Bruce Neyers’ Journal: Vintner Tales – Thoughts on One of My Heroes

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Meet Bruce Neyers: 
In 1992, Bruce and Barbara Neyers launched Neyers Vineyards in the heart of Napa Valley. For over 30 years, Bruce has split his time between Neyers Vineyards and his role at Berkeley-based importer, Kermit Lynch. This unique experience has afforded Bruce the opportunity to immerse himself in the regions of France, bringing an Old World perspective to Napa Valley and Neyers Vineyards. 

Bruce will be joining us this September for Fall Wine Appreciation Weekend.

Sunset over Neyers Vineyard in St. Helena, CA

Introducing an excerpt from Bruce Neyers’ Journal:

Vintner Tales – The 2009 Pinot ‘Roberts Road’, and Thoughts on One of My Heroes

I met Joe Swan in the early 1970’s and despite our age difference we became friends immediately. I thought his were the best California wines I had ever tasted, and I told him so. I think he appreciated the flattery, despite gruffly waving it off. His 1968 Cabernet Sauvignon gave me a basis against which all other bottlings of California Cabernet Sauvignon would forever be judged. In 1970 he made a varietal Gamay, the memory of which still lingers. And then there were those ethereal bottlings of Pinot Noir. The first was from 1973. He made only one barrel, so when he showed it to anyone, he would draw a sample only to smell. Then he’d carefully pour it back into the barrel. Not a drop was to be wasted. When it was finally bottled I was able to get three bottles, and I treasured each for as long as I dared save them. Joe used to say that he always knew when I was drinking one of his wines, and I was amazed by the number of times that he called me when I actually had one of his nearly empty bottles sitting on my kitchen table. Maybe he really did know. I’ll never be sure.

 
Joe Swan pruning vines

I started helping Joe prune in 1978. He was much less active by then, slowed down by age, retired from his career as an airline pilot and devoting himself entirely to his small winery. He would send me a card right after Christmas, with a hand written note on the bottom saying, “The last leaf has fallen.” That was my cue to plan on spending the next several Sundays working with him in the vineyards. To Joe, pruning was the ultimate expression of his craft. What one did in the vineyards in winter dictated the quality of the raw materials available to make wine the following fall. He would sometimes spend 30 minutes on an individual vine, cursing out loud at some mistake, real or imagined, that had been made the prior year and now needed correction. By mid-summer the vines had begun to take on the shape he had looked for during their winter dormancy. Although Joe regularly bought grapes from other growers, he refused to consider making Pinot Noir from any grapes other than his own. His small Pinot Noir vineyard had been carefully planted with budwood from one of the greatest Pinot Noir vineyards in France, and he wasn’t about to have it diluted by fruit from vines of unknown origin. We lost Joe in the winter of 1989, when the vines were dormant. His widow, June, simply noted in the announcement for his memorial get-together that, “Joe has gone along ahead of us.”

Neyer Vineyard Estate

In June of 2009, Tadeo Borchardt and I were visiting with Mike Sangiacomo, our most important grape supplier, discussing among other things some interest we had in Pinot Noir. Mike mentioned that what he thought to be their best Pinot Noir vineyard was planted in the Roberts Road area, a cool Sonoma Coast region in what is known locally as the ‘Petaluma Gap’ for its direct access to the San Francisco Bay via the Petaluma River valley. The slightly elevated parcel has a gravel soil base topped with basalt or compacted volcanic ash, which to a grapevine somewhat resembles limestone. Best of all, it was planted to the “Swan Selection” of Pinot Noir. He had me.

We bought all 3 tons of the fruit – it isn’t a large parcel – and the five barrels we made were bottled in late August, unfiltered. Tadeo and I opened one a week or so after bottling, and I was stunned. The color is perfect, neither dark purple, nor pale ruby, but in between. The aroma is classic Pinot Noir — light, graceful, delicate, but eventually powerful and penetrating. The flavors are both charming and elegant, with a wonderful suggestion of raspberry jam and coffee bean. I loved it. I took the remains of that bottle home later that night, poured myself a glass, and raised it to my dear old friend. If only we could all leave such a legacy.

– Bruce Neyers

Read more from Bruce’s Journal on his blog >>


2019 Open the Grand by Dan Musser, III

Grand Hotel President, Dan Musser, III speaking at the 2019 staff orientation.

Today marks the official opening of our 133rd season. Myself along with my sister Mimi Cunningham are the third generation of our family to own and operate the hotel. This will be our family’s 87th year welcoming guests and it is an honor to do so. 

Grand Hotel’s original roofline is now restored with the completion of all dormers.

As a family owned hotel we take great pride and ownership in the details and are excited this year to complete a project I talked about for a long time with my father. The Cupola Suites project began in 2014 with the Musser Suite, named in honor of my late father, R.D. Musser, Jr. In  2015 we continued the construction on the fourth floor with the first of the Cupola Suites, and this winter completed the project by adding an additional four suites and bringing the hotel’s guest room total to 397.  
 
If you travel over to Mackinac Island this season you will notice dormers lining the entire roof bringing the hotel back to its original architecture from the late 1800s, a symbol of the completion of the project.

The designers at Carleton Varney were excited to return to Mackinac Island last week to put the finishing touches on another colorful addition to Grand Hotel. Complete with custom carpets, Dorothy Draper drapery and hand-painted wall papers, these new Cupola Suites are sure to impress! 

Take a look at the new suites.
Introducing Room 452 
This suite is a one bedroom suite with parlor. 
Parlor
A sitting area in one of the new dormers.
Introducing Rooms 454 and 456
Rooms 454 and 456 provide the option for 2 bedrooms or a 1 bedroom suite with Parlor. 
Dormer area with views of the Straits of Mackinac.
Room 454 bedroom

Room 456 bedroom
 
Introducing Room 458 
Room 458 is one bedroom with the option of a connecting parlor.
Room 458 also has 2 dormers.

Chairs, carpet, and drapery.

As you walk through the parlor you’ll notice the newly upholstered furniture including the red chairs that line the hallway. Many of the carpets and drapery in the rooms throughout the hotel have been updated as well, including the Presidential Suite. The wallpaper in the Cupola Bar has also been updated with a fresh new look for the 2019 season. 

Newly upholstered chairs line the parlor.
Custom carpet complimentary of Carleton Varney in the Presidential Suite Parlor.
Custom carpet designed for the Presidential Suite parlor.
New drapery for the Lincoln Suite.
New Carleton Varney wallpaper line the walls of the Cupola Bar.

Concierge Desk 

We’re excited to announce the completion of the new Concierge Desk on the parlor level. Guest Services will now be better able to assist you with the addition of the new and improved Concierge Desk. The desk will be open daily between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. and will serve to accommodate our guests with everything from room deliveries to restaurant reservations and everything in between. 

The new Concierge Desk on the parlor level.
The gold plated concierge sign gleams over the parlor’s newest addition.

Welcome Home 

Grand Hotel Convention and Sales Staff
Front Desk Staff with V.P of Accommodations, Jerry Toney

                                       

We are looking forward to another great season and wonderful memories ahead. On behalf of my family and over 700 employees, we look forward to welcoming you to Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island this season.

Most sincerely,

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Dan Musser, III

President