Introduction


Presented in reverse chronology, this history stretches from the present back to the Fellowship's 1970 founding, and beyond.
(See "Blog Archive" in the sidebar below.) It draws from many sources, including The Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the Internet Archive, the former Fellowship of Friends wiki project, cult education and awareness sites, news archives, and from the editor's own 13-year experience in the Fellowship.

The portrait that emerges stands in stark contrast to sanitized versions presented on the Fellowship's array of
alluring websites, and on derivative sites created by Burton's now-estranged
disciple, Asaf Braverman.

Wednesday, June 14, 1978

Dr. Karl Werner

[ed. - Robert Burton had a knack for attracting the "expertise" needed to realize his (ever-changing) vision. In June of 1978, the larger-than-life personality Karl Werner moved to the The Fellowship of Friends compound at Oregon House, California to manage their vineyard and winery. He had come from Callaway Winery in Temecula, California (north of San Diego), where he served as founding Winemaster. Prior to Callaway, Werner served as a consultant to Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, California, where he (in his own words) produced the 1970, 1971 and 1972 vintage wines. One of those wines, the 1970 "Unfined, Unfiltered" Cabernet Sauvignon was highly-acclaimed in the California wine industry. At Callaway, he created a wine that would become famous, a late harvest Chenin Blanc they called "Sweet Nancy." But his most dramatic success at Callaway came with a "dry" White Riesling. From Callaway Vineyard and Winery's site:
On July 9, 1976, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, and his Royal Highness, The Prince Duke of Edinburgh, toasted the President of the United States at a luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The only wine served at this bicentennial event honoring the Royal couple's visit to this country, was Callaway's estate bottled 1974 White Riesling. Her Majesty, not known to be a wine drinker, requested a second glass! This was the first time in U.S. viticultural history that a dry table wine from Southern California was chosen to be served on the east coast at an international diplomatic event.
As mentioned below, following Werner's departure in 1978, Callaway mysteriously expunged the memory of Karl Werner from its story. The winery discontinued red wine production and sold much of its remaining inventory of reds to Werner and the Fellowship of Friends at bargain-basement pricing (and in turn sold to Fellowship members at $24-36/case). Some of the wines, especially vintages of the Petite Sirah and Zinfandel, were subsequently served at Renaissance as in-house "table wine," (affectionately known as "Ink" and "Son of Ink.") Werner would often tell members the wines would be ready to drink "in twenty years." (Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah were among the first varieties planted at Renaissance.)

Curiously missing from Werner's biographies are his own account of being  a U-boat commander in World War II, and the elegant high-society lifestyle German officers occasionally enjoyed when not at the front. Werner also stated he was a certified Cordon Bleu chef.

He enjoyed telling the story of hosting a certain Los Angeles area wine critic who had panned Callaway's wines. He set up a blind tasting of red wines for the writer. After the two had shared their observations of the various wines, Karl revealed that, in fact, each glass contained the same Gallo Hearty Burgundy. He dismissed the humiliated reporter with the threat that in the future, were he ever to write anything unflattering about Karl's wines, the results of this tasting would be made public.

In response to the question of how the Fellowship expected to sell its wines at a premium (a proposed retail price of $30 a bottle at the time,) Karl Werner quoted the popular expression "there’s a sucker born every minute."]


From Renaissance Vineyard and Winery site:
The Re-awakening of the Region

It was not the original intent of the Fellowship members to create a vineyard and winery the original intent was to provide its membership with a retreat where they could realize their principles of self-development.

As good fortune would have it, one of Germany's most renowned winemasters expressed interest in the Fellowship's philosophy. His name was Dr. Karl Werner, and his family boasted 17 generations of winemakers. Dr. Werner was the founding winemaster at the Callaway vineyards in Temecula, California when he was introduced to the Fellowship. He came to the North Yuba retreat and immediately was struck by its winemaking possibilities. The land reminded him of his native Germany. He tasted the soil and recognized its unique terroir: the rocky red soil and the mountain climates could produce wine of distinct character, he felt, for the vines would have to struggle in this soil to survive. The Fellowship in turn embraced his vision, as it so poetically expressed their philosophy of life.

Under Dr. Werner's direction, the members worked long hours to clear the land, carve terraces, and drill 135,000 holes for the vines. Some of the terraces were so steep that the massive D-8 bulldozer toppled. Because of the climate, Dr. Werner decided to install drip irrigation to water the vines. He experimented with different grape varieties and decided to focus on three: Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Dr. Werner then turned his attention to the winery facility itself. He envisioned a circular concrete structure three stories high, two of them underground. The top story would house the stainless steel tanks for fermentation. The bottom levels would store the barrels for aging and the bottling room. These levels would take advantage of the coolness of the mountain granite, and gravity could serve as a natural pump, minimizing the stress of more aggressive, modern pumping systems on the wine.

Work continued on both the vineyard and the winery, and in 1979 the first grapes were harvested. That first harvest took only 20 minutes and produced one barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon. [ed. - This is incorrect. As stated in the "Renaissance Vine," the first harvest took place October 14, 1978. From a production standpoint, the volume was negligible.]

Dr. Werner believed that Nature arrives at perfection slowly. There was no rush to market. In 1988, Renaissance Vineyard and Winery sold 5000 cases. Sales doubled in 1989 and then again in 1990.

An important transition

When Dr. Werner's health began to decline in 1984, his wife, Diana, who had a viticultural degree and had worked at his side from the beginning, assumed increasingly more responsibility for daily operations. With Dr. Werner's death in 1988, just a few months before the first cases were sold commercially, Mrs. Werner assumed full responsibility as winemaker.

The emphasis during these early years was on luscious German-style dessert white and blockbuster red wines with an ability to age between 20 and 50 years. It soon became apparent, however, that the Renaissance terroir (pronounced "terr-whar") was suited more to red wine, and that German winemaking techniques, which is suited more to white wines, did not lend themselves to the type of Cabernet Sauvignon that Renaissance was producing.

Again, good fortune smiled. In the early 1990s a French-Israeli arrived to guide Renaissance Vineyard and Winery to the next level of world-class winemaking.
***

Karl Werner's (founder of Renaissance) legacy to dessert wine lovers one might say that the creation of great Rieslings was in Karl Werner's blood. He was born into one of the great wine making traditions of Germany: the family estate, Schloss Groenstein, [Schloss Groenesteyn] had been given to his ancestors in 1411 by the son of Charlemagne. Despite Schloss Groensteins' confiscation by the Nazis (his mother was Jewish), Werner remained in German winemaking until 1958, training at Eltville and Geisenheim, serving as winemaker at the famed Schloss Vollrads and Wolf Erben estates, and finally acting as national wine director under Chancellor Conrad Adenauer.

Beginning in 1959, Werner sought new challenges, from 1959 to 1969 in South Africa, and from 1969 to 1976, consulting to more than 40 top California wineries. From 1976 until his death in 1988, Werner devoted all of his time to building the Renaissance winery in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. In 1985, Werner produced a late-harvest Johannisberg Riesling that is about as close to German Beerenauslese as anything that has come from California.It is sheer nectar, with an astonishing bouquet of apricots, blossoms, honey and vanilla. On the luscious palate, the fruit-sugar-acid balance is near perfection. Werner was so pleased with the wine that in 1989, he entered it in the "Dessert Wine Olympics" staged by France's prestigious Gault Millau magazine.Every one involved must have been stunned when Werner's 1985 Select Late Harvest Riesling finished in the top ten, with the likes of 1986 [Chateau d'] Yquem and 1986 [Chateau] Coutet Cuvee Madame.

 From The Gold Medal Wine Club:
If a commitment to the traditional artistry of winemaking fueled the vision of Renaissance, two prominent figures, Karl Werner and Grant Ramey, helped turn the vision into a reality.

Werner who came from a prominent winemaking family in Germany, took the reins as winemaker.

But during several trips to famous mountain wine regions of Europe, Werner (who helped rebuild Schloss Vollrads after World War II, and was a consultant for wineries around the world before devoting himself to the Renaissance project), educated Ramey about the achievements of other notable mountain vineyards such as those on the steep mountainsides of the Mosel in Germany. "Karl showed us what could be done-with 'blood, sweat and tear' as he used to chime-on steep land with marginal climates," Ramey recalls.

For the next five years with help from Ramey and assistant Gideon Beinstock, Diana continued the success that Karl had set in motion.

Founding winemaker Karl Werner believed the 1987 Cabernet Sauvignon was the best vintage of all the 1980s.

One of the early driving forces behind the vineyard and winery project was Karl Werner. Karl was a former winemaster at Schloss Vollrads, consultant to Mondavi Winery and founding winemaker at Callaway Winery.

From an ex-members journal:
January 16, 1986 -  I visited Callaway Winery in Temecula. It appeared that in the winery's literature, and in their pictorial history displayed in the visitor's center, all traces of "founding winemaster" Karl Werner have been removed. This seemed quite odd, given Werner's essential role.
[ed. -  The histories mention John Moramarco, who planted and managed the vineyards, and Dwayne Helmuth, the "assistant winemaker" who went on to become winemaker, but fail to acknowledge Karl, whom Dwayne assisted. A couple examples of this revisionist history: Shop Temecula Wines (site defunct) and SunSentinel.com.]
May 14, 1986 - Tasted the Da Vinci Zinfandel. It was disappointing, marred by volatile acidity. [vinegar character]

February 19, 1988 - In a blind tasting of Cabernet Sauvignons, the 1983 Renaissance Cabernet Sauvignon raised serious doubts in my mind whether Karl Werner is still (if ever he was) competent at making red wines. The wine appears to have spent about two years too long in oak. The barrels are too new, the oak too raw.
February 21, 1988 - Tasted the Renaissance Cabernet again. With all the great winemakers available, many who would jump at the opportunity to produce our wines, it seems a crime to continue our present course [with Werner].
February 22, 1988 – Following up on the wine tasting results, I tried contacting Robert Mondavi today in order to find out what he thought of Karl - and to what degree Karl was involved in producing Mondavi’s 1970, 71 and 72 vintages.

February 25, 1988 – Received a call from Robert Mondavi this morning. We spoke for about five minutes. He recalled Karl and said that he was brought in because of his expertise with white wines. He said Karl was strong-willed and had definite ideas of how things must be done, which he did not always agree with. He said Karl opposed his idea to leave the reds on the skins for a couple of weeks to gain more extraction – that it would ruin the wine (now look at Karl’s reds!)[over-ripe, over-extracted] Since then, Mondavi’s style has changed focus to a lighter, more concentrated wine, as he doesn’t care for “blockbuster” wines. He was amazed that we have yet to market a wine. Being very diplomatic, he suggested that Karl was making his statement with his wines and the only question is whether he can gain the audience he needs. (Mondavi said he never used German oak, but a back label I saw on one of his ’69 or ’70 wines - a Riesling, I believe - says he did.) [Early on, Mondavi used large oak puncheons for aging Riesling.]

[ed. - Here, wine industry icon Andre Tchelistcheff offers his insights regarding the "experiment" at Callaway Vineyard and Winery, and his fellow winemaker Karl Werner.]
Andre' Tchelistcheff, "Grapes, Wine, and Ecology,"
an oral history conducted 1979 by Ruth Teiser and Catherine Harroun, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California. 1983.

CALIFORNIA WINE INDUSTRY INTERVIEWS

...Since then, actually I've been exposed to Ely Callaway twice, involved twice in a direct communication as a consultant. The first time would have been right in the company of Leon Adams and Professor Harold W. Berg, who was then professor in the Department of Viticulture and Enology of the University of California-Davis, and then was even chairman of the department. This tasting was not promoted by Ely Callaway but actually sponsored and promoted by the Bank of America, in the process of further financing of Callaway in the future. In other words, the bank was hesitating to proceed without the expert opinion of the product. With the first production of the Callaway wines, and the first observation after the production, everything was rather promising. You must remember that these were all young wines of 1974 which had not been bottled as yet.

The second time I was exposed to the Callaway line of wines for tasting was six months later when the white wines were either in the bottle or ready for the bottle. At that time everything really sounded so promising, and I was very pleased with the cultural aspect of the Callaway vineyard, which is a beautiful thing; and I sent a very optimistic report.

Since then, due to my busy schedule in consulting and the long distance to the Callaway vineyards, I have not done any more consulting for him. However, we are always keeping our visual friendship, and I really admire him for initiative, and marketing ideas and his marketing philosophy and marketing energy.

RT: Did you indicate that you thought his vineyards were good there at Temecula?

AT: No question of it. The vineyards are properly selected, the general ecological regime is good, topographical exposure with the climatic positive condition of suction from the Pacific into the interior hot valley, which is really strictly a local micro-climatic phenomenon. A little morning fog covers them, and there is a refreshing breeze every afternoon from the ocean.


Importing European Viticulture and Enology

AT: I think everything is there for production of fine quality wines. It's a new trial, and a new region. Therefore, everyone's allowed to have their own ideas; and Karl Werner, graduated from Geisenheim, really tried to apply classical German theories of white winemaking and red winemaking. He tried to introduce German methods of winemaking to the ecological situation such as Callaway property. [bolds added]
It coincides with so many things that I've tired to do, beginning in my career in Napa Valley: to freshen up the early wines, to work step-by-step as Europeans do. It's a very interesting thing that actually it coincides now, since we talked together, with the introduction of new constructive energy in Napa Valley, in the so-called wine pact signed between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe Rothschild de Mouton.

In 1979, last season, they started to apply, under the management of winemaker Baron Philippe, exactly similar technology and similar winemaking process as it's done in Bordeaux. So it remains to be seen how long they are going to be able, or what are going to be the results if, step-by-step, they are going to interpret exactly the same technology, same philosophy, to the products of Napa Valley. The idea is to create similar greatness out of products of Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The big idea is to create a second Mouton-Rothschild in Napa Valley.

I don't believe that this is the way to follow for the particular reason that there is no reason to judge and compare European products, or any other products with American products. I think it's an imitative technology, rather than a creative technology.

I believe that every one of us as technologists, artists, should have our own initiative, our own understanding of the problem of art, of winemaking. Oil painting will be quite different, and every artist has a chance to express the intensity of oil paint in an entirely different way.

But this is interesting. So, coming back to the same problem, Karl Werner tried to do this and had several problems, because what was applicable in Germany with the classical, proper type of classical German red wine, is completely not corresponding to the image of the winemaker, wine merchant and wine consumer of America. [bolds added]

RT: Another notable example of, maybe, transplanting technology is Domaine Chandon. Did they try to do that?

AT: No, I don't think so, no. I think their approach is entirely different. As a matter of fact they're introducing even the Blanc de Noirs with a slight excess .of color, a different direction than in the classical Champagne region. I don't think that their technology's exactly French
technology. They're adjusting French technology, as I adjusted my French technology, to American facts of living.
So I really am still considering myself as a French, classically trained winemaker. But cooking with quite different ingredients in American kitchen, rather than the French kitchen with those supplies that I bought a t the market of the Boulevard Italiens.
Again I'm referring to the same thing. I think I mentioned to you, in one of my conversations that I asked a similar question of one of the most outstanding chefs of France, about a year ago or two years ago, Jean Troisgros: "You are presenting the culinary class here, and I wonder
what you are doing here in comparison with what you are doing within a similar ideology, or let's say, purpose, in France, in your own restaurant?"
And he says, "Well, I'm going to tell you. You know, I'm trying to make a dish, and I'm really trying to present the dish with typical French accent, and I'm making a very interesting dish. But the dish is becoming entirely different than in France although I ' m doing everything exactly as I do there. 
"But the problem is that the raw material's entirely different. And I'm not buying personally. There, between two of us, my brother and me, we are going to the marche in the morning, and we are buying our own stuff.
"And we smell the produce, we smell the carrots, and we smell the peaches, and the fish, and we select the fish. We say everything is selection, everything starts with the raw material.
"So, outside the facts of different origin, the fish is of Atlantic but not Pacific, and the asparagus is grown in the Loire Valley instead of the rich soils of Sacramento Valley, there also the absence of me as a selector."
So this is exactly the same thing.
RT: Before you continue - In retrospect now, as of today, do you think Callaway has been going in the right direction?

AT: I think there is a certain improvement; I'm not trying to criticize some products. They have such a personality. But I think they are not corresponding to the times. This is something absurd to you and, you know, I am very unstable as a person. And yes, unstable to the point that I continuously explore tomorrow rather than to stay within today.

AT: So therefore, even if we've been running this interview with you, let's say five years ago, probably what I am saying today will be entirely different than I said yesterday. Because some formulations, you know that wine formulation I'm making, could be contradiction. How Andre Tchelistcheff prayed in 1940 and built standards of wine, and Andre Tchelistcheff today is criticizing the standards of wine of 1940 by saying that we are going entirely in a wrong direction. Because Andre Tchelistcheff is still living and continuously in the process of keeping his fingers on the pulse of the consumer.

And we are all going in a rapid process of evolution, in all forms of our activities, and of forms of our living and expressing, changing the basic standards, basic morals, basic traditions to something new so that we are looking at a new society. The beverage, as a part of our joy of living, is changing its own topography.

So that's what I'm saying: red wines of Callaway should be placed on the American market about twenty years ago and would be appreciated.

But they are not corresponding to the image of great wines of today, not only here, but also in Europe. Because even European wines, classical chateaux of Medoc, are changing their structure towards the consumer power.

RT: Which is?

AT: Which is more elegancy, more lightness, more drinkability. In other words, you look upon the wine as a companion during the meal, and you don't look upon the wine as a librarian, or, let's say, enthusiastic connoisseur who would like to buy this wine and consume the wine within the next twenty or thirty years.

That's entirely different. There are still librarians. There will always be always librarians; but the average consumer is not a librarian. The average consumer drinks wine simply for pleasure, but I think it's sort of normal. [bolds added]

When I went to college, my dear, there was a regulation for every student to have a hard, starched shirt and tie. We did not accept even the idea during the class or during laboratory work, beside the that we'd have a white smock on us, to open our collar and release our tie. And the professor was presenting the lesson, the lecture to the students, while he was in a formal outfit.

Now, if you put these forms, visible forms out today, it would just be ridiculous to do this, a circus. So everything is changing. And so, if we're having any changes this way, well, then in a very traditional industry such as the wine industry, we still have to sell our traditional beverages to a new consumer. A consumer of new generation, of new school, of new morals, of new habits, and it's a logical reaction to what he's eating and drinking, don't you think so?

That's one of the reasons that new consumers probably are still all living and enjoying the life. I'm always referring to some of my plans, and I'm referring right now to the statement by Madame de Latour, who became the president of Beaulieu vineyard. She was considered then as a queen of the California wine industry. She was a grand lady, a really, patroness of the wine industry.

She said to me, "Well, you know, the secret of my life, Andre, is the secret to understand the youth." And strangely, in the few of her last years, she always tried to surround herself with the youth, rather than with people of her own generation. In other words, she kept always her mind completely open and youthful by being with the youth.

And she was able to understand youth much better than even, very probably, her daughter was able to understand the younger generation.

You see how strange it is, strictly individual.

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE OBITUARY
April 7, 1994

Andre Tchelistcheff - He Helped Build State Wine Industry

A memorial service will be held Monday for Andre Tchelistcheff, 92, an internationally respected vintner and leader in the California wine industry for more than half a century.

Mr. Tchelistcheff died Tuesday at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa. He had recently undergone surgery at the hospital for the removal of a stomach tumor, according to a hospital official.

Widely considered the dean of American winemaker, Mr. Tchelistcheff was a mentor to wine industry giants such as Robert Mondavi and Louis Martini.

He was vice president of Beaulieu Vineyards in Napa for 35 years until his retirement in 1973, four years after sale of Beaulieu to Heublein Inc. He also assembled a fabled library of wine literature.

Besides Managing Beaulieu, Mr. Tchelistcheff operated a private wine laboratory in St. Helena for 15 years. Later, he continued to share his expertise as a consultant for Beaulieu and dozens of other Napa and Sonoma wineries.

Mr. Tchelistcheff created the first world-class California cabernets at Beaulieu Vineyards after the end of the Prohibition era, and developed the winery's "private reserve" appellation. There, he also pioneered the cold-fermentation process now used widely in producing white and rose wines. He developed frost-prevention techniques and helped curb vine disease in Napa Valley.

Among the most influential winemakers in the country, Mr. Tchelistcheff spoke candidly about the mass marketing and commercialism that crept into the industry over the years.

In 1991, Chronicle writer Sam Whiting wrote of him, "His palate was so refined he could tell by taste whether a wine came from Rutherford dust, Oakville dirt or a furrow in between."

At that time, Mr. Tchelistcheff commented, "Money is the dust of life. I don't have a wine cellar, I don't have a vineyard. I don't have nothing. I only have my head."

His continuing preeminence was demonstrated in 1992 when he blended red wine donated by 105 wineries of Napa, into a special barrel or "unity lot."

A Russian native, Mr. Tchelistcheff served in the anti-Communist White Army during the Russian civil war of 1918-21, and was left for dead on the battlefield after his unit was machine-gunned during a snowstorm. His father held a funeral for him.

However, he and his family eventually fled to France, where the he studied agronomy before meeting Beaulieu owner Georges de Latour, who recruited him to come to the United States in 1938.

In 1954, the French government honored him for bringing French quality winemaking to America. In 1990, he was named Wine Man of the Year at the Wine Industry Technical Symposium in Rohnert Park.

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