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Neyers Vineyards Bruce's Journal

The Perfect Wine for Barbara’s Beans and Rice

By Bruce Neyers

Friday 19th May, 2023

It’s busy in the Napa Valley these days as the rains of winter have stopped, and we are able to work in the vineyards. The temperatures have been low, but with little frost danger, and bud-break was delayed. We’ve now begun to see the first of the season’s vine growth, and that’s always inspiring. As the vineyards dry out, we move in the tractor to mow the cover crop. In a week, we’ll come back and disk the decomposing material into the soil, returning the nutrients that were taken up by last year’s grape crop. The sky is blue, the weather is mild, and the reservoirs are full. It’s green as far as the eye can see.

Easter was only a short time ago, and Barbara prepared her annual dish of Baked Ham with Macaroni and Cheese for the family meal. It was delicious, and a dozen of us sat around the table, with several open bottles of wine. Ideas about wine and ham vary dramatically, so I prefer several options. There’s no doubt in my mind about what works best though – Neyers Zinfandel Vista Notre. I was pleased to see that the bottle of 2019 Vista Notre Zinfandel I opened this year was also the first bottle emptied. That’s always important.

Barbara and I have been drinking and loving California Zinfandel since we first opened a bottle of it together when we moved to California in 1970. She was learning about cooking then, and I was learning about wine. Our Vista Notre Zinfandel at Neyers offers everything I’ve learned to love about the variety. It’s fresh and fragrant, fruity but not opulent, and soft, with an agreeable finish. I drink it with almost everything, and it’s easy to down the entire bottle.

Later that week, Barbara put the leftover ham to use, by making a dish she’d first heard about from her friend David Tanis. Barbara and David worked together as cooks in Berkeley for several years, but a few years ago David left that side of the business, and moved to the ‘New York Times’ as a food writer. Kermit observed once that it took David Tanis to inspire him to make pâté. I’ve eaten David’s food in Paris, New York City, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, Berkeley, and even at our home in Saint Helena, and he is talented beyond words. It was David who introduced Barbara to Rancho Gordo Beans — a Napa-based source of dried beans – and she subsequently joined their ‘Bean of the Month’ club. She cooks with their beans often, and this dish uses them beautifully. It also used up the remaining baked ham from Easter dinner, along with the bottle of Neyers Zinfandel Vista Notre we drank.


Red Beans and Rice #2


  • 4 cups Camellia Brand red kidney beans (or Rancho Gordo if available)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Crystal hot sauce
  • 2 pounds smoked ham hock
  • 2 cups ham cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 cups cooked white rice


  1. Soak the beans overnight in enough water to cover them. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a heavy pot cook the onions, stirring occasionally until softened.
  3. Stir in the beans, vinegar and hot sauce. Add the ham hock and enough water to cover the beans by 2-inches.
  4. Once the water has come to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the beans until tender, about two to three hours. If necessary add more water to keep the beans moist.
  5. Remove the smoked ham hock and mash about one-fourth of the bean mixture against the side of the pot with a heavy spoon to thicken the juices.
  6. Add the 2 cups of ham pieces and heat the mixture.
  7. Serve the hot rice in bowls topped with the bean mixture. Serve with additional Crystal hot sauce on the side.
Winter cover crop mix of grasses
The winter cover crop at Neyers Ranch in Conn Valley, before mowing. It’s a mix of several grasses, vetch, wild peas and oats.

Barbara’s Red Beans and Rice

After mowing the cover crop

The same vine row after mowing the cover crop. In a week or so, the newly mown plant material will be disked back into the soil.

Bud Break

Bud break, an important time of the season to any grape grower, is the sign of a new year getting underway.

Neyers Zinfandel Vista Notre 2019 label

The Zinfandel ‘Vista Notre’ is agreeably low in alcohol, easy to drink, and dresses up any meal.