Over the many years I have been in the wine industry, one of the most influential wine “minds” I have run across is Bruce Neyers. In short, he is a wine “yoda”.
When I first met Bruce, back in the late 1970’s, he was the GM of Joseph Phelps winery in the Napa Valley. At that time, Phelps was truly one of the standout, vanguard wineries out of not only Napa Valley, but out of all of California. In the 70’s they excelled with Riesling and were one of the first to really strive to grow and produce top quality Syrah. They also launched a Cabernet based red wine blend they named “Insignia”, I believe in 1974, which helped kick start a whole new category of Californian red wines, later named as Meritage. This category would allow Californian wineries to blend Bordeaux grape varieties, just as was commonly done in Bordeaux, France, in an effort to produce better and more worldly wines AND be called a Meritage rather than just a “Red Table Wine”. (Meritage therefore then created a new genre of Super red wines, which would later include Opus One and Dominus, just to name 2).
Yes, Bruce was a busy man and the Joseph Phelps winery was certainly a “game changer”.
The whole Joseph Phelps era of his career would have been enough of a legacy for most.
Bruce, on the other hand, had other ideas. With the 1992 vintage, Bruce and Barbara Neyers bought the Neyers label from Joseph Phelps and launched their own namesake winery and label. The first wine I tasted from this new project was the 1992 Neyers Merlot which I still consider one of the finest “game changing” red wines I have had out of the valley.
Subsequently, with the 1995 vintage, Neyers released a stellar & highly rated Chardonnay which was crafted by new winemaker Ehren Jordan, a disciple of superstar consultant Helen Turley (who also happened to be their winemaking consultant).
Also in 1992, Bruce became the National Sales Manager for Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants, one of the real pioneers and most world renown of importing true artisan, boutique wines from France (and now Italy) into the U.S.. Part of his responsibilities included taking 2 to 4 trips to France a year to visit wineries, their vineyards and taste wines from a who’s who list of French artisan winemaking superstars. As one would imagine, this also really greatly encouraged Bruce out of his Napa Valley “box” and therefore grow and produce better and better wines each year because of what he saw and learned from his wine friends in France.
Today, because of his considerable experience—40 plus years in California and 25 years of working with the very best artisan producers of France, Neyers is therefore still producing some of the very best wines out of California, but under the watchful eye and mastery of winemaker Tadeo Borchardt. I am still in awe of how they look to use fruit from heirloom/heritage grape vines, farm sustainably so passionately and fervently and craft their wines without addition of yeast, nutrients or any enhancers, just as they do in their home garden AND just as they do at many of the standout domaines he works with in France.
Having said all of that and wishing I could or had said even more, I would also add, that considering staunch principles, beliefs and resulting high quality of wines done the ‘right” way, they are also way underpriced, especially when one considers what’s in the bottle.
On August 2, 2017, we did a dinner at VINO with Bruce & Barbara Neyers, which was one of the most memorable of all time for me personally. It was just another chance for us to work with the wine “yoda”. with each experience, I am always in awe with the additional knowledge & insight I walk away with. Thank you to Bruce & Barbara for sharing.