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Neyers Vineyards

Bruce's Journal

December 4, 2020

Learning to Appreciate Carignan

By Bruce Neyers

An old Carignan vine at the Evangelho Vineyard

An old Carignan vine at the Evangelho Vineyard, looking northwest towards Carquinez Strait

During my almost 30 years of regular travel to France for Kermit, I learned a lot about ‘Dining Abroad’. My education came to me informally, as I rarely looked to study the foods of France, but spending time visiting with small, family-owned domaines exposed me to the traditional food of many regions. I learned to love it.

We regularly enjoyed great meals in the rustic cellar at Château Thivin in Beaujolais. These were multi-course lunches built around hearty stews on cold winter days while sitting in front of a roaring fireplace drinking chilled Côte de Brouilly. Aubert deVillaine always served us a Daube of Beef for dinner in the spacious room next to his office at Domaine A&P deVillaine in Bouzeron. As much as I enjoyed the daube, I remember the cheese course there fondly, as Aubert would serve a selection of perfectly aged local cheeses, then entertain us with a scholarly background story of each.

There were many such meals, but the one that still rings loudest in my memory is one of the simplest: a breast of veal grilled amidst Maxime Magnon’s 100-year-old Carignan vines, in the hills just outside of Villeneuve les Corbières, in the northern Languedoc, between Carcassonne and Narbonne.

It was a beautiful spring day in late March in the south of France, and after an extensive tasting through Maxime’s cellar, our appetites were sharpened. We drove to the vineyard, where Maxime built a fire using old vine stumps he’d removed the previous winter. When they were reduced to red hot coals, he covered them with a large, portable grill, then placed on it several cutlets of veal breast, each cleaned of bone, then marinated overnight in a mix of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and local herbs. He grilled each cutlet for about ten minutes, then sliced it lengthwise into strips. He poured some of his home-made olive oil onto a wedge of fresh baguette, placed a strip of veal across it, then lightly salted it. A jar of spicy, homemade peppers was available to those whose sense of adventure wasn’t already sufficiently challenged. I’ve never had a finer meal.

Maxime brought out several bottles of his Carignan for us to enjoy with our lunch, and never before had I found this variety both so refreshing and so satisfying. Our winemaker Tadeo Borchardt was traveling in France then and had joined us for the visit with Maxime. We were absolutely wowed.

About a week after we returned, Tadeo called. ‘I’ve found a grower who has some Carignan vines that he believes are about 120 years old. The crop is small, but the grapes are available, and he’d love to work with us,’ he reported. The grower was Frank Evangelho of Oakley, in the northeast corner of Contra Costa County. This was the beginning of a relationship that lasted until Frank’s death many years later.

After Frank died, we continued to buy grapes from the new owner. Moreover, we found some similarly old parcels of Carignan in different regions of northern California, and we continue to work with this fascinating grape variety. I’ve maintained an open-minded approach to all wines ever since that day, and thank Maxime often for expanding my world.

We still have some of our 2018 Carignan ‘Evangelho Vineyard’ for sale. It’s dark ruby colored, with an attractive glow that engages you to drink. The aroma is rustic and earthy, and it shows the softness of an aged red Bordeaux. That youthful attractiveness combines with a flavor both exotic and uplifting. It appeals to a wide range of foods. Grilled veal breast works for us, as does a traditional Blanquette de Veau. Carignan is equally satisfying with pasta or risotto. One of my traveling companions years ago asked me if I could imagine any food that didn’t go well with Carignan. I still haven’t found one.

Maxime grills with the 100-year-old vines in the background

Maxime grills with the 100-year-old vines in the background

The old vines used for fuel are in the upper-left corner

The old vines used for fuel are in the upper-left corner

Marinade for grilled veal breast

Ingredients

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped herbs: thyme, tarragon, basil, oregano, parsley
1 tbsp freshly grated lemon peel
2 cloves garlic chopped
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Preparation

Combine the ingredients and marinate the veal in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.

You may need to special order the veal breast from your butcher, but it’s easy to do. Ask for a piece weighing 2–3 pounds, and ask that it come from a section of the breast of uniform thickness, as the breast will vary in thickness from top to bottom. Ask your butcher to remove any bones as well.

November 20, 2020

Mourvèdre and the Daily Grind at Neyers Vineyards

By Bruce Neyers

Lulu Peyraud c. 1975

Lulu Peyraud c. 1975 returning from the fish monger with the makings of her famous Bouillabaisse. Godspeed, Lulu. Thanks for leaving us with a better world.

The 2018 Bandol from Domaine Tempier just arrived, and since it was a small crop year, my customary allocation was trimmed back to only five cases. Wine buffs the world over are already beginning to talk about the wine, using words like ‘legendary’ and ‘fabled’. More importantly though, the wine world is lamenting the recent death of the grand matriarch of Domaine Tempier, Lulu Peyraud, who we lost in October, at age 102. She left behind a trail of broken hearts.

I could talk about Lulu for a while and not cover all of the great times, great wines, and great meals I enjoyed with her over the past 45 years. We celebrated with her from California to Venice. She devoted her life to making the wine world a better place, and succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. Having had her as a part of our lives is a highlight for both of us, and we’ll never visit the south of France and not think of her. Her most important contribution to me though, was to pass along a love for wine made from Mourvèdre, and for the great food that accompanied her wine. I’ll be eternally grateful to Alice Waters and Kermit Lynch for introducing us.

Whether coincidence or fate, the Neyers 2018 Mourvèdre ‘Evangelho Vineyard’ is the most successful version of this wine we’ve produced. We bottled 164 cases – our largest crop ever. Visitors regularly ask me what my favorite wine is, and I’m reluctant to answer. It’s like asking me which of my children is my favorite. It changes. Still, when I look at the empty bottles in my recycle bin at the end of the week, Mourvèdre regularly seems to win.

The flavor of Mourvèdre is bright and fresh, like a beautiful mid-spring day. The wine is soft and approachable early on, yet I’ve drunk bottles that were 30 years old and still showed stirrings of youth. The flavors are complex but seem to vary as much as the weather, and always at the heart of the wine is that combination of exotic ripe fruit, with subtleties that entertain like a sophisticated magic act.

The Mourvèdre we make at Neyers is the essence of California. The aroma is of plum and cherry, with soft, almost chewy flavors highlighted by a fascinating minerality. Tadeo has captured the nuance of the grape, the multi-faceted aspect that makes a second swallow irresistible after the first.

The flavors combine powerful fruit with earthy undertones that add to the complexity. The attractive finish includes a unique, wild flavor that my friend Daniel Ravier – winemaker at Tempier for the past 20 years – calls ‘rustic’. It tastes best when drunk with a slight chill.

Leg of lamb grilling in the wood fireplace at Tempier

Leg of lamb grilling in the wood fireplace at Tempier

Alain Pascal grills fresh mussels over wood at Bandol Gros Noré

Alain Pascal grills fresh mussels over wood at Bandol Gros Noré

 

November 17, 2020

Our 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

By Bruce Neyers

The Ron Smith cabernet sauvignon vineyard in Oak Knoll, looking west to the Napa River tree line

The Ron Smith Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in Oak Knoll, looking west to the Napa River tree line

We just got the news that our 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Napa Valley’ has been selected by the Wine Spectator for inclusion in an upcoming issue as one of the top scoring bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon of the vintage, and was awarded a score of 90 points. Here’s what they had to say:

“Fresh and focused, with a pretty beam of cassis and raspberry coulis notes, flecked with floral and anise accents. Judicious toast on the back end lets this play out nicely. Drink now through 2027. 700 cases made.” 90 points – James Molesworth

This is our first release of a Cabernet Sauvignon made from purchased grapes since 1995, and accurately reflects our fondness for the wines of the southern reaches of the Napa Valley. The vineyard providing these grapes is in the Oak Knoll district, just south of Stag’s Leap.

In 2017, this section of the Napa Valley enjoyed especially cool weather during the final stages of ripening, which extended the length of the growing season and yielded ideal fruit for the wine.

The grapes were fermented on the skins for 45 days using only the native yeast trapped on the skins, and the finished wine was aged in a selection of new and used 60-gallon French oak barrels for 18 months, before we bottled the wine, unfined and unfiltered.

Look for a complex aroma of wild cherries and chocolate, with hints of tobacco leaf and berry. The wine is softened by the extended skin maceration, and is already attractively drinkable.

Neyers 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The rows in Smith's Vineyard run effectively east and west to capture the full arc of the sun

The rows in Smith’s Vineyard run effectively east and west to capture the full arc of the sun

November 7, 2020

Classic Baked Goat Cheese Salad

By Bruce Neyers

Baked goat cheese salad

Baked goat cheese salad using fresh Laura Chenel goat cheese

Alice Waters didn’t invent the baked goat cheese salad, as it’s been a French bistro mainstay for decades. She did, however, bring it to America — or at least to California — where she and her staff labored for years to refine it. Barbara Neyers was one of them.

The ingredients are key to success here, so I was especially pleased last week when Barbara reported that our ‘late planted’ summer garden had given up the last of its squash, peppers, and tomatoes, but there was still a good ‘bowl’s worth’ of mixed lettuces. She planned to make goat cheese salad. During the early days of her tenure at Chez Panisse, Barbara was a ‘salad station’ cook in the cafe, so she did everything from shucking fresh oysters, to making the soup, to dressing and arranging the salads. This latter job was of special importance to Alice.

No dish required more attention than the goat cheese salad that had quickly become a customer favorite. Barbara made hundreds of them. It’s a seemingly simple dish, but a difficult one to master, and on a busy evening getting it right for the diners who order it is not easy. It is among the most ‘wine friendly’ dishes I know, however, and over the years I’ve come to especially enjoy it with Pinot Noir. The version that Barbara makes for us at home is entrée-sized, so I immediately thought of two wines that I wanted to taste, side by side.

We make two bottlings of Pinot Noir at Neyers — one from grapes grown by the Sangiacomo Family at their Petaluma Gap ranch on ‘Roberts Road’. The other is from Russian River grapes grown by Chuy Ordaz on land named for his daughter Placida. The parcels that we buy have in common the fact that they are planted to non-clonal budwood that was taken from the Joe Swan vineyard in Forestville. This budwood was brought directly to California from Burgundy in the mid-1960s, and was neither heat-treated nor cloned. There is a certain purity to it as ‘Selection Massale’ plant material. After 30 years of working with Kermit and his group of Burgundian producers, I have come to think of the ‘Roberts Road’ Pinot Noir as more closely resembling a wine from Gevrey, while the wine from Chuy’s vineyard I liken more to Aloxe-Corton.

Barbara made a large platter of goat cheese salad — see the recipe below — and I opened the 2017 Pinot Noir ‘Placida Vineyard’. Next to it I served a 2017 Corton Grand Cru from one of my favorite producers, Franck Follin of Domaine Follin-Arbelet in Aloxe-Corton. Franck is married to a great-granddaughter of Louis Latour, and is enormously talented. No one in Burgundy makes better Corton. His wines are the work of a bona fide genius.

How was the Placida Pinot Noir? I adored the way it went with the rich vinaigrette tossed with the flavorful lettuces and croutons sautéed in olive oil. The crunchy goat cheese discs — saturated as they were with bread crumbs — were a good foil as well. It was a great wine and food fit. I still have several bottles of Franck’s Corton in my cellar, and I think I’ll devote some of my remaining life to drinking them alongside Chuy’s Pinot Noir. I loved them both.

We still have some of the 2017 Pinot Noir ‘Placida Vineyard’ available. It is impressive Pinot Noir.

Chuy Ordaz

Chuy Ordaz

Parcel of Placida Pinot Noir planted to Joe Swan budwood selection

The parcel of Placida Pinot Noir planted to Joe Swan budwood selection

Goat Cheese Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 8-ounce fresh goat cheese log
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cups loosely packed lettuce leaves
  • 8 croutons
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparation

Slice goat cheese into 1/2-inch thick discs. Drizzle each disc with olive oil, then coat both sides with breadcrumbs.

Whisk together shallots, mustard and vinegar, then slowly whisk in the olive oil.

Lightly brown goat cheese on both sides in olive oil. I prefer to sauté the cheese but at Chez Panisse they frequently broil it in the oven.

Toss lettuce leaves with vinaigrette to lightly coat with dressing, then season with salt and pepper. Immediately top with the lettuce, garnish with croutons, then top with warm goat cheese discs.

October 30, 2020

An Ideal Appetizer: Strips of Roasted Bell Peppers

By Bruce Neyers

Roasted and peeled bell pepper strips

Roasted and peeled bell pepper strips in a sauce of olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes

Barbara and I had traveled to Italy many times before we were able to arrange a trip to Florence, and it’s almost embarrassing that it took so long to discover this most wonderful of all European cities. We must have just come into some money, as we spent a week at an absolutely splendid hotel. Our first night out we visited what proved to be one of our favorite dining spots, Restaurant Il Cibreo, in front of the San Ambrogio market. It was recommended to us by my old friend Colman Andrews, and it’s one more reason I am deep in his debt. I think we ate there five of the next seven nights, and loved every meal.

One of its greatest charms is the assortment of small plates that seem to appear magically before you as you read through the menu and the wine list. The server provides an excellent description of each dish as it’s placed on the table, but as memorable as each was, one stood out above the others: a bowl of red bell peppers, their skins removed after a quick roasting on an open fire, separated from the core, cut into strips, then bathed in a mix of olive oil and garlic. A scoop of the peppers is placed on a slice of fresh-baked baguette, and the perfect appetizer is born. We finished the entire bowl and I brazenly asked for another. Our server seemed almost flattered.

This is a simple dish yet it draws raves whenever Barbara serves it, which is often this time of year. It’s flavorful, healthy, and refreshing, especially on the warm evenings we still enjoy in northern California. Barbara will serve it alongside a platter of Prosciutto or — my personal favorite — as a side dish to her baked goat cheese salad. When she makes them, I love to smell the peppers as they cook, the pleasant aroma of roasting pepper skins penetrating every nook and cranny of the kitchen.

At Il Cibreo I recall we had the dish with a glass of Pinot Grigio, but at home I prefer it with a Chablis, like those we imported at Kermit Lynch. Recently, Barbara and I tried it with the Neyers Chardonnay ‘304’, our Chablis-style bottling of Chardonnay from Paul Larson’s chilly Carneros District vineyard. It was a perfect match, the crisp acidity of the wine was artfully balanced by the richness of the oil, the texture of both an ideal pairing. We let this wine sit on the lees until bottling which heightens both the body and complexity.

A light, refreshing appetizer isn’t an easy thing to find these days, especially one that’s loaded with flavor. Here’s a simple and delicious way to bring a little bit of Italy to your table, and to give yourself another excuse to open a bottle of the 2018 Neyers Chardonnay ‘304’.

Neyers 2018 Chardonnay '304'

October 26, 2020

The Best Pasta Sauce Ever

By Bruce Neyers

Spinosi dry pappardelle pasta with freshly made tomato and cream sauce

Spinosi dry pappardelle pasta with freshly made tomato and cream sauce. Decanted 2018 Zinfandel ‘Vista Notre’ in the background.

One of my favorite musical pieces is ‘Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini’, a concerto-like piano composition by Sergei Rachmaninoff written in August 1934. Rachmaninoff based it on an earlier piece written for violin by Niccolò Paganini. While it’s the work of a single talented musician, a thorough read of the story behind the music explains the collaboration involved in the development of this magical piece, which was influenced by Leopold Stokowski as well as Paganini. It’s a beautiful tune, with a haunting melody that resonates for hours, and speaks to the power of collaborative efforts.

I experienced another impressive collaborative effort recently, when Barbara and I traveled to Sacramento for a shopping visit to Corti Brothers. After the usual purchase of rare selections of pasta, olive oil, spices, produce, cured meats and candies, we loaded our grocery bags in the trunk of the car, and followed Darrell Corti over to his home in nearby Curtis Park for lunch. There we met with Darrell’s long-time partner John Ruden, then sat down in their comfortable living room to enjoy a pre-lunch vermouth cocktail. After the drink we went to the table, and as usual, lunch with Darrell and John was a wonderful adventure.

We began with what looked to be a simple pasta dish — fettuccine bathed in a pale tomato sauce — but this was hardly just any sauce. After the first bite, Barbara looked at me with a warm smile, and said, “This is delicious and I need to find out how to make it.” She began grilling our hosts.

The dish relied on two main ingredients: the pasta and the sauce. The dried pasta was imported from Spinosi of Italy by Corti Brothers. It’s traditionally made, using only eggs and flour, kneaded by hand, then rolled and cut by machine. Many Italians, Darrell says, prefer it to homemade, and I can see why. The sauce was fresh tomatoes, cut up, seeded, then cooked in butter and olive oil, with a dollop of whipping cream added at the end.

I’ve never had a more agreeable plate of pasta, so we wrote Darrell after returning home and ordered two boxes of each Spinosi dried pasta: fettuccine, tagliatelle, and pappardelle. Both Darrell and John wrote us separately with instructions on the sauce, so Barbara combined their respective takes, then over the next few weeks developed a recipe. It’s copied below. She has prepared it several times since our trip. You’ll be amazed by how simple it is — and how delicious — but try it with the Spinosi pasta if possible.

I like it best with our 2018 Zinfandel ‘Vista Notre’, a low-alcohol bottling we make from grapes grown in three separate Sierra-foothill-area vineyards. Each is planted to an ‘heirloom’ selection of Zinfandel, so the crop is small, as is the cluster size. There’s plenty of flavor in the wine though, and there’s just nothing quite like the purity of ripe Zinfandel. We find a combination of blueberries, raspberries and huckleberries, mixed in with a hint of minerality from the quartz soil. It’s an easy wine to love.

Neyers 2018 Zinfandel ‘Vista Notre’

Fettuccine and Fresh Tomato Sauce

Makes 2 cups of sauce to serve six

Ingredients

  • 1/2 white onion minced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 pounds medium size fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • Torn sweet basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 box Spinosi dried fettuccine
  • 1/8–1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation

Lightly sauté the minced onion and garlic in olive oil. Add the tomatoes, basil leaves and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and lower temperature to a simmer until the sauce cooks and thickens.

When the sauce is cooked, put through a food mill (not the fine disk, but the middle one). Cook the fettuccine. Add the cream and grated Parmesan cheese to the sauce. Drain the pasta and toss in the sauce and let bubble a bit to warm. Serve on warm plates.

If you choose to add some fresh cherry tomatoes, rinse and halve them, then sauté in olive oil over low flame until they soften.

October 24, 2020

The Neyers 2018 Left Bank Red – The Wine Spectator Comments

By Bruce Neyers

Our Left Bank Red vineyard after pruning looking southwest

Our Left Bank Red vineyard after pruning looking southwest

We just learned that our 2018 Left Bank Red was reviewed in the latest issue of the Wine Spectator, and awarded a score of 91 POINTS. Here’s what they had to say:

“Refined, with a sleek texture to the raspberry, dark currant and blackberry flavors, this is filled with fresh acidity. Crushed green herbal and spice notes come in on the finish. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Drink now through 2024. 2,293 cases made.” 91 POINTS —Kim Marcus

This wine is a blend of equal amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from vineyards on the left bank of Conn Creek as it flows through our ranch in Conn Valley. The soil is a deep outcropping of gravel, and the wine is striking example of organically grown fruit and our traditional winemaking practices.

Neyers 2018 Left Bank Red Label

September 10, 2020

Baseball and Cabernet Sauvignon: Thoughts on Two Great Loves

By Bruce Neyers

Bob Gibson strikes out Norm Cash in the 1968 World Series

Bob Gibson strikes out Norm Cash in the 1968 World Series.

I admit to having a great love for baseball. It has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. A few years ago, a physician advised me to work on my son Mike’s motor skills by tossing a ball to him in our front yard. I bought some gloves and baseballs, and began playing catch with him. One day our daughter Lizzie saw us tossing the ball back and forth, and grabbed the extra glove to join us. That family outing was a high point in my life.

I read a lot about baseball, and my collection of books on the subject is second only to my library of wine books. Barbara knows about this fondness, and whenever a gift is called for, I can count on receiving a book of baseball stories. Recently, the New Yorker began to reprint classic pieces from their archives, and as an anniversary surprise Barbara printed one of them for me. It was written by Roger Angell — perhaps the greatest baseball storyteller of all time. He writes about one of its greatest players, St. Louis Cardinal Bob Gibson.

Angell is the son of Katharine White, an early New Yorker fiction editor. He’s the step-son of E.B. White — yes, that E. B. White — author of Charlotte’s Web and The Elements of Style. Now 98, Angell was the chief fiction editor at the New Yorker for decades, and brightened every year with his report at the end of spring training, followed later by an end-of-season piece after the final out of the World Series. Those collections were eventually released as books.

The Angell piece Barbara gave me was a profile of Bob Gibson, who in game one of the 1968 World Series against the Detroit Tigers broke the record for the number of strikeouts in a single world series game, striking out 17 Tigers. Angell writes about Gibson’s life in retirement after 17 seasons in baseball. It’s written with great emotion, balanced by a keen sense of history. It’s a story that seems ageless, despite having been published 40 years ago, and it’s a fitting tribute to our national pastime, and two of its most impressive heroes.

Last week I had to visit my knee surgeon in Vacaville, and whenever I get close to Sacramento I stop in at Corti Brothers. On this trip we bought a leg of lamb and had it boned and butterflied. At home, Barbara marinated it in pomegranate juice using the recipe developed by the brilliant chef Narsai David, a local food personality. On Sunday night she grilled it over mesquite charcoal on our Weber. When it was perfectly medium-rare, she removed it, then let it sit for 20 minutes, before carefully slicing it — against the grain. Delicious.

I selected two bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany our lamb: 2010 Ch. Pichon-Lalande from Bordeaux, and 2010 Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon. A dish this good deserves to be served with Cabernet Sauvignon. If baseball is the national pastime of American sports, Cabernet Sauvignon is the national pastime of American wine, I thought.

We long ago sold out of the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, but the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Neyers Ranch’ is still available, and now drinks marvelously. I plan to open a bottle of it with the 2016 Ch. Pichon-Lalande one day, and serve them with a grilled leg of lamb. There’s no reason you can’t try that now.

Here’s the link to the Roger Angell piece on Bob Gibson. I hope you enjoy both the wine and the story.

Bob Gibson baseball card      2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Neyers Ranch’

September 4, 2020

Enjoying the Season’s First Tomato

By Bruce Neyers

Freshly harvested vine-ripened tomatoes

Freshly harvested vine-ripened tomatoes.

Sunday was a special day at the Neyers household. We harvested and enjoyed our first vine-ripened tomatoes of the year. Barbara has a series of elevated beds that she gardens, and while I often think that her greatest success is with those exotic baby lettuces that I learned to love during her years at Chez Panisse, it’s hard to argue with a freshly picked, vine-ripened tomato.

This year she planted about 20 vines — all from greenhouse plants. She doesn’t restrict herself to heirloom selections though, as some of them don’t ripen evenly. The Early Girls are the first to come in, then the Aces and Better Boys, followed by the Green Zebras. The cherry tomatoes — Sun Golds and Sweet 100s — ripen throughout the season, so when working in the garden you can snack on them at will.

At Sunday dinner we sat down to a platter of sliced tomatoes, and I remarked that it was hard to imagine that I’d ever eaten anything better. She slices them just before service — about 1/4” in thickness — dresses them lightly with olive oil — she’s using the Ligurian oil that Kermit imports from Punta Crena in Varigotti — then sprinkles them with some kosher salt. At Corti Brothers in Sacramento, she discovered Phu Quoc black peppercorns from Vietnam. Freshly ground, this is a great addition. As a final touch, she shreds a few leaves of fresh basil. It’s a simple dish, but as demanding on the gardener as it is on the shopper.

Barbara insists that the high natural acid level of vine-ripened tomatoes works best with a crisp, fresh Chardonnay. We especially like the currently available 2017 Carneros District Chardonnay from Neyers. Try it. You might also.

Neyers 2017 Carneros District Chardonnay

 

September 3, 2020

2018 Chardonnay ‘304’ — Thoughts of a Scholar

By Bruce Neyers

Paul Larson's Chardonnay vineyard

Paul Larson‘s Chardonnay vineyard last week. Note how well-groomed each vine is.

I met John Roenigk (pronounced Renn’ick) in early 1992, soon after I began working with Kermit Lynch. It was a trip to Texas and John’s store that kicked off my almost 30-year association with Kermit and his collection of the world’s greatest winemakers. John’s business is called The Austin Wine Merchant, and it’s a shop that I still find difficult to leave without buying more than I sell.

I am endeared to John as much for his reserved ‘aw shucks’ style of philosophizing, as for his vast wine knowledge. The broad selection of desirable wines in his store just ice the cake. These days though, I spend my time talking about Neyers wines to John, so I was more than a little pleased to hear from him recently asking for permission to write to his clients from around the world about the Neyers 2018 Chardonnay ‘304’. Here’s what he said:

“Bruce Neyers has a storied career in the wine trade. And he is one heck of a storyteller too, in the very best sense of the word. Formerly winemaker at Joseph Phelps Vineyards, he helped craft some of California’s most memorable and iconic red wines — read Joseph Phelps Insignia. In 1991 he joined Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, traveling the larger world of wine serving for years as their National Sales Manager. He and his wife Barbara have now semi-retired in the Napa Valley where they preside over their own Neyers Vineyards production. Having spent a good amount of time in Burgundy, Bruce brings a wealth of experience and, no doubt, expectation to this bottling. This Chardonnay ‘304’ is from an heirloom selection of Chardonnay, grown in a cool vineyard site in the Carneros District that results in naturally low pH and high acidity. The soils here are covered with rocks — it was once a creek bed. Initially somewhat austère aromatically, the wine would seem to introduce itself as French (this taster might have guessed it from the Mâconnais region of southern Burgundy, only later to learn that the inspiration is actually from further north in Chablis). Fermented entirely in stainless steel, one can almost smell the cool, nervy, vibrant Chardonnay grapes waiting giddily in the early morning for hand-harvesting and the eventual alchemy to follow. Ian noted green apple and hazelnut on the nose. Our wine buyer picked up notes of something cool and almost minty. And that same cool, nervy vibrancy is apparent on the tongue as well, with the call and response, the lively interplay between fresh fruit and acidity making for a delicious and refreshing white wine-drinking experience. And that’s what it’s all about!”

That’s high praise, John, and a great compliment. I’m humbled. We still have the 2018 Chardonnay ‘304’ available for sale. Stay safe.

Shot-Wente selection Chardonnay clusters developing in vintage 2020

Shot-Wente selection Chardonnay clusters developing in vintage 2020.