The Fearless, Risk-Loving Winemaker (by Robert Draper)

Posted: April 13, 2013 by wynmaker in California, Cellars, Oenology, Vintage, Wine, Wineries, World wine news
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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Somewhere in the manicured farmlands of Napa Valley, a 52-year-old winemaker named Abe Schoener stood in a puny and weed-choked tract of land surrounded by 40 gray and contorted barren vines, which he surveyed with paternal satisfaction. “My view when I started leasing this was, It’s 60-year-old-vine sauvignon blanc,” he said, smiling. “How bad could it be?”
No other winemaker had been willing to find out. Though it’s believed that these could be the oldest sauvignon blanc vines in all of California, their average annual yield — about 30 gallons of wine, or 14 cases — is so paltry that investing in this scruffy vineyard, which is owned by the McDowell family, who threaten every year to uproot the vines and replace them with cabernet sauvignon, would hardly seem worth the effort.

Schoener (pronounced shurner) views this matter, and almost everything else, differently. The most frequently used word in his extensive vocabulary is “interesting” — as in, “I find it interesting that I have absolutely no desire to own my own winery” — and his days seem to be consumed by the desire to evade predictability. “No one else would want to work in this vineyard, because it’s a pain in the ass, but it’s perfect for Scholium,” he said, referring to his one-man winery, the Scholium Project.

 

For the past eight years, Scholium has made sauvignon blanc from the McDowell property, though the wine’s label makes no mention of the actual grape, much less the oldness of its vines. Instead, the bottle simply reads, “Glos,” a reference to the name of the street that the vineyard is on, as well as the Greek word “glossa,” which translates to “word” or “language.” (In a previous life, Schoener taught classics at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md.)

 

Standing beside him on the McDowell property were three of his interns, all of whom have pruned and harvested the vines: Alex, a former chef at the French Laundry; Brenna, a comprehensively tattooed wine director; and Courtney, a wine journalist who, when I asked her what the wine from this vineyard tasted like, sternly informed me, “It tastes like Glos.” (Later I paid $45 for a bottle, which is pale and restrained and unlike any other sauvignon blanc I’ve encountered. I guess that means it tastes like Glos.)

Read on …

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