The Scott Cellars Story
It started on a warm night in Los Angeles during the 1992 “LA/Rodney King” riots. As trundles of smoke dotted the horizon, and an eerie silence crept over my apartment complex in the San Fernando Valley, I asked myself, “What am I doing here at this time of my life?” Riots in your own back yard will do that to a person. I had a good job with a promising future in broadcasting, but my heart was not there. After a few glasses of a magnificent ’86 Napa Cab, I came up with the crazy idea that I wanted to own and operate my own winery. One more glass of wine and it was a done deal.
Not having a trust fund to work with, I embarked on a series of jobs designed to teach myself about the different facets of the business of wine. After 10 years of holding jobs from wine store clerk to winemaker, I muddled together enough money to launch Scott Cellars in 2005. The focus has always been on making small lots of extremely high quality wine. I opened a tasting room in April of 2007 and shortly after that a severe downturn staggered the economy. The lessons were and still are good and the smart survive.
Purse strings were tight, but money was never an object when it came to grapes. Getting the best grapes and making the best wine is what it is all about. That is what I am passionate about. The vineyards I work with are some of the best and I make the wines in the most tactile way I can. Quality drives every winemaking decision and balance is the Scott Cellars mantra.
All the wines are big, full rich versions of each varietal and blend. That is the Scott Cellars style. The Pinot Blanc is rich in stone fruit yet refined and refreshing. The Sangiovese is wildly aromatic and sets a new benchmark style for the varietal. The blends are carefully crafted and tremendously complex.
At a mere 1000 cases produced annually, Scott Cellars is a true boutique winery handcrafting wines from select blocks of the best vineyards on the Central Coast.
The Scott Cellars Evolution
After producing a variety of varietals from 2005 - 2011, in 2012 I decided to focus on the one noble varietal that had yet to make its mark in the United States: Sangiovese. Others have tried, but success has been elusive. Thus there is no benchmark for this varietal from the US. In Italy the quality of Sangiovese is unquestioned while here it is more of an afterthought. So my quest is to set the benchmark again and again as this grape takes hold here. The challenges of growing and making this complex vinifera are many but after 7 years of carefully working with and studying the varietal, I have found a voice. It is a loud clear voice that has an American accent and speaks of how it can be expressed here in the US. The varietal is no longer an immigrant, it is a native!
Style is of great concern to me as I want the wine to be an extension of the area in which it was grown and an expression of people and culture in which it was made. I seek to find a balance between the new and old world, power and elegance and the feminine and masculine of this wine. Style is driven by terroir. Sand soils tends to produce light yet wildly aromatic, feminine wines, while clay soils tend to produce dark, spicy wines. As stand-alone pieces as well as blended masterpieces, the diversity of this varietal is worthy of much more investigation.
Careful work in the vineyard is mandatory. The skins are thin but they need a lot of hang time to help respire the distinct acid. Crop thinning is also a must as the plant will over produce if allowed. Cluster protection is another issue. Thin skins can get burned bringing a raisiny flavor to the wine. So a healthy canopy that allows maximum air flow and offers sun protection is of great importance. Dappled light is best to ripen slowly while protecting the tender skins. Tannin management is vital too since this varietal has notoriously fierce tannins and thus in need of age. And they say Pinot Noir is hard to grow!
This is a quest for me and not a destination. As I tell my customers, “I have wines in the cellar that I don’t know I have created yet. The wines have not revealed themselves yet. They will tell me where to put them and I will listen.” I have no recipe nor preconceived ideas of what should or shouldn’t be. I feel that I need to listen to the voices!
Peter Scott Fraser
Scott Cellars, LLC