Back to Scholium: A "Noble" Lesson for Sauvignon Blanc

Posted by CrushWine

Abe Schoener's Scholium Project is definitely one of the most interesting, outrageous and original Cult Wine endeavors taking place in California today.

We've previously offered a number of his sometimes luscious and always cerebral wines and have been blown away by the responses.

From the "Old School Wine Geek" to the "Napa Cabernet Afficianado," so many of you have enjoyed these wines and come back for more, only to find them sold out. The diversity of Scholium die-hards is a true indication that these wines uniquely mix California muscle with Old World finesse.

Yesterday morning, Tom, Joe and I tasted the new lineup and one bottle basically knocked us backwards off of our seats: A botrytized Sauvignon Blanc that is extraordinarily rich and *perfectly dry!* (Note: Botrytis, also known as "noble rot," is a fungus that under certain conditions dries out the grapes and focuses their flavors. It痴 responsible for the unctuous and concentrated character of famed dessert wines like Chateau d'Yquem).

Ch. d'Yquem's dry wine, called "Y," is perhaps the most apt comparison with Abe's unique wine (though the Loire also produces some mind-boggling botrytized Sauvignon Blanc). This Scholium effort is "Y" on steroids - it's also less than half the price!

This is a bottle that you truly have to taste to believe. Of the 20+ wines we opened, from Abe and other producers, this is definitely the one that stopped us in our tracks and made us look at each other in amazement.

The name of the wine, "Cena Trimalchionis," alludes to the extraordinary tension between decadent, complex richness and fresh, clean acidity (see sidebar). Imagine a lemon wrapped around an apricot that's covered in honey and exotic spices. (Got that?)

On the nose the wine is dark, rich and honeyed, with layers of vibrant fleshy stone fruit and even some pungent steely freshness. (How all this is in one bottle, I truly don't know.) The palate is grandiose and luxurious, fully enveloping yet infused generously with a wide bright acidity that keeps the wine feeling sharp and focused. The acidity also introduces a strong orange citrus finish that is brazenly persistent.

Is it a dessert wine or not? Yes and no! Again, while it has luscious honey tones on the nose, the wine itself is perfectly dry. This makes the bottle profoundly versatile: It can be sipped on its own, though it will also pair well with any number of foods.

Joe, who has the keenest sense of food and wine pairings I've ever come across, said that while the obvious match is with Eastern cuisine (Chinese, Thai, etc.), he wouldn't stop there. Meals with lighter savory elements, like Risottos, would probably reveal themselves in new ways with this wine.

The "Cena Trimalchionis" has just been released and Abe makes a frustratingly small amount of wine, very much like Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non to which the Scholium Project is often compared. Only 111 cases of this wine exist and just a fraction of it will ever make it to NY. Sadly it痴 unlikely that the wine will ever be made in the same way again � noble rot is something that can only be hoped for, not induced.

This is a wine that we池e all really excited about and we want to be able to offer some to everyone who wants to try it: But time is of the essence.

Many of you were not able to attain some of our recent offers because you were too late, so please, respond to this email or call 212.980.9463 as soon as possible to have the best shot at a few bottles of this truly incredible wine. It will arrive at Crush for delivery, pickup, and shipment on Tuesday, February 6th.

Drink great wine / support great winemaking.

Stephen Bitterolf
Crush Wine & Spirits

2005 Scholium Project "Cena Trimalchionis" Sauvignon Blanc
Crush Bottle Price: $54.99
Half-Bottle Price: $29.99

Lowest Price in the Nation!
Absurdly Limited Quantity Available.
All prices are net / no further discounts.

Cena Trimalchionis? The name for this wine comes from Petronius Arbiter's Roman novel Satyricon, a chapter of which is entitled "Cena Trimalchionis."

Trimalchio, the main character, is a former slave who has become a wealthy citizen. In the story he throws a luxurious, flamboyant dinner party for a number of his friends, all of whom are former slaves. While Trimalchio goes on and on about the exotic richness of his life, the other guests talk about the stark, everyday realities of life.

In other words, the story is all about contrast, tension and the merging of opulence with a sharper reality - an apt analogy (so thinks Abe) to this wine that brings together such diverse elements into one glass.

Sonoma Mountain's Farina Vineyard
Abe sources the Sauvignon Blanc for this bottling from the Farina vineyard, on the east side of Sonoma Mountain. While the grapes ripen well in the California sun, the site, situated about halfway up the mountain, also benefits from cold Pacific gusts, keeping the fruit fresh and the acidity high.

The grapes for the Cena Trimalchionis represent, as Abe writes, "a very different harvest. These came in from another section of the vineyard and were selected because the clusters were botrytized. No cluster was consumed by the noble rot, but every one was touched by it."

What is "Scholium Project"?
Abe Schoener's approach to winemaking is about partnering with grape growers from some of California's eccentric terroirs.

These specific vineyard sites are the heart of the Scholium Project - Abe very strongly believes the vineyard creates the "flavor" of the wine much more so than does the specific grape.

The winemaking is decidedly minimalist. Instead of interrupting the momentum of the process, Abe lets the wine take its own natural course by leaving it undisturbed in the barrel. He doesn't sulfur the barrels or top them off; instead he allows the fermentation to "develop a ripeness that is particular to wine, not fruit." This is why wines like the "Cena Trimalchionis" show rich muscular concentration without being too over-the-top or fruit-forward. With Abe's wine, the generous fruit of the must (the grape juice before it is fermented) is transformed into something more complex and mysterious.

The result is the most natural wine possible, one whose fermentation has made it resistant to bacterial spoilage and oxidation before it is bottled. If any wines don't survive the process, Abe destroys them.

I suppose we're lucky even 111 cases of this wine exist.