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.

Sunday, September 23, 1990

Steps to Success: Renaissance's Terraced Vineyards Are Leading Its Wines to Medals

[ed. - Sourced from]
By Robert Lawrence Balzer
Los Angeles Times
23 Sep 1990

It took a decade for the only vineyard in North Yuba County to get its wines on the market, but for Renaissance Vineyards and Winery the wait has been worthwhile.

Since its initial releases in October, 1988, Renaissance has been winning international awards left and right, giving credence to the winery's philosophy of not releasing wines for general sales until they are deemed to be outstanding. The most recent award was in May from Wine Magazine's International Challenge in London. Four thousand wines were entered in the competition, but in the Bordeaux Style Wines" category, only two gold medals were awarded. One went to Renaissance 1984 Cabernet Sauvignon.

This medal is the latest in a series of victories that began in June, 1989, when I first heard about this winery. At VINEXPO, the most formidable wine exposition in the world, the Renaissance 1985 Special Select Late Harvest Riesling was the only American wine to come home with a gold medal. It also won two of the three other awards that American wines received: a silver for its 1982 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc and a bronze for its 1987 Dry Riesling. In October, Gault Millau, a well-known European wine publication, rated 70 of the world's luscious dessert nectars. The Renaissance Late Harvest Riesling was ranked in the Top 10, the highest rating for any American wine and the highest rating for any Riesling in the world.

Renaissance, a 1,400-acre forested mountain retreat on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, is one of the few wineries in the country with terraced vineyards. It is owned and operated by Fellowship of Friends, an international nondenominational organization that is committed to the arts. (In fact, there's a 300-seat auditorium for performances and a fine arts museum filled with Ming Dynasty furniture on the 365-acre winery.)

The group bought the land in 1971 as a place for its members, who today number 1,500, as a place to gather and take classes in the arts, philosophies and languages. But Robert Burton, head of the organization and a student of the writings of philosophers Georges Gurdjieff and Peter Ouspensky, decided to go commercial with a winery.

"We treat winemaking as an art, although we try not to take ourselves too seriously," says James Bryant, president of Renaissance.

Planting was started in 1975 on the forested, granitic mountain site after the slopes were cleared of manzanita, scrub oak, pines and cedars. About 175,000 12-inch holes were drilled into the granite and filled with compost, into which the vines were placed. Ultimately, 103 miles of contoured terraces on elevation ranging from 1,700 to 2,300 feet were completed and planted with clover, annual grasses and other native ground cover, which prevent erosion on the slopes.

Renaissance's winery is the inspiration of its late, founding wine master, Karl Werner, who died in 1988 after a successful harvest. He designed a circular winery, with stainless-steel fermenters in concentric circles. This construction permits efficient handling of the wine as gravity moves it from fermenters to German oak cooperage for aging and then later to the bottling line.
Production is at 10,000 cases, with a potential for 40,000 cases annually. With the vineyard yield of but two tons per acre-in Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and White Riesling-the dedication is to quality, not quantity. Distribution, therefore, is limited.
Eight wines are currently in release, including the luscious late-harvest wines mentioned earlier. Don't miss the 1988 Sauvignon Blanc ($10) and 1988 Dry White Riesling ($8) both wines of silky finesse.

Another wine to look for is the 1984 Cabernet Sauvignon, which will not be released until next spring. It's like all the First Growth clarets of Bordeaux rolled into one. It has the color and depth of Chateau Latour, the fragrance of Margaux, the delicacy of Haut-Brion, the complexity of Lafite, and the charm of Mouton.

PHOTO: COLOR, Terraced vineyards are part of the picturesque landscape at Renaissance, 70 miles northeast of Sacramento.

(Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times 1990 all Rights reserved)

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