Neyers Vineyards

Vintner Tales

January 13, 2020

Here’s a wine for your next Risotto

by Bruce Neyers

In the spring of 1971, I began working for Connoisseur Wine Imports in San Francisco. It was my first job in the wine business, and the owners hired me just after I was discharged from the army, offering to teach me the wine business. Most of my job was to unload containers, and then move wine around their vast cellars, building floor displays. They specialized in the wines of France, and as I learned more about them, I developed a fondness for them that exists today. Early one morning, I was handed a list of red Bordeaux to assemble for a tasting planned later that day. Modesto Lanzone, I was told, was coming to taste wines for his wine list. I didn’t know Modesto then, but I had walked by his namesake restaurant in Ghirardelli Square a number of times. It looked fascinating – and expensive — and I was eager to meet him. I assembled the wines, opened them, then set up the wine glasses. Modesto arrived, and we began. The owners of the business were two brothers-in-law — Art Formicelli and Bal Gibson. They guided Modesto through the wines, and when he finished, Modesto wrote down a substantial order – 20 cases or so — and handed it to Art. Art in turn passed it along to me with instructions to isolate the wines and set them up for delivery. I delivered them the next day. While I was unloading the shipment, Modesto saw me, and recognizing me from the previous day’s tasting, started a conversation. I explained a bit about my background, including my recent discharge from the army, and expressed my enthusiasm about learning the wine business. I also mentioned that my wife Barbara was a talented cook. After hearing that we had never eaten at his restaurant, he quickly invited us to come as his guests. I acted on the invitation immediately, and we made a reservation for the next weekend. It was one of our most memorable meals, ever. Surprisingly to me though, at the center of the meal were Pasta and Risotto dishes — specialties from Modesto’s family home in Genoa. With the Risotto, Modesto brought out a bottle of one of the wines I had just delivered, a red Bordeaux from 1966 that was way beyond our budget. I declined, but he insisted, reminding me that we were his guests. The wine was extraordinary, I thought, but I was struck by how it tasted with the Risotto, something I looked at as a ‘simple’ dish. It was fascinating how they improved each other. I mentioned that, and Modesto commented, “Properly made Risotto demands the best wine you can serve with it.” It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten. Barbara makes wonderful Risotto, and she prepared some for dinner recently. With it we opened several wines, including a bottle of our 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a new wine that we just began to ship. It’s made largely from fruit grown in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, an AVA that sits in the southern part of the Valley, north of Napa city along the Silverado Trail. I learned about grapes from the area in 1972 when I was at Mayacamas. It’s a colder region, and produces wines both elegant and balanced. In 2017 the low pH and high natural acidity yielded a wine of dark color, gratifying richness and attractive complexity. Tadeo added 5% Merlot to the finished wine, so one of its great charms is its beautiful early softness. It was easy to guzzle a couple of glasses with the Risotto. We are now shipping this wine, and you’ll probably want to guzzle some too. Barbara’s recipe for Risotto is simple, and it takes only 20 minutes. Try making it at home, but be sure to accompany it with a bottle of Neyers 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wild Mushroom Risotto by Barbara Neyers

Serves 6

1 and ½ cups Arborio Rice
6 cups Chicken Stock
2 cups wild mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced into ¼ inch pieces
4 Tablespoons olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup white onions sliced thin

In a large pot heat the chicken stock

Sauté the mushrooms and onions in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil until cooked, then set aside

Heat the rice with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a pot until the rice is coated with the oil

Slowly add the warmed chicken stock to the rice, stirring the rice with each addition

Once the rice is cooked, add the mushrooms

Remove from heat and salt to taste

Top each serving of Risotto with freshly grated Parmesan

For her recent preparation, Barbara used fresh Morels, Chanterelles, Oyster Mushrooms and Boletus Edulis from Sunshine Grocery in St. Helena. You should be able to find some in your neighborhood as well. Occasionally she cooks some Pancetta to crispness, then adds to the dish with the mushrooms.