We have all had conversations with people that we wish would go on forever, where topics arise flow so smoothly – from practical to mysterious and back again – that a new nexus is born inside us. We learn to look a little more passively, at more things, and we connect differently.

This is how it went for me with Mike Weersing. As it goes with the wines of Pyramid Valley Vineyards, which he and his wife, Claudia, began in 2000.

Mike was born and raised in California, and studied art history and English at Stanford. He started to work in publishing out of college, but soon caught the wine bug. Anyway, he told me, “I realized that if I was going to stay in publishing I’d have to move to New York. And I’m not a city kid.”

The move from books to wine brought him to enology school in Burgundy, and then to jobs at some of the greatest wineries in the world: Hubert de Montille and Nicolas Potel in Burgundy, Jean-Michel Deiss in Alsace, and Ernst Loosen in the Mosel, among many others in France, Spain, Australia and Oregon.

Weersing’s personal history is important, and leads directly into crucial details about the uniqueness of the farm he and Claudia ultimately bought in Pyramid Valley, in the North Canterbury region of New Zealand’s South Island. First, you might want to know why you should care at all.

So: The wines of Pyramid Valley Vineyards, finally available in Maine though in painfully small amounts, are some of the finest I have ever, ever tasted. (Find them at several Portland-area wine retailers, as well as a few restaurants: Vinland, Hugo’s and Back Bay Grill in Portland, and El Camino in Brunswick.) Pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot blanc and a few other varietals compose wines of supernal filigree, calm and expansiveness. They share a spirit – I think of it as analog, curvaceous, looping – but not a flavor profile. One wine will be rich and subtly sweet, the next will be all gauze and acidity. You taste not so much a certain expression as you sense expressiveness itself. They seem a direct, three-dimensional model of the world, as it is or should be or could be.

These hyperbolic statements read as highly subjective; they are in fact almost the opposite. The magic in Pyramid Valley Vineyards wines is, like all real magic, the result of tangible, practical steps taken by the practitioner. A true magician is a conductor of unseen forces – forces no less real because few people perceive them.

What’s more tangible than dirt? That’s where Weersing begins. My first, rather general question during our interview led him into a deep disquisition on how various soil types match with certain grape varietals: “Clay gives you ‘ampleur,’ ” he explained. “It gives you flesh. Merlot in Pomerol or riesling in Alsace – both gain amplitude from clay.… Stony, siliceous soil – schist, granite, gneiss – gives you heightened aromatics, a finer texture.… Limestone is important for pinot noir. Pinot is very perfumed, but it’s very lean. The clay in Burgundy fleshes it out. The limestone shores it up and gives it this cool salinity.”

I heard this and wondered whether the seeming conflicts between “science” and “religion” (terms whose distinctions are relatively recent) might be resolved by less hubris and more patient observation. “In the Old World,” Weersing said. “they have 1,500 years of empirical evidence for what soil does. In the New World, we pretend this is Old World folklore. But that’s only because we can’t explain the mechanism, so we don’t think it exists.”

Pinot noir grabbed Weersing’s heart, as it grabs so many. Working a pinot harvest in Orgeon in 1992 is what propelled him to school in Burgundy, and after that “a VW van was my home. I spent the next six or seven years driving around, talking my way into working with my heroes.”

All that time, in California, Oregon, New Mexico, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand, Weersing the soil geek was taking samples of dirt and sending them to his school pals back in Burgundy. He was studying soil maps from all over the world. The race was on for Mike Weersing to find the best possible site on the planet for him to put down roots in soils he felt would be best for the wines he wanted to make.

“I’d be, like, studying soil samples from Uruguay at night,” he told me with a laugh, “and my wife was studying divorce proceedings.”

He was also finding that the soil’s general type was significant but only as part of a larger picture. Although not all the winemakers that Weersing worked with and admired farmed biodynamically, many of them did.

“I worked with conventional, organic and biodynamic producers,” he said. “They were all doing careful, brilliant work.… But the reason we decided to farm biodynamically was that the BD producers always had the best fruit. I thought, it’s late in life (I was 35), and we’re not going to have the chance to do this again. We might as well do this as well as we possibly can. Also, my wife said, ‘After all these places you’ve worked, I’ve noticed that the biodynamic domaines seem to be the happiest places. The staff are all smiling, the marriages seem more robust, the dogs are wagging their tails.’ ”

One of the soil samples from Canterbury sent to Weersing’s friends in Burgundy elicited the response he was waiting for: “They said, ‘This is dirt that has a voice. It has everything we’d like to see in a site that could produce great pinot.’ ” The vocal dirt had come from a 300-acre property in an area known for raising sheep, not wine grapes. It had never been planted with crops, and therefore had never seen the use of any pesticide, fungicide or other agent that could have altered the prime material.

Weersing stuck data-logging devices in the soil for another year, and then he and Claudia bought the property, soon thereafter selling off some of the land they would never plant. What remained was still more than they needed for vines, and now serves as space for animals and the various composts essential to their biodynamic practices and as a buffer if others choose to develop vineyards nearby.

And so Pyramid Valley Vineyards is that rarest of opportunities in the world of wine: a site that has been biodynamically farmed from inception, with vines grown on their own rootstock rather than having been grafted to extant roots. This allowed the Weersings to experiment with biodynamic practices for several years before a harvestable crop developed. And still, he acknowledges, a property not planted until 2000 has many years to go before “a mature site voice” will develop.

If you try one of these wines and are compelled to continue following Pyramid Valley Vineyards’ work, you’ll have a unique opportunity to observe in real time how the interactions among soil, climate, fruit and humans evolve. (Weersing described these interactions as “a beautiful polygamous marriage.”)

The Weersings’ winemaking practices are slow, natural, neutral. Only native yeasts are used for fermentation. There is no temperature control, and fermentations can last more than a year (many conventional wines are aided by temperature-control and cultured yeasts, and complete fermentation in under a week). This leads to supremely stable wines that do not need (or receive) sulfur added as a preservative.

After fermentation, the wines develop in a combination of used oak and clay amphorae. “What frustrates me about using barrels,” Weersing said, “is that a new barrel will influence flavor, but so will an old barrel. There’s a window, maybe two to four years, where you get no influence. We’d like to get to using all clay, since it’s the most neutral, but we’re not there yet.”

Pyramid Valley Vineyards wines are expensive, by my standards. But every dollar in the prices is hard-earned, and real, not going to advertising budgets or high-hog living. The wines are hard to find, too, for sure. So was the plot of land the Weersings struggled to buy; so is truth; so is magic. Keep looking.

The Growers Collection wines, with fruit grown on long-term-leased land from New Zealand friends of the Weersings who share their approach, are priced more accessibly. The 2010 Cowley Vineyard Pinot Noir, warm and winning, is around $33.

The Home Collection wines, at around $75, reflect the apogee of the Weersings’ vision, from their uncompromising vineyards to vinification. Not only foot-crushed, not only hand-sorted, the grapes are even hand-destemmed – one of only a handful of wineries worldwide to do so. (If you’re interested in trying it out, there is a three-year waiting list for unpaid work at their sorting table.)

Look for the long, spicy, finessed 2011 Angel Flower Pinot Noir, or the darker and more tobacco-tinged 2010 Earth Smoke Pinot Noir, or the juicy, Chablis-like 2011 Lions Tooth Chardonnay.

I’ve never drunk wines that have brought me closer to the earth, closer to the real feel of things. I hope you can find a way to join this journey.

Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]