As you know, the crush motto is "The truth is in the bottle" and my primary focus is finding great, uncommon wines and bringing them to you, regardless of ratings, reviews or point scores.
The Scholium Project "Naucratis," a verdelho (!) from rebel winemaker Abe Schoner, is easily one of the most original and unique wines that I have tasted from California. Abe's approach to winemaking (the project) is about letting the vineyard speak, and you can even tell from the packaging. While other wines contain cute pictures of animals or catchy designs, the only text on the front label of Abe's wines is the "Scholium Project." The back label contains simply the vintage, vineyard and sometimes the grape variety.
The Naucratis is a full-bodied wine that has zero oak or creaminess - shocking for California, where winemakers routinely induce a secondary fermentation that wine geeks call "malo." (short for malolatic fermentation: a process that converts the naturally occurring malic acid into softer lactic acid, thus reducing the wine's total acidity). While there is zero detectible creaminess, the wine is still incredibly rich and concentrated. The truly amazing thing is Schoner's ability to meld these fat flavors with excellent crispness -- the wine is a veritable Jekyll and Hyde with wonderful minerality and a crisp backlash on the finish.
If you are a European-only sort of drinker, I strongly encourage you to suspend your normal preference and try something truly different from California: a new-world wine that contains all of the old-world angles you regularly desire. Do not purchase if you are expecting a flashy or polished wine with buttery vanillin smoothness.
Abe's wines are small production, artisanal, non-interventionist wines of the highest order, and many of you clearly feel the same way. Every single person that bought a bottle of Abe's debut vintage called or emailed to ask for more.
Why Is Abe A Rebel?
While most California winemakers are trying to make wine in the international style to suit the palates of the masses, Abe is doing the exact opposite. He's following his own muse making the best wine possible with minimal intervention. I think he produces wines at the same level of quality as Manfred Krankl of cult winery Sine Qua Non. To my palate, I like Abe's wines better.
Verdelho vs. Verdeho
Verdelho (the grape in this wine) originated in Portugal and is used to make Madeira. More recently, the Australians have created a niche by producing dry, crisp whites with this grape. Don't confuse it with Verdejo, used most often to make Rueda (the subject of a recent e-mail) in Spain.
Naucratis & Slough
Speaking of following his own muse, Abe's name for this wine has some interesting origins:
Naucratis, (Greek: Ναύκρατις), loosely translated as "(the city that wields) power over ships", was an ancient city of Egypt, on the Canopic branch of the Nile, 45 mi (72 km) SE of Alexandria. The site has been excavated, revealing pottery of a Greek type and ruins of Greek temples.
The name was probably given to colonists from nine Greek cities, including among other Miletus and Corinth, by the Pharaoh Psamtik in the 7th century BC and was the first Greek settlement in Egypt, and Egypt's most important harbor in antiquity until the rise of Alexandria and the shifting of the Nile led to its decline.
Slough: Slough (pronounced [slaʊ]) is a town and unitary authority in the county of Berkshire in the south of England.
1. A depression or hollow, usually filled with deep mud or mire.
2. A stagnant swamp, marsh, bog, or pond, especially as part of a bayou, inlet, or backwater.
3. A state of deep despair or moral degradation.
4. The outer skin shed by a reptile or amphibian.