Talking Story with My Wine “Yoda”
I first met Bruce Neyers back in the 1970’s when he was running the then promising, upstart Joseph Phelps winery in the Napa Valley. (In this picture, you can readily see how thrilled he is to see & speak with me. OH, happy day!!!!). Unlike many of their peers, Phelps continually challenged the norm. While their Johannisberg Riesling bottlings created quite the revelation back then, it was their 1974 Syrah that was my first experience with a commercial California born Syrah. In the same vintage they also conceptualized and launched “Insignia”, a premier, soon to be “game changing” blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordelaise type grape varieties. That would be quite a career for most.
In 1992, however, Bruce then took over the National Sales for Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants and helped them build one of the real noteworthy, quality driven, iconic wine importers of our time, featuring true artisan, game changers from France and later Italy. He visited with each of the wine families 2 to 4 times a year, talking story, walking vineyards & tasting their wines with them. Who better to talk story with to learn from than my wine yoda, Bruce Neyers.
Also with the 1992 vintage, Bruce made his first Neyers red wine—1992 Merlot. At a tasting at the Halekulani Hotel with 20 other winemakers, Bruce approached me and asked if I would taste his wine. I did and was absolutely blown away. In short it was without a doubt the finest Californian Merlot I had tasted up to that point and the rest is history. I have been a huge fan of the Neyers wines since. As they grew their stable of wines with subsequent vintages, several of their beliefs became clearer & clearer for me—avid use of heirloom/heritage vines, of very unique, special vineyards, farmed sustainably and made with a similar simplicity as many of the vignerons he visited in France.
Neyers has now completely hit their “zone” and are undoubtedly producing some of the top wines out of California. Crazy good! AND unassumingly so. It is almost like a way of life for them, along the lines of what I find in some of my favorite wine producers from the Old World.
We will be featuring four of their standout red wines, just to show tasters why we are all in with this couple and their wines. This should be a most interesting tasting with great conversation from one of the all time wine maestros.
2017 Carignan “Evangelho Vineyard”—A celebration of the 139 year old vines (grown in sand dominated soils & therefore own rooted)! harvested at roughly only 1 ton per acre. Foot stomped, wild yeast fermented and bottled unfiltered. A homage to the great Maxime Magnon of Southern France. We love the character, the innate vinosity & savoriness AND the superb texture, balance & completeness this wine deftly offers.
2015 Mourvèdre “Evangelho Vineyard”—Bruce worked with the legendary Mourvèdre mogul Domaine Tempier for well over twenty five years. Imagine walking their vineyards and tasting their wines—in their youth and with different kinds of bottle age, three to four times a year. I would say, he is an expert on the subject. “Our Mourvèdre vineyards are all very old — more than 120 years old to be precise — and they have taken a beating with the five consecutive years of drought here in California. We’ve been able to make a wonderful wine every year, but in 2015 — probably our best ever Mourvèdre — we had less than half of what was the normal tiny harvest. From that vintage, we now have only 30 cases of wine remaining, and it promises to be a Mourvèdre for the ages”.
2017 Pinot Noir “Placida Vineyard”—Placida is a vineyard in California’s Russian River Valley and farmed by iconic vineyard-ist superstar Chuy Ordaz. The Neyers prefer to work with maestros who sniff out a special vineyard, especially planted with heritage vines (Swan in this case) and farm it to the umpteenth degree, in search of what the site wants to say. This is a stellar, masculine, savory rendition, one more and more professionals need to pay attention to. We wanted to make sure you had a chance to taste this beaute.
2015 Chardonnay “Il Novillero”—Since my first introduction to this single vineyard bottling back in the 1990’s, I have always said, I feel this is one of the finest Chardonnays grown and produced in California. It has that something extra. It can remind me of the stony and nutty quality one finds in Burgundy’s Grand Cru Corton Charlemagne. BIG statement. I hope this grabs your attention and intention, because this is really an absolutely stellar Chardonnay and deserves to be recognized as such. Il Novillero was planted sometime in either 1984 or 85 on the Sonoma side of Carneros & is farmed by the iconic Sangiacomo family. It is subdivided into 5 parcels, the 5th one being at the top of the hill, which Neyers starting using in 1992. Because of the low nitrogen in the harvested Shot Wente grapes, the wine takes a long time to ferment, sometimes as much as 12 to 14 months. Yes, it needs to be nurtured as a parent would a child. I believe their production lies somewhere 200 to 250 cases.