but irresistible aromas of pear and white flowers persist on the palate, along with lemon, quince, tangerine blossom, and defined salinity. Italian herbs show on the finish.” Score: 93 POINTS

We still have some of this lovely California Chardonnay available for sale. Thanks!

Chardonnay vine

A 54 year-old Chardonnay vine on the ranch of Jim and Del Yamakawa

June 4, 2020

The Neyers Sage Canyon Red Was the Perfect Wine

By Bruce Neyers

Neyers Sage Canyon Red Wine

Neyers Sage Canyon Red Wine

The hospital where I had last year’s knee replacement surgery is in Vacaville, so from time to time I need to make the 90 minute drive east on Interstate 80 to this quaint little agricultural town to see my doctor. From Vacaville, it’s only a 20 minute drive to Sacramento, home to Corti Brothers Gourmet Grocery. Before Barbara agrees to go to Vacaville with me, I agree to include a shopping trip to Corti Brothers, so I called Darrell Corti to see if there were any concerns about grocery shopping these days. They were open during normal business hours, he reported, and other than social distancing, there were no special rules in place. He suggested that we plan to arrive around noon and drive over to his home after shopping, and join him for lunch. I learned a long time ago to never turn down an invitation for lunch with Darrel, so I greedily accepted.

Barbara was thrilled. We had already placed an order for a few things that we regularly buy on a Corti Brothers outing, but since much of the flavor of a trip there comes from the spontaneous purchases made while pushing a cart through their several departments, we still needed an hour or so to complete our mission. I’d brought along a cooler for anything needing protection from the heat, and we loaded our four bags of ‘loot’ into the trunk of my car, then followed Darrel through the streets of Sacramento for the ten minute drive to his home. He lives on a beautiful side street of suburban Sacramento, only a few minutes from downtown, and his house faces a long, grassy park, lined with stately old Elm trees. We parked in front of the house, then entered through the front door where we were greeted by Darrell’s longtime companion, John Ruden, a retired instructor and administrator from Sacramento City College. We’ve known John for years and have long appreciated his affable nature, his love of opera, and his many kitchen skills.

After seating us in the dining room, Darrell brought us an aperitif. Each was served in a miniature glass, with a single crescent-shaped ice cube lying on the bottom. Barbara’s was a glass of Byrrh Grand Quinquina, a wine-based Vermouth made from quinine and Muscat, a drink popular in Paris these days. Mine was a glass of La Copa Rojo, a Sherry based Vermouth that Gonzalez Byass recently re-introduced. We drank them quickly, and we were both refreshed immediately with our appetites stimulated.

At that, Darrell began the meal. We started with a platter of anchovies from Spain. They came from the Bay of Biscay, just off the coast of Cantabria. Darrell’s presentation was the essence of simplicity — a slice of freshly baked baguette cut lengthwise was lightly spread with sweet butter, and the anchovy filet was placed on the baguette. The chewy bread and the meaty anchovy were ideal partners. The sweet butter brought all of the flavors together. They were the best anchovies I’ve ever eaten.

They were served with a rare 1991 Palo Cortado Sherry from Gonzalez Byass. Palo Cortado is the only Sherry that begins life as a Flor wine – a Fino — but for reasons unknown, loses its flor yeast covering and begins to oxidize like an Oloroso. I’m not sure which I enjoyed more – the anchovies or the sherry – but together they were amazing.

John prepared our main course, and seemed to take a special delight in making what was referred to as Darrell’s favorite dish – Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. John insists on making them with Taiwanese Flat Cabbage, however, which improves both the flavor and the texture. The rolls were stuffed with a mix of rice and pork, braised with fresh sauerkraut from Sonoma Brinery. Both were mildly flavored, with perfect texture, and it was an ideal combination of tastes. John insists that it’s easy to make, and showed us the recipe he uses, from ‘The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire’, an edition of the original Time-Life ‘Foods of the World’ series. It’s still in print, by the way; Barbara just ordered it.

Fresh Bing Cherries from Lodi

Fresh Bing Cherries from Lodi

With the Cabbage Rolls, Darrell served the 2018 Neyers Vineyards Sage Canyon Red, a bottle that I brought with me in hopes of tasting it with him during our visit. It’s safe to say he liked it, as he grilled me for the next 15 minutes about how we made it, where the grapes came from, how we kept the alcohol so low – it’s only 13.6% — and how we managed to include the element of rusticity – we crush these grapes by foot, not by machine, using a traditional French technique known as pigeage. It’s aged one year in neutral French oak barrels, so there’s no discernable oak flavor to the wine. He agreed to order it the following week. I was beaming with pride as we started in on dessert – fresh Bing cherries grown in Lodi. It’s the heart of Bing Cherry season here, and these are the best cherries in the world.

We finished this memorable dining experience after less than three hours at the table. Darrell needed to get back to the store, while Barbara and I needed to get home to unload our car full of grocery treasures. On the drive home we talked about this remarkable meal, and our good fortune at having experienced it. Barbara asked me if this was the best lunch I’d ever eaten. Probably, I thought — until we have lunch with Darrell and John again.

The 2018 Neyers Sage Canyon Red is a blend of Carignan – from 140 year-old vines – with Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. You can get pricing and availability information from your local Trinchero Family Estates sales representative. Enjoy, and stay safe!

Corti Brothers publishes a free monthly newsletter that regularly contains some fascinating information on food and wine. Sign up to receive it by visiting their website at https://cortibrothers.com/.

June 3, 2020

For the Love of Magnums – A Father’s Day Suggestion

by Bruce Neyers

Mother’s Day is my favorite holiday of the year, but Father’s Day runs a close second. Here’s an idea for a unique gift for dad this year, a magnum of the Neyers 2016 ÂME Cabernet Sauvignon.

I was fortunate to get attracted to magnums early in my wine career. In the spring of 1972, I had been working at Connoisseur Wine Imports in San Francisco for over a year. Art Formicelli was a partner, and he had just returned from a buying trip to Bordeaux, where he discovered a treasure trove of old vintages from Château Calon-Segur, a wine with a strong Bay Area following. The wines had been stored at the Château since bottling.

To promote the sale of these impeccable wines, the owners decided to hold a dinner for our top customers allowing them to taste a selection of them with a meal designed to show them at their best. One of my colleagues at the store was a Stanford mathematician turned chef named Rick Sajbel (SHY-BELL). He was asked to select the wines to show and develop a menu around them. Rick settled on 12 bottlings – all from top vintages of the 20th century going back to 1906. Rick asked me to join him in the kitchen to help serve the wines, which of course meant I could taste them all, and enjoy the dinner, as well.

We met a few days before the dinner to go over the details, and I learned that all 12 of the wines were to be served from magnums. Art carefully explained that old, rare wines like these would be best from a magnum.

While magnum bottles are twice the size of 750ml bottles, he told me, there tends to be about the same amount of oxygen in both, so a magnum will age more slowly than a 750ml bottle. This slower rate of oxidation allows for the formation of more aromatic compounds, so wine from a magnum tends to be more complex than the same wine from a 750ml bottle. Wine bottled in magnums also oxidizes slower, allowing for more development before the normal process of aging overtakes the fruit, and the wine begins to tire.

Forty years after these lessons from one of the most scholarly wine lovers in my life, I still find myself buying magnums for my personal use. I know the wine is going to taste better and last longer than the same wine served from a 750ml bottle. Add to that the celebratory aspect of a big bottle sitting on your table, and you have two pretty good reasons to buy wine in magnums.

Over the years, we’ve bottled many of our wines at Neyers Vineyards in magnums, but we were especially taken with the 2016 ÂME Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a vintage that Wine Spectator has called ‘Stunning’. The wine already shows great promise and will brighten both your cellar and your dinner table. You don’t have to be a father to own it, but I can’t imagine one who won’t appreciate it as a gift. While you’re at it, you should probably pick up a few bottles of this wine in 750 ml format. They’ll be great when dad’s dining alone with mom.

2016 ÂME Cabernet Sauvignon magnum and bottle

2016 ÂME Cabernet Sauvignon 

June 2, 2020

A Moment in Our Journey

by Bruce Neyers

Bruce and Barbara Neyers in 1966

Bruce and Barbara Neyers

In the fall of 1966, a married couple who were friends of ours invited us to join them for a weekend in Washington, DC. Barbara and I were in our junior year at the University of Delaware and had been romantically involved for five years. We were loosely talking about getting married, but on the first evening we were there, we actually began to plan our life as married students. We drew up a budget and determined that if each of us had a part-time job, we could make it through our senior year, cover all of our expenses, and make it work. The next day we viewed it under a more sobering sense of reality, but resolved to go ahead with it and made the decision to tell our parents when we returned from this weekend getaway. Ironically, we stayed at the Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge across the street from the newly built Watergate apartments, which was the hangout for the Watergate burglars a few years later. We were married the following summer, in August 1967. We moved into University Garden Apartments in Newark, DE, and then graduated in June 1968. I spent my senior year working as a laboratory assistant to a Chemistry PhD grad student, and Barbara took a job at the University Library.

May 19, 2020

Chicken Dinner with Joe Phelps

by Bruce Neyers


Chuy Ordaz at work in his vineyard

I started working for Joe Phelps in March of 1975. He hired me as the National Sales Manager, then gave me a job description that was three pages long, covering everything from laboratory analysis to visitor tastings. The next 17 years were the ride of a lifetime, but looking back on them today, I can’t help but feel a touch of nostalgia.

Joe lived in Colorado then, and he would fly to California every Monday morning, pick up the car he kept at his construction company’s regional office, then drive to the winery. He’d normally arrive around 5:00 or so, and I’d wait around for him. We’d meet in the office for an hour or two, then he’d invite Barbara and me out to dinner with him. Later in the week, we’d return the hospitality, and ask him to our house for dinner. He enjoyed the home-cooking, and we would try wines from my cellar. One of my favorite meals was sautéed breaded chicken breasts, a dish Barbara had learned to cook from a restaurant friend. Joe liked it enough to occasionally ask Barbara to prepare it. Before long we began to call the dish ‘Joe’s Chicken’. I still like it so much I ask for it on my birthday. I would always serve it with a red Burgundy. After dinner in those days, we’d sit up late into the evening — Joe talking to me about business, while we talked about Burgundy.

The dish is best when it’s prepped two days in advance, so we don’t have it often. Barbara made it last week, though, and it wasn’t even a special occasion. I asked her to write down the recipe, and after looking at it, I thought to myself ‘Something this delicious should be more complicated’! I still love French Burgundy as much as ever, and since we were being joined by our daughter Lizzie, I brought out a special bottle that night. I also opened a bottle of 2017 Pinot Noir ‘Placida Vineyard’ for comparison.

The success of Pinot Noir from California is the wine story of the last 30 years. I drink our Neyers Pinot Noir often, and try to serve one whenever I open a serious red Burgundy. The Pinot Noir ‘Placida Vineyard’ is a wine from grapes grown on the Russian River parcel that Chuy Ordaz planted 15 years ago, using ‘Heirloom’ budwood from the original Joseph Swan vineyard in Forestville. I was amazed at how Burgundian the Placida Vineyard bottling was. I wasn’t amazed — but I was really pleased — at how delicious the Sautéed Chicken Breasts were.

I couldn’t help noticing that after we’d eaten everything, the bottle of Placida Pinot Noir was empty, while the bottle of red Burgundy – a pretty consequential one – was half full. To my mind, Tadeo’s 2017 Placida Vineyard bottling is a great success, and a testament to his skills as a talented and gifted winemaker. It displays the irresistible combination of voluptuous fruit and complex minerality that defines all fine Pinot Noir. It’s soft and delicate too, and immediately attractive. It reminds me of some of the memorable bottles of red Burgundy I’ve enjoyed over the years.

I don’t get to eat those delicious Sautéed Chicken Breasts often, and I don’t often run across a Pinot Noir that I like this much either, so I’ll continue to act on both when the opportunity comes along. I only wish Joe Phelps were still here to enjoy both with me. I could use a little bit of his salty advice right now.

Breaded Chicken Breasts

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded thin
½ cup of flour
½ cup fresh sourdough breadcrumbs
½ cup grated Italian Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
5 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Lemon wedges for serving

Preparation

In a shallow dish whisk eggs together with 1 tablespoon olive oil. In another shallow dish put flour.
In a third dish combine the breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.

Coat each chicken breast with flour, shaking off excess. Dip the chicken in the egg mixture, and then dip in the breadcrumbs and Parmesan mixture turning twice and pat so the mixture adheres to the chicken.

At this point you can refrigerate the chicken breasts and cook the next day.

Put remaining olive oil in a cast-iron skillet and cook the chicken over medium heat until chicken is browned. Approximately 4 minutes a side. Adjust heat as necessary during cooking.

Salt and pepper chicken before serving.

Serve chicken on a platter garnished with lemon wedges.

May 14, 2020

…..Perfect with the 2016 Neyers Ranch Cab

by Bruce Neyers


Neyers Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon vines – Looking north towards the ridge line

by Bruce Neyers

The shelter in place program has begun to grow tedious to many of us, but it seems to have brought out the best in Barbara, allowing her to focus on her cooking. I was more than a little pleased when she came home on a recent Friday with a bundle of fresh asparagus – it was the heart of the season in many parts of California.  She offered to make Hollandaise Sauce to accompany it, so I was, of course, thrilled. I immediately thought back to one of my Kermit Lynch trips to France – March of 2011, I think – when with a dozen fellow travelers, we finished up a long two-week road trip with dinner in Paris.

My French colleague, then, was Nadege Lanier, who coordinated our travels for years. She arranged for us to have our last meal together at a favorite stop of mine, Chez Villaret, hidden away in a quiet neighborhood in the 11th. Chez Villaret had everything we looked for after a busy road trip – great food, a spacious dining room (for Paris anyway), and a first rate wine list. They seated the twelve of us at two rounds in the far corner of the room and brought out several bottles of water, stacks of fresh levain bread, and a few bottles of the white Burgundy we ordered. Our server returned with menus, and announced that asparagus season had just begun, so fresh asparagus with hollandaise sauce was the day’s special. Every one of us ordered it to start.

Our server asked me to choose a wine to accompany the asparagus course. When I briefly hesitated, he directed me to the red Bordeaux section of the list, stating emphatically that’s where the best options were. The choices were many, most of them fairly priced, and I selected three bottles of a familiar St. Estèphe. Our server gave the order to the bartender — who was also the owner and the sommelier — and he looked at me, smiled, and gave a thumbs up. We were going to be fine. The wine was served, and after a brief wait, a cadre of kitchen staff and servers began to work their way to our table with platters loaded with fresh asparagus steamed to perfection. Each of us received a healthy portion. The chef himself followed and, pouring from a large ceramic pitcher, covered each mound of asparagus with a generous serving of the most beautiful hollandaise sauce I’ve ever seen – rich and aromatic. The wine too was delicious, and I couldn’t recall ever enjoying a red Bordeaux more.

Ever since then, I haven’t been able to look at a plate of asparagus without thinking of Chez Villaret, hollandaise sauce, and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. I knew hollandaise sauce was something that even talented cooks find difficult, but Barbara’s recipe was easy, she assured me, and an hour or so later, we sat down to dinner. The California-grown asparagus was magnificent, Barbara’s hollandaise sauce was extraordinary, and the bottle of 2016 Neyers Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon that I opened has never tasted better.

I suggested that Barbara share her recipe, and it’s copied below. I wish we could have each of you join us at our Conn Valley Ranch for a platter of fresh California asparagus smothered with Barbara’s hollandaise sauce and served with a glass of our 2016 Neyers Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. Maybe one day we will.

Please stay healthy, keep safe, and try to maintain a sense of good will during this test of our collective spirits. Continue to watch out for one another as well.

Hollandaise Sauce
Ingredients:

4 egg yolks
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup unsalted butter melted
Pinch of salt

Preparation:

Whisk egg yolks and lemon juice in a stainless-steel bowl until the mixture is thickened. Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (you can use a double boiler). The water should not touch the bowl. Continue to whisk and slowly drizzle in the melted butter until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume. Remove from heat and whisk in the salt.

Yields 1 cup

May 11, 2020

Changing the face of a California Favorite

by Bruce Neyers

The lay of the land in Vista Notre Country

In 2018 we added the fruit from two neighboring vineyards to our bottling of Zinfandel, and renamed the wine ‘Vista Notre’. We were pleased to learn today that the June 30 Wine Spectator has awarded our 2018 ‘Vista Notre’ Zinfandel a score of 90 POINTS. Here are their comments:

“Sleek and floral, featuring precise cherry and cranberry flavors, with peppery anise accents. Snappy tannins show on the finish. Drink now through 2026. 981 cases made. Score: 90 POINTS” — Tim Fish

We’ve long been fascinated with these Zinfandel vineyards that sit east of Lodi, at the base of the Sierra foothills. The weather is artificially cooled by the Sierra Rotor effect, the soil is loaded with hardened rock – mostly quartz and granite — and the plant material comes from ‘Heirloom’ sources, so the clusters are small, and ripen evenly. We can make wine just loaded with flavor, and still keep the alcohol levels in balance, as we’ve done here.

 

May 6, 2020

A balanced bottle of food friendly wine

by Bruce Neyers

The 130 year old Carignan vines planted in the sandy soil of the Evangelho Vineyard

Dan Fredman has been an important wine industry personality for decades, as a retailer, distributor, and importer. He now combines his love for wine with his gifts for communications in his own company, and works with the wine industry on several levels. He recently wrote about the 2018 Neyers Sage Canyon Red, and had this to say:

‘The years Bruce Neyers spent with Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant are evident in this extremely Rhône inspired red blend from Northern California. Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan meld gloriously. With no noticeable oak nor alcohol heat, it’s just a really balanced bottle of food friendly wine for under $30.’

Thanks Dan. I always appreciated your judgment.

May 5, 2020

Our Choice for Mother’s Day: 2018 Chardonnay, Chuy’s Vineyard

by Bruce Neyers

As we approach the year’s most important day of celebration, Lori suggested that we give thought to recognizing those whose value becomes even more important in difficult times, our mothers. I’ve been without my mother for over 30 years, while Barbara lost hers only 3 years ago. I’m fortunate, though, to still live with one mother and next door to another – my oldest daughter Liz. Recognizing Mother’s Day with a wine may seem whimsical, but I look at it as just a start. Let’s lift a glass to all mothers, past and present, and all they add to our lives.

True Chardonnay lovers, I’ve found, are most interested in the way this fascinating grape reflects its growing conditions. Rarely does the French term terroir take on greater meaning than with properly made Chardonnay. My years working with Kermit Lynch, and his select group of Burgundian wine makers, provided a series of amazing tasting opportunities, chances to experience  wines made from Chardonnay that displayed vastly different characteristics – wines, say, that were grown in pebbly marl at the base of the hill next to those grown on limestone scree, slightly higher up.

The vineyards of Perrières and Charmes in Meursault, for example, are adjacent to one another, and have an elevation difference of barely 10 feet. Still, many Burgundian winemakers consider the wines that come from them almost as if they were from different planets. The range of styles available to a Chardonnay winemaker are limited only by one’s imagination, and the dry-farmed, rock-strewn acreage we know of as Chuy’s Vineyard has made our winemaker’s imagination extremely fertile.

Tadeo Borchardt introduced me to Chuy Ordaz about 10 years ago, and I was immediately struck by the man’s combination of dignified grace and weathered ruggedness. When we first visited the vineyard that bears his name, these contradictions made sense to me, for the vineyard itself is a complicated mix. It’s a high elevation parcel, laced with rocky soil, steep terraces, and spectacular views. Sitting at almost 1200 feet elevation on the west-facing slope of Mt. Veeder, it’s uncanny that someone would have chosen the parcel to plant Chardonnay. It seems far too inhospitable.

Quite the opposite is true, though, for while grapes struggle to ripen here, the result is Chardonnay fruit that resembles little else grown in northern California. Here are grapes that have high natural acidity, broad ripe flavors, and a textural character that’s rarely encountered in the variety. Here is a Chardonnay that luxuriates in its individuality. When I think of terroir, I first get my mind around Chuy’s Vineyard Chardonnay. The best description for this wine is balance. Chuy told me once that he likes the Neyers version of wine so much better than earlier bottlings because Tadeo’s style has no single trait that stands out. He controls the texture so it’s soft; he obtains maximum flavor without extremes; and he lets the finish bring the other components together as one. This is extraordinary wine-making, but it couldn’t happen without extraordinary grapes.

April 30, 2020

The newly available 2018 Mourvèdre ‘Evangelho’

by Bruce Neyers

The Chicago Peach Rose

We bought our Conn Valley property in the fall of 1984, as a modest cabin, sitting on a gentle hill surrounded by 35-acres of mostly weeds. There wasn’t a single plant or tree near the house. We went to work prepping the plantable acreage for vineyards, and soon began landscaping the area around the house with a mix of sod, trees, and shrubs. Barbara insisted on plenty of roses.

A year earlier, we had traveled to the south of France for the first time. Barbara worked at Chez Panisse then, so with Kermit’s help Alice Waters arranged a visit to Domaine Tempier. I was able to tour the area’s vineyards and cellars with Lucien Peyraud, while Barbara spent time in the kitchen and gardens with his wife Lulu. Richard Olney saw that I needed a translator, and graciously accompanied Lucien and me.

At one vineyard, I asked why there were rose bushes planted at the end of each vine row, having never noticed that in a California vineyard. Richard quickly provided the explanation. Powdery mildew is one of a vineyard’s worst problems in France, he told me – more so in France than California due to the higher humidity in Europe. Roses typically show signs of an infection before the mold has time to move to the vines. Lucien then weighed in, noting that farming practices in France had improved to the point that they no longer relied entirely on this ‘Rose Bush Early warning system’.

The roses were still important to vineyard farming in other ways, he explained. They signal a shortage of moisture in the ground. Additionally, they serve as habitat for beneficial insects. Moreover, their flowers are more attractive than vines to some insect pests. The rose bushes keep the tractor drivers from making sharp turns at the end of the rows, reducing damage to both end-posts and vines. Most importantly though, they are just pretty to look at. Here I was in the south of France, learning the details of an important viticultural concept first-hand from two authorities — one a man who was arguably the world’s most talented writer on wine and food, and the other, one of the most respected grape farmers in France. I was gleefully taking notes in my green steno notebook, amazed at my good fortune.

When we returned to the house to eat, a leg of lamb was cooking over a bed of vine cutting coals in the open fireplace, while Barbara and Lulu alternately basted it with a mix of lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil, using a fresh sprig of rosemary. A small metal trough under the lamb held a collection of just-harvested, tiny potatoes that were cooking in the hot juice dripping from the meat. Nearby, magnums of Domaine Tempier red sat next to two decanters. I noticed that the table had been decorated with a beautiful bouquet of fresh roses from the garden, and explained to Barbara the connection between rose bushes and vineyards. I felt like a fountain of knowledge.

That visit was the beginning of Barbara’s plan to make roses an important part of our landscaping. Now, almost 4 decades later, I walk around the place that I’ve called home for all those years, and I see roses lining the walkway to the house from where we park our cars. Roses cover the outdoor shower alongside our exterior bedroom wall. More roses surround the propane storage tanks that power our wind machines, pumps and other equipment. Roses are scattered throughout the vineyards dividing parcels of Merlot from Cabernet Sauvignon. Roses shroud our large outdoor deck, and they shade most of the external walls of the house. They help us farm better, and contribute to our stewardship of the land. They do all of that, plus they are just pretty to look at.

This time of spring, the first blossom appears on the first rose bush that I pass after I leave the house to walk to my car. It’s called a Chicago Peace Rose, and Barbara planted it almost 30 years ago, on our south exterior wall, just outside the main entrance. The catalog describes the color as ‘Phlox-pink and creamy yellow, with subtle orange tones’. It began to bloom this week, and it’s so beautiful it stops me in my tracks. These days though, it does even more, as it’s a reminder to us that soon everything will be right again. It’s every bit as inspirational as a grape vine. There probably has never been a more important time in my life to simply have something pretty to look at.

That first trip to Domaine Tempier taught me much about life. I have never lost the fondness for Mourvèdre I acquired there — if anything, it has grown stronger. Over the years we’ve been able to locate Mourvèdre vineyards in California, and we’re thrilled to have another bottling ready for release. It’s the 2018 Mourvèdre ‘Evangelho Vineyard’ and it comes from a block of 120 year-old un-grafted vines grown in northeastern Contra Costa County, near Oakley. I could talk about it for hours, but for now I’ll just say that it’s delicious.