The Scholium Project
Distinctive, naturally made Californian wines from Abe Schoener

Abe Schoener of the Scholium Project

Abe Schoener is an unusual winemaker. He approached wine in the first instance from a point of view of learning about it more. ‘I came at it for the sake of learning,’ he says, ‘not for the sake of making wine. It was a series of experiments.’

Part of my educational background is that if you want to understand something, do it from the inside,’ he explains. ‘I never thought I’d do it for a living.’ He just jumped in, and what happened happened.

Schoener's background is that he was a philosophy professor at St John's College in Maryland. He took a sabbatical to work at Stag's Leap in Napa, back in 1998, and eventually gave up the day job. He made his first wine to sell in 2000.  

He began making wines without adding SO2. It was three years in before he began to learn how to make conventional wines, in addition to the wines he was making that were exposed to the effects of oxygen without any protection.

‘What drives me is an openness and a desire to see what happens,’ says Schoener. ‘It’s not unconventionality for its own sake.’

Now he uses SO2 for some wines, while for others he uses zero or close to zero. ‘It depends on what is the right way to work with the wine, which depends on the fruit.’

Schoener lives in New York City, but travels out to California for the harvest. He doesn’t own anything, but buys grapes and leases a winery that was built for him.

With regard to ripeness, he says that the drought really changed things and allowed him to make wines with flavour but a degree or two less of alcohol. ‘The most important factor is less solar radiation, which drives photosynthesis,’ he says. ‘With dehydration we can we can harvest earlier with less solar radiation.’ But he admits that he his picking a bit later than some of his friends.


The Scholium Project ‘The Prince in His Caves’ Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Sonoma, California
13% alcohol. From a high altitude (1000 ft) Sonoma vineyard with a sandy, rocky soil. Destemmed, three weeks skin contact. Warm and textural. Very smooth and soft, with pretty nuts, wax and herbs. Bold and sweetly fruited with apples and pears. Lovely wine. 93/100

The Scholium Project ‘Il Ciliegio’ Zinfandel 2015 Lodi, California
From vines planted in 1915, this has 24 hour maceration and is gently pressed. Full pink colour. Textured and warmly spicy with fresh cherries and plums. Aromatic cherry fruit. Quite lovely. 91/100

The Scholium Project ‘Michael Faraday’ Chardonnay 2014 California
This is from the Michael Mara vineyard which was planted by and is farmed by Steve Matthiason. 85% whole cluster pressed into 500 litre barrels. The remaining 15% is whole cluster with stems, and is pressed by foot by small women and children. It spends two years in barrel without topping of SO2 additions. Warm, spicy and detailed with lovely texture. Rich pear and melon fruit. Fine spices. Good acidity allied to warmth and depth. 94/100

The Scholium Project ‘1MN’ Cinsault 2014 Lodi, California
From vines planted in 1870 on the Bechtold Ranch, Lodi, on own roots. 14% alcohol. These vines have never been irrigated, and that’s why they are still alive, suggests Abe Schoener. This wine is wildly aromatic, with fresh red berries and cherries. Lovely sweet textured fruit. Detailed, fresh, elegant and fine. Pretty, vivid cherry and berry fruit with good acidity. 95/100

The Scholium Project ‘Wolfskill’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 California
From the Suisun Valley, 10 miles east of Napa. Vines planted in 1970 in well drained soils on a gentle slope. 16.2% alcohol. Sweet, lush, ripe, intense and bold with a salty edge. Lush with the high alcohol evident. 91/100

The Scholium Project ‘Golgotha’ Syrah 2013 California
This is 100% whole cluster, 14.7% alcohol. Sweet and intense with smooth liqueur-like fruit and some saltiness. Rich, intense and textural with a spicy core. Ripe and alluring with a hint of mint. Very textural with some bite on the finish. 92/100

UK Agent: The Sampler

See also:

Hirsch Vineyards
Visiting Napa

Wines tasted 04/16  
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