Ffter 17 years helping build Joseph Phelps into what it’s become, Bruce Neyers and wife Barbara (Chef & Manager at Chez Panisse) began Neyers Vineyards on a rocky north slope of Pritchard Hill, alongside Sage Creek.
Of course, a winery is no way to make a living so Bruce also began a gig as national sales manager for Kermit Lynch – where he had a 26-year run that left an undeniable mark on his approach to winemaking.
In those last Kermit Lynch years – it was impossible to miss the phenomenon that was coming from the Southern Rhone especially from Chateauneuf, Gigondas, & Vacqueyras. The wines were delicious and with several bountiful crops, plentiful – I dare say even affordable. Robert Parker even called them the most exciting wines of the era.
Bruce became obsessed. At the urging of several of the top winegrowers in France, Bruce and Neyers Winemaker Tadeo Borchardt began an experiment that would take nearly 25 years to perfect.
In the late 90’s, they two scoured California seeking out the top sites working with these under appreciated grape varieties. It took a few years, but eventually they had an inroad with almost everyone. Their strategy was simple. Make each vintage better than the last.
As Bruce told me – he was increasingly receiving more refined advice from a number of the French producers he worked with at his ‘day job’. Over time this led to more traditional winemaking processes, like 100% stem retention, whole cluster fermentation, oak-aging for one year in small, used barrels, and bottling with neither fining nor filtration.
For their first 20 years, each variety was bottled separately until finally in 2008, all the component parts met Bruce’s lofty vision. He began blending these slowly perfected, separate lots into a single Chateauneuf-du-Pape look-a-like. He called it Sage Canyon Red, after the location of the winery.
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91 Points, Wine Spectator
Loaded with personality yet balanced and well-knit, offering lively, floral pomegranate and cherry flavors accented by savory bay leaf and white pepper notes, finishing with snappy tannins. Carignane, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. Drink now through 2024.