Introduction


Robert Earl Burton founded The Fellowship of Friends in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1970.

Burton modeled his own group after that of Alex Horn, loosely borrowing from the Fourth Way teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. In recent years, the Fellowship has cast its net more broadly, embracing any spiritual tradition that includes (or can be interpreted to include) the notion of "presence."

The Fellowship of Friends exhibits the hallmarks of a "doomsday religious cult," wherein Burton exercises absolute authority, and demands loyalty and obedience. He warns that his is the only path to consciousness and eternal life. Invoking his gift of prophecy, he has over the years prepared his flock for great calamities (e.g. a depression in 1984, the fall of California in 1998, nuclear holocaust in 2006, and now the October 2018 "Fall of California Redux.") While non-believers shall perish, through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (including his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci) Burton and his followers will be spared, founding a new, and more perfect civilization.

Many regard Robert Earl Burton a narcissist and sociopath, surrounded by a largely greed- and power-driven inner circle. The following pages offer abundant evidence supporting that conclusion.

This archive draws from official Fellowship publications and websites, news archives, court documents, cult education and awareness forums, the (former) Fellowship Wikipedia page, the long-running Fellowship of Friends - Living Presence Discussion, the Internet Archive, the (former) Fellowship of Friends wikispace project, and the editor's own 13-year experience in the Fellowship.

Presented in a reverse chronology, the Fellowship's history may be navigated via the "Blog Archive" located in the sidebar below.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"Somms Are Obsessed with a ‘Cult’ Wine Bottled by a Fringe Religious Group"

[ed. -  The Fellowship of Friends has long been desperate to move a large inventory of older (some decades-old) Renaissance wines from its cellar. In a move that is reminiscent of Renaissance founding winemaker Karl Werner's departure from Callaway in the 1970s (Werner was offered a large inventory of unmarketable Callaway red wines at bargain prices,) it appears Gideon Beinstock may have brought a creative solution to Renaissance's long-standing overstock (and image) problem.]


From: vinepair.com

By: Courtney Schiessl @takeittocourt

A smattering of under-the-radar, late-1990s Cabernet Sauvignons from the Sierra Foothills have started appearing on top wine lists in the past several months. The 1997 vintage of Taken from Granite, the California labelin question, is available by the bottle at New York City fine dining restaurants Union Square Cafe and Momofuku Ko. Manhattan wine bar Terroir Tribeca offers $30 by-the-glass pours of Taken from Granite, and retail shops such as Vine Wine in Brooklyn have plentiful supplies of Taken From Granite cuvées as well.

These 20-year-old bottles aren’t “cult wines” in the traditional industry sense. Oenophiles generally use that term to indicate wine that is both highly sought-after and difficult to find, both of which often make said wine quite expensive. Taken From Granite is cult wine in a slightly more literal sense. These well-priced, aged wines, just re-labeled and re-released by noted California winemaker Gideon Beinstock, originally came from Renaissance Vineyard and Winery — a historic property owned by Fellowship of Friends, an international religious organization and purported cult.

Read more at vinpair.com

A Vision for Vineyards


Renaissance Vineyard and Winery is not a new name in California wine. The winery has received many critical accolades, and the wines were even poured at a Republican National Committee gala in honor of Ronald Reagan’s birthday.

But Renaissance wasn’t created with the intention of becoming a benchmark California producer. The winery was a byproduct of Fellowship of Friends founder Robert Earl Burton’s vision: a Mediterranean paradise for his followers called the Apollo Compound.

The sprawling, 1,300-acre Apollo Compound in Yuba County in the Sierra Foothills, upon which Renaissance resides, was created in the 1970s. Burton’s Mediterranean vision included vineyards and olive groves, and so they were planted.

Despite Renaissance being the religious group’s side project, Sierra Foothills wine lovers can actually thank Fellowship of Friends for paving the way for the region. It was Renaissance that first applied for North Yuba, California to have its own AVA in the mid-1980s. The tiny but well-regarded area is now known for its decomposed granite soils (hence the name that Beinstock chose for these re-labeled bottles).

Winemaker Gideon Beinstock

A Winemaker’s Roundabout Journey


Fans of Beinstock and his sought-after Clos Saron wines might want to praise the Fellowship as well; had Beinstock never become acquainted with Fellowship of Friends, he likely wouldn’t have started making wine in the first place.

Long before Beinstock gained a reputation as a crafter of small-production, low-intervention Pinot Noir and Syrah wines under the Clos Saron label, he was an Israeli artist and philosopher living in Paris. While reading the works of George Gurdjieff, who inspired Burton to launch Fellowship of Friends, Beinstock discovered the group. He soon became involved in the Fellowship community and helped to first plant the Renaissance Vineyard in the 1970s.

Bitten by the wine bug, Beinstock sold Renaissance wine for years. In 1994, he moved to the Apollo compound and became its sole winemaker. He streamlined Renaissance’s production, pulling out vine varieties that didn’t work in the Sierra Foothills’ climate, and became the face of Old World-style, terroir-driven, low-intervention winemaking in the region.

In the early 2000s, Beinstock grew disillusioned with Fellowship of Friends’ philosophies and practices. But his dedication to that style of winemaking persisted, living on through Clos Saron. Ironically, it’s because of Renaissance’s ownership that Beinstock was even able to get his hands on some of his old bottles. Fellowship of Friends is technically classified as a non-profit organization, and Beinstock purportedly felt that the group had no need or desire to run Renaissance like a business. Beinstock was given the opportunity to buy back some of his favorite cuvées from Renaissance’s remarkable library of unsold, back-vintage wines, and he re-labeled them Taken From Granite. Curious wine drinkers need look no further than the cork to verify a bottle’s origin; their corks still say “Renaissance.”

Three Taken From Granite cuvées are on the market right now. The most widely available is the “Village” Cabernet Sauvignon from California’s epic 1997 vintage. Not only do these wines offer oenophiles a chance to experience aged, balanced Cabernet at comparatively affordable prices, but they give super-geeky Clos Saron Pinot Noir and Syrah fans the opportunity to taste what kind of restraint Beinstock can bring to Bordeaux blends. Most would be shocked to discover, for instance, that the 1996 “Élégance” variety has a mere 12.6 percent ABV.

Taken From Granite

A generous supply of Taken From Granite exists right now, but there’s no guarantee whether or not Beinstock will be able to get his hands on more aged Renaissance juice in the future. Complicating things further, Renaissance has considerably decreased its wine production, and the compound now has only 50 acres planted with vines.

Taken from Granite could disappear as quickly as it arrived. Wine lovers should seek it out now, before prices go up, availability goes down, and Taken from Granite becomes a “cult” label in every sense of the word.

Gideon Beinstock has become known for his amazing Clos Saron wines, but the history goes back much further than that. A long and winding road from growing up in Israel, an artist’s life of painting in Paris, helping to plant the Renaissance Vineyards in the 1970’s, international wine sales, and finally finding his way into winemaking at the very same vineyards he had planted almost two decades earlier. It was there at Renaissance that he began learning his craft and made the first of his incredible wines.

Gideon left Renaissance in the late 1990’s to found Clos Saron, just a few miles down the road, but has always felt a connection to Renaissance, both as a piece of his history, and also as a totally unique and special terroir.

Which brings us to the present: Gideon was given the opportunity to reclaim some of the greatest wines he made during his time at Renaissance! These wines have never left the winery and have been aging perfectly, undisturbed for the past two decades.

The cuvees that were hand-picked by Gideon are showing outstandingly right now, and should continue to age gracefully for years to come.

Notes from Gideon:

Pre-1995, like all self-respecting Cali wineries, Renaissance was producing an ‘Estate’ and a ‘Reserve’ Cabernet.

In 1995, I broke the Reserve down into three cuvées, with more specific expressions: 

1. “Première Cuvée”, a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon (min. 75%), was meant to continue in the tradition of the older Reserve tradition of long lasting, powerful, blockbuster wines.
2. “Claret Prestige”, a non-varietal wine, was meant to be the most elegant, aromatically complex, harmonious wine we could achieve every vintage by the blending of (mainly) Bordeaux varieties.
3. “Vin de Terroir”, 100% varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, selected every vintage from (either the same or any) specific micro-site in the vineyard for its clearly distinctive expression of terroir.

The names we chose for the Taken From Granite wines are related to the original stylistic goal of each cuvée:

-“Village” is the ‘Estate’ made from all the various slopes combined.
-“Soleil" is the “Première Cuvée”.
-“Élegance" is the “Claret Prestige”.
 

About 400 cases of each was produced every vintage between 1995 and 2002 (with a few exceptions). All the grapes for these wines came from a few vineyard sites (we referred to them as ‘slopes’), which were determined as the best we had (our “Reserve Slopes” - mainly Slope 1, 16,  and 21).

***The “Vin de Terroir” may or may not appear under the TFG label, as of now it is unreleased and TBD***


Products

Cabernet Sauvignon "Soleil" Renaissance Vineyard 1995
Cabernet Sauvignon "Village" Renaissance Vineyard 1997
Claret "Elegance" Renaissance Vineyard 1996

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