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(Now 79, Burton remains the Fellowship’s leader and still lives at Apollo; he did not respond to Chronicle interview requests.) Burton’s pedagogy was based loosely on the Fourth Way, a philosophy developed by Russian thinkers George Gurdjieff and P. Under Burton’s interpretation, the Fourth Way was put into overdrive, weaving in prophetic apparitions and apocalyptic predictions.

He was visited by angelic incarnations of Walt Whitman and Leonardo da Vinci.

“If you wanted to find a convenient place to farm, this would not be it.

Yields will never be high.” And it isn’t made any more convenient by the amphitheater and the camels on the connected property.

The 2001 Claret Prestige, a cuvee of Bordeaux varieties plus Syrah, is laser-focused, savory and lean, the rare red wine that implores me to use the word “mineral.” These are special, age-worthy, one-of-a-kind wines, at the very top tier of what California can produce. And he tells me about the email blasts he sends out to customers, offering flash deals. In other words: He’s hustling, desperate to make a sale. There, thousands of cases of old, unsold wine are piled high, collecting dust.

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The room where we sit is a shrine to the past, its walls covered in yellowing newsprint from 30 years ago and curling pages from old Wine Spectator issues. They taste fresh, vibrant and, dare I say, ageless.To the Fellowship, the Renaissance Winery is now only scraps to be salvaged, a dusty inventory that needs to be sold off quick. In their hands Renaissance is primed, at last, for rebirth.The Renaissance vineyard was always an afterthought, a means to an end in a quest for enlightenment at Apollo.And at to a bottle, they’re at prices that haven’t been seen for similarly ageworthy California wines, like Heitz Martha’s Vineyard or Ridge Monte Bello, for decades. Some of the greatest wines ever made in California, aged to perfection, costing a fraction of comparable Cabernets from Napa, are just sitting here?The room, the dust and the forgotten bottles break my heart.

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