Drink wine tonight at the Summit



You've got until 5 o'clock this evening to make a reservation for the Jonata Winemaker Dinner at the Summit at the Broadmoor.

Jonata wine Summit

Currently, 25 seats remain open for the five-course, wine-paired meal, with winemaker Matt Dees attending.

Jonata is the sister outfit of Screaming Eagle Winery, which holds strong repute in the grape world.

Yes, if this is the first you've heard about the dinner, it's totally last-minute notice. And no doubt, it's pricey. But good wine commands a price.

Maybe celebrate the kickoff of the USA Pro Challenge, or the end of Ramadan or something ... who cares? Find an excuse to rationalize the dropping of a few hondo on one special meal.

I was the Summit's guest last week for the Neyers Napa Valley Wine Dinner, with guest winemaker Tadeo Borchardt from Neyers Vineyards.

Borchardt is the friendly guy in the gray-and-black checkered shirt in this slideshow that I created from the evening.

Summit Neyers

Neyers is pretty great, I quickly learned, not just because of its all-around excellent wines since 1972, but because of its sustainable growing and winemaking practices.

Here's a newsletter from owner Bruce Neyers that Borchardt shared with me, which explains the winery's "natural" philosophy:

While traveling last week, I attended a tasting with a group of sales people from one of our distributors. I was asked to explain what I mean when I say that our wines are naturally produced. I noted the important ‘Natural’ steps in Tadeo’s winemaking at Neyers, starting with the absence of any added yeast. We begin with the yeast that is trapped on the grape’s surface when the fruit is harvested, and go from there.

In the next stage, our interests shift to the secondary, or malo-lactic, fermentation, a step involving bacteria rather than yeast. Tadeo controls this using only the bacteria that grow naturally in the vineyard and cellar. We use no winemaking additives during the fermentation to enhance the color or aroma; the oak flavor that is part of our winemaking comes naturally from the 60-gallon French oak barrels used to age the wine. Our wines are clarified naturally by settling in storage containers. And when it comes time for bottling, we don’t treat the wine with any stabilizing products. (We do follow a winemaking practice as old as wine itself, and add a small amount of sulfur dioxide at bottling. The amount of sulfur dioxide that we add is about 10% of what the law allows.) We have never fined a wine at Neyers. We have never filtered a red wine.

Winemaking at Neyers is a natural process, I told this group of salespeople. What’s the alternative? There are plenty, and they involve using any of the enormous number of products known as winemaking aids. By chance, I returned home to find a catalog from a local winemaking supply house. It presented 114 pages of non-natural additives commonly sold to winemakers. Here’s a (brief) sampling:

1. Enzymes added to the grapes to increase juice yield, color and aroma
2. Laboratory-designed yeasts to add aromas, flavors and alcohol tolerance (you can actually buy one that gives your wine the aroma of a Mango)
3. Artificial nutrients to extend the life of the yeast and enhance their vigor
4. Laboratory designed malo-lactic bacteria that work under adverse conditions
5. Nutrients for these laboratory-designed bacteria
6. Powdered tannin to speed up the fermentation and correct for off grape odors
7. Liquid tannin to reduce the effect of rotten grapes
8. Polysaccharides to reduce browning and improve color
9. Clarifiers and stabilizers to insure chemical and physical stability
10. Post-fermentation tannins to prevent oxidation
11. Oak chips, oak shavings and oak powder, to avoid the expense of oak barrels
12. Clarification agents to artificially clarify the wine before bottling
13. Manufactured acids to raise or lower the acid, or to adjust the pH
14. Filtration aids that can remove anything down to the size of a colloidal suspension

I’m no health nut, but I am a chemist. To me, reading through this catalog was a bit scary, and served as a reminder to be even more careful about what I drink. It also strengthened my resolve to continue down the path of naturalness that we started on over 20 years ago when we began to farm our Conn Valley vineyards organically. This resolve has been reinforced as a result of Barbara’s 20-year association with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, and my twenty-plus years with Kermit Lynch. Know what you are drinking!

-Bruce Neyers

The fun part about these dinners — and most wine dinners I've attended elsewhere around town, for that matter — is getting to interact with the winemakers and learn more about wine, hear stories (that they've probably told 100 times at dinners like this, but that are nonetheless interesting) and, of course, grub on high-quality food.

This dinner, though oddly a bit meat-heavy with a pork belly, pork T-bone, duck leg and hanger steak 1-2-3-4 punch, featured a couple of standout plates.

The first was the roasted duck leg porchetta with a delicious vanilla bean parsnip purée:

Summit Neyers

The second, pictured above, was the rich goat cheese custard served in a fun, mini jar.

Incoming master chef Derin Moore introduced the evening and talked about some upcoming changes on the hotel property, including renovations of the Golden Bee and Tavern and creation of a new six-lane bowling alley, gaming parlor, lounge and restaurant called Play at the Broadmoor, slated to open around April 2013.

I'll share more about Moore soon on our Indyblog, from an interview conducted recently.

But for now, since time is short for tonight's dinner, I'll leave you with the place to buy all these wines should you not make any of the Summit dinners: partner organization Broadmoor Wine & Spirits.

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