The Scholium Project
The last time [and first time] I met Abe Schoener and his minions, it was in Los Angeles and he was discussing the great overriding importance of the husbandry of microbes in winemaking and how the microscopic critters at his winery The Scholium Project are essentially left alone to do their own thing. So much emphasis was put on this topic that I half expected, upon actually visiting the winery, to see a vision of Abe, assistant winemaker Alex and pretty-much-handler-of-everything-else Brenna stirring cauldrons of steaming microbes and muttering incantations.
Well, for those of you who go in for those sort of things, you’d be disappointed. Part, of me, admittedly, was too. Instead, Abe was out of town, heading back from tending to business at Red Hook Winery [the New York project he is involved with], Alex was unloading grapes, and Brenna was doing everything else, in this case driving a truck to be filled with cases of wine to be delivered.
We got to the winery by heading East from Sonoma, driving past the Napa Valley [I’ve heard there are some good wineries there too], and ending up in a fairly industrial section of Suisan Valley, just as Brenna showed up in the aforementioned truck.
And, unfortunately, we were disappointed again upon entering the winery. No smoldering cauldrons or magical spells, just a small lab and a barrel room of neatly stacked wine barrels. But, ah, those barrels. That’s where the magic happens. There, and in the vineyards, some of them neglected, that Abe so tirelessly searches out.
That day, in spite of it being at the tail end of crazily busy harvest, Brenna hosted my wife Karen and me in the winery, providing us with samples, mostly from barrel, of the results of recent harvests.
We tried the following [from barrel unless noted]
13 Camilla (out of bottle) [Sauvignon Blanc from Farina Vineyards on Sonoma Mountain, 48 cases made]
14 Naucratis [Verdelho from Lost Slough Vineyard]
14 VLV [Verdelho from Bokisch Ranches in Lodi]
14 Unnamed Pinot Gris
14 FTP [Pinot Gris from Kirschenmann Ranch in Lodi. The vineyard in owned by Turley winemaker’s Tegan Passalaqua. The “F” preceding the “TP” indicates Abe’s “intensity of respect and affection” for Tegan.]
14 Sylphs [Chardonnay from the Guman Vineyards in Napa]
13 Sylphs [Chardonnay from the Guman Vineyards in Napa]
14 Prince in His Caves [Sauvignon Blanc from Farina Vineyards]
13 Prince in His Caves (out of bottle) [This probably the wine from Abe that I likely look forward to the most annually. Rich and rewarding, with a finish that I couldn’t quite identify until we finished the bottle at dinner that evening. The butterscotch pudding matched perfectly!]
14 FTPZ [Zinfandel from Tegan’s vineyard.]
12 Wolfskill Cabernet Reserve [from the Wolfskill Vineyard In Suisan Valley]
13 Wolfskill Cabernet
13 1MN (out of bottle) [Cinsault from the Bechtold Ranch in Lodi. I’ve had other Cinsaults from this vineyard, none richer than this one.]
Lots of interesting flavors here. Some recognizable, others not. Some wines still fermenting, you can hear the hiss and taste the slight spritz of the microbes doing their work.
The wines are given names that suit Abe and what he feels about this vineyards – his previous existence teaching classics at St. John’s presumably facilitates this. The wines are not manipulated to taste a certain way; they come out like they are supposed to. Sometimes this takes longer than other times. Occasionally, it doesn’t happen at all, although I expect that is happening less and less often as Abe perfects his craft.
I’ve said this before, but I think it bears repeating — Abe and his team to do not make wine for casual quaffing. Have them with your meal or by themselves, but pay attention to them. You actually don’t need me to tell you that, as you will have no choice. There is no guarantee you will like them all. But they all make you sit up and take notice. You’ll occasionally find them on restaurant lists, but the best way to locate them is to check out the winery’s website.
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael is also Vice President of Eve Bushman Consulting (fka Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting) http://evebushmanconsulting.com/ and President of MCP Financial. Michael can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.