So John, has that title got enough flair for you?
2006 Courier Wines, Sauvignon Blanc Ryan’s Vineyard:
Bottle 403 of 516 produced; golden color; smells as though there was quite a bit of skin contact during fermentation and perhaps some oxidative treatment along the way – sort of apple cider meets smoke and stones; very similar in the mouth except it tastes like wine not cider and it’s a bit disjointed, considerable acidity, slight oxidative tones – a complex and somewhat perplexing flavor profile; good length and crisp.
The 14.3% alcohol is nowhere to be seen.
Given some time and air this starts to come together and display a very pleasant honeyed note that wasn’t there upon opening and the fruit in the mouth opens up to show juicy, fresh (but slightly tart) pineapple, lemon and tonic flavors.
Demands food and your attention and deserves some time in the decanter and to be served closer to room temperature than not. Quite unusual and quite young.
2006 Scholium Project, San Floriano del Collio:
Pinot grigio fermented on the skins, 16.9% alcohol; looks like a dark, cloudy rosé; smells like cherry pits; tastes . . . well, that’s where descriptors fail . . . there is cherry and cherry pit, there is fresh water, there is stone but there is – sort of an essence of terra firma, something heady from the earth but not from the crust of the earth (I know how weird that sounds but . . .), its intense and viscous, liqueur-esque, tannic and dry; very long. But there is a sweet, almost syrupy note that I can’t reconcile and don’t care for. Maybe with something spicy; I’ll put this bottle back in the fridge and try it again.
Day two with spicy sesame noodles: Much the same; perhaps a bit more aromatic but that syrup note is still there and the alcohol is showing. This wine is for wild boar with hot chilies or very pungent cheese. I tried a barrel sample of the Reserva of this wine (another year in barrel) and thought the alcohol integrated better and the fruit had more pop – but there’s only about 30 gals. of it so it won’t get wide retail play.
2007 Scholium Project, Naucratis Lost Slough Vnyd.:
Traditionally fermented and 14.9% alcohol; if, when you think of verdejo, you think of the racy, crisp wine from Rueda, then you will be taken aback by this one – oh yes, this is verdejo but this is it taken to the nth degree; no wood in evidence anywhere, a pungent nose of white fruit, spice and earth; huge in the mouth, forceful flavors of verdejo, depth, viscosity, the fruit is so potent its sweet, good balance and intensity; moderately long finish with the slightest hint of heat. This is Rueda, squared or, perhaps, cubed. Beautiful wine, if you like things a bit out-sized.
2006 Tenbrink, Chardonnay Suisun Valley:
About 300 cases made and 15.7% alcohol; a touch of butter on the nose gives way to attractive mineral tones that play around in mango/pineapple/citrus fruit – but there is also a very subtle oxidative note that is more understated than the foregoing wine and just hint of alcohol; one big mouthful of chardonnay but not ponderous, there is a butter-scotch streak here but it doesn’t overwhelm and the acidity is refreshing – still this is not for those who want a delicate chard., varietally straight-forward; not especially long and ever so slightly cloying. I don’t think I’d have this again – it’s just not my style.
A word about the Scholium Project wines (and others made at the facility including Courier and Tenbrink):
Abe Schoener is a lofty, charismatic fellow with the demeanor of a garrulous lunatic and the heart of a poet. He is clearly from some distant planet, transported here and living among us, only just. His wines are, I think, extensions of his personality; untamed, outlandish, celebratory and challenging. They are not for the faint of heart.
Having settled in CA, he is provided annually with powerful fruit from which to makes his wines – and he coaxes every ounce of flavor and power out of each grape.
If you are tied to stereotypes or varietal correctness, shop elsewhere. But if you can accept amplitude and eccentricity; extraordinary techniques and a complete disregard for the “should tapes” that seem to run through so many of the minds of people who make, drink and critique wine, then saddle-up.
You’re going love them or hate them and you will be surprised; I guarantee it.
2001 Edmunds St, John, Los Robles Viejos Rozet Vnyd.:
“The old oak trees” may be its title but there is nothing here that speaks of barrels; scented like cinnamon hard candy with cherry and stone elements; a bit angular in the mouth but an hour decant fleshed it out; silky, racy, focused flavors similar to CdP with good balance and sustain. Requires decanting and is worth the wait.
1999 Alain Michaud, Brouilly Prestige de Vieilles Vignes:
Not fully mature but more resolved than at release, this is full, rich, persuasive wine with a clear terroir and a presence that few wines, let alone Beaujolais, carry; quite long. From vines over 85 years of age and shows it. Magnificent stuff that needs time and rewards patience.