Monthly Archives: February 2012

Uncorked: Happenings in the Wine World

Here’s a recap of the week’s happenings and news in the wine industry:

  • This Saturday, February 25th, is “Open That Bottle Night.” The night has been designated for those of us who have been holding on to a bottle for that ‘special occasion’ which has never come. So make Saturday your ‘special occasion,’ wander into your cellar and open that bottle and drink it!
  • Skinnygirl, Bethanney Frankel, one of the biggest drinks industry success stories in 2011 expands to wine next month. She will introduce three low-calorie California wines priced at $15 each: a red blend made primarily with Syrah, a white blend made primarily from Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, and a rosé blend featuring Grenache and Syrah. Each of the 2011 vintage wines will check in at 12 percent alcohol and 100 calories per 5-ounce serving.
  • It wasn’t that long ago that Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris) displaced Sauvignon Blanc as the second most popular white wine variety in the United States. Now Sauvignon Blanc has ceded its third place status to fast-growing Muscat wines. Chardonnay remains by far the best-selling wine, red or white. Muscat’s market share has grown by almost 85% in the last year.
  • University of California, Irvine Extension recently announced “The Great American Wine and Food Revolution”, a six-week online course from April 2 to May 13. With the proliferation of ethnic cuisine and cross-cultural combinations, such as Mexican/Korean or Japanese/French, and unusual “gastro-fusion” dishes that are finding their way into the mainstream society, acclaimed wine expert and course instructor Marlene Rossman will show course participants how to identify mutual elements that create the perfect pairing of wine and food.


Wineries to Watch: The Scholium Project

Scholium Project

Owner of Scholium Project, Abe Schoener, celebrating a win at our 2010 Throwdown.

Last week we hosted our Cult California Wine Throwdown featuring owner/winemaker of The Scholium Project, Abe Schoener. We have had the pleasure of getting to know Abe and his unique wines over the last couple years and have come to appreciate his truly unique approaches to the winemaking process.

The Scholium Project represents an experimental and educational approach to wine. Abe approaches each wine as a project, trying to emulate those in the industry whose methods and wines he admires.

Abe’s background begins at the famed Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars where he interned during a sabbatical from teaching at St. John’s College. While at Stag’s Leap, Abe worked with John Kongsgaard. After Stag’s Leap he continued to work with John at Luna Cellars, then White Rock Vineyards. In 2005, he made his first Scholium selections: Naucratis and Cena Trimalchinos.

Scholium wines are all sourced fruit from the best vineyards for the specific grape varietals in each wine. Grapes often found in the wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Cinsault on the red side. And white varietals including Verdelho, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer.

The Scholium Project offers a large array of wines to explore, each one is not for everyone but they are all wines to challenge your thinking and evaluation of what your mind thinks a ‘standard’ style of each grape is. We always say that the Scholium wines can make red drinkers love white and white lovers drink reds.

Our favorites? With this winery, you can have a favorite. But must tries include: Bricco Bebelico, Choepheroi, Gardens of Babylon (awesome!) , Prince in His Caves (a red drinker’s white).

Wineries to Watch: Tamber Bey Vineyards

Tamber Bey Vineyards

Tamber Bey Vineyards

Barry Waite purchased his Yountville Ranch in 1999 for the primary purpose of raising his beloved horses. The name is after his first two Arabian endurance horses, Tamborina and Bayamo. But the fertile Yountville land called to him and before long he was planting grapes alongside the pastures, the Deux Chevaux Vineyards. He teamed up with winemaker Thomas Brown for his inaugural vintage and has been rocking since then. Brown has an impressive background in the wine industry including a little project known as Schraeder ($350/bottle).

Thomas Brown brought on “apprentice,” Mike Smith to help with the production of Tamber Bey. Smith is no slouch though, he has worked for a number of labels including Myriad. Barry later added a property in Oakville where they have been making a single vineyard Cabernet. The Tamber Bey wines overachieve given the price/quality ratio. Barry has strived to keep his price points reasonable, since this is not his primary business. These wines are under the radar and not submitted to press for ratings, relying on more word of mouth and delivering a high quality product. They make 3 wines: 2 from the Yountville and one from Oakville, all 100% estate wines.

Our favorites from Tamber Bey include: Tamber Bey Deux Chevaux Cabernet, Tamber Bey Deux Chevaux Rabicano, Tamber Bey Oakville Estate Cabernet.

Wineries to Watch: Shafer Vineyards

Shafer Vineyards

A view of the Hillside Select Vineyard from our trip to Shafer this past Fall.

Doug Shafer was in town a couple weeks ago and I had the pleasure of having an intimate lunch meeting with him. Doug moved to Napa when he was 17 and like most caught the “wine bug.” From there he went to UC Davis and shortly thereafter began making wine with his dad, John. They have become an iconic Napa Valley team and set a bar for others in the Valley when it comes to consistent, quality wine.

Doug, who was the winemaker, mentioned the wine became much better once Elias took over in the mid 1990s. Doug recruited the Elias out of UC Davis in 1984 as the assistant winemaker for his first and only job in the wine business.

The toughest part of producing great wines year after year is vintage variation; great wineries make adjustments since a major component to any winemaking process is weather (which we all know is unpredictable). In off vintages grapes are sold off in bulk; possibly ending up in some $10 Napa Valley Cabernet. In great vintages, prices escalate.

When talking recent vintages with Doug, his comments were:

2008: A fantastic vintage, reminiscent of 2006 with great fruit forward wines. It was very underrated from living in the shadow of 2007, which was equally great but produced a much different style of wine.
2009: Very reminiscent of 2007, producing wines of intensity and structure for some age.
2010: Challenging vintage but has resulted in some good wines, the yields will just be much lower.
2011: This was the most challenging vintage Doug has seen since he started making the wine for Shafer. Lots of grapes were sold off in bulk. The vintage will still produce quality wines, but production will be way down. It’s extremely important to buy from an excellent producer in challenging vintages.

Shafer’s selections include Red Mountain Chardonnay, Merlot, One Point Five Cabernet, Relentless Syrah (our personal favorite), and their flagship…Hillside Select Cabernet. We get a lot of inquires about Hillside Select, the best way to get it? Get on our waiting list now! (It doesn’t help to support Shafer’s other wines as well…)