Neyers Vineyards Bruce's Journal
The 2020 Zinfandel Vista Notre
By Bruce Neyers
Wednesday 6th December, 2023
The 2020 Zinfandel ‘Vista Notre’
We had dinner recently with an old acquaintance of ours, a winemaker from France, who recently took over the operation of his family’s 100-year-old domaine. I brought several wines from my cellar for us, but after a quick glance through the wine list, he asked to taste a bottle of the Neyers Zinfandel ‘Vista Notre’. He had worked for us as a harvest intern almost 20 years earlier. With obvious pride, he explained to his wife the effort that went into our production of Zinfandel, and how much he remembered enjoying it during his stay here.
For several years, winemaker Tadeo Borchardt made this wine relying on the fruit from a single vineyard in the Sierra foothills. Over time, though, he added a second source of grapes that have what he felt were similar characteristics. For the 2020 vintage, the finished wine is a blend of fruit from these two parcels — the Fathom Vineyard of Jason Eells, and the Steacy Ranch, owned by Turley Wine Cellars. Fathom’s Zinfandel is from an own-rooted block, planted in the mid-1920’s in the eastern-most part of the Mokelumne River AVA. The vines at Steacy Ranch are younger — dating from the 1950’s – and they’re planted on low-yielding St. George rootstock, and they ripen later. Both are budded to heirloom Zinfandel selections, and are grown in the eastern sector of San Joaquin County, where the foothills begin. Here, some call them ‘toe-hills’. The soils are light and sandy, keeping nutrients and crop levels low. We harvest the parcels at 23 Brix, and they yield small, evenly-ripe clusters that give us our targeted low alcohol levels, around 14%. The Sierra Rotor effect—a wind phenomenon that draws cool Pacific Ocean air to the region—keeps temperatures moderate, so we enjoy higher than normal acidity levels, coupled with low pH. The result is a beautiful, ruby-colored wine, with a bright freshness. The aroma is complex but subtle, and the flavors make it deliciously gulpable – just like I remember Zinfandel when Barbara and I first began to enjoy it years ago as we were learning about wine. Zinfandel then was the wine most likely to complement Barbara’s cooking. Our friend from France remarked about the number of Barbara’s meals he enjoyed during his year with us, and how he had developed an appreciation for California food and Neyers Zinfandel. We finished the Zinfandel, then moved on to his wine just in time for our entrées.
Now that the harvest is over and cold weather is moving in, Barbara is finding time to make one of my favorite meals — Baked Ham with Macaroni and Cheese. It’s one of our kids’ favorites as well, so she always needs to make enough for a crowd. And everyone loves it when I open a bottle or two of our Zinfandel to serve alongside it. Below is her macaroni and cheese, made with Cavatappi pasta. No surprise that everyone wants the ‘crunchy’ pieces.
Baked Ham and Cavatappi Pasta Macaroni and Cheese
- Caggiano ham 4 to 8 pounds at room temperature
- Whole cloves
- Cavatappi pasta
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- 3-4 cups extra sharp cedar cheese shredded
- Press cloves into the top of the ham
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- Place ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan
- Cook ham to internal temperature of 140 degrees in the thickest part, approximately 12 minutes per pound
- Cook the pasta according to directions on the box
- While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a sauce pan
- Add the flour to the melted butter and stir until the flour is combined
- Slowly whisk the milk into the flour mixture and bring to a simmer
- Add the shredded cedar cheese, stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce has thickened
- Drain the pasta and add to the cheese mixture
- Pour pasta into a gratin dish and place under a broiler to brown the top
- Slice the ham and serve with the mac and cheese.