Thinking about the Wine Making, and Wine Review: Scholium Project 2007 Los Olivos Vineyard Choephoroi

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Scholium Project wines are something by which I am fascinated. The wine makers describe their project very specifically as a process, which in itself may not seem remarkable. However, the point of interest here is in how thoroughly they emphasize that point, and then pair it with the reality that wine making, as a process, is one of exploring not just fruit, but decay.

What makes this interesting to me is the way in which it seems this attitude shows itself in the Scholium Project’s wine making techniques. For example, their Choephoroi Chardonnay purposefully integrates the effects of oxidation, a process most often thought of as a fault in the wine world, but that in this case proves alluring in the glass.

Reading into the goals of the Scholium Project brings out another attitude that dramatically shows through their wines. The wine makers state that their interest is less in grape varietal than in the wine their vineyard can produce, less in appellation than the characteristics of their particular location. As such, the labels of their wines highlight two choices–vineyard location, and a moniker illustrative of the particular drinks qualities. In other words, there is no reference to either varietal, or appellation on the bottle.

When opening a bottle of the Scholium Project it becomes readily clear that they are right–in their hands what matters is the actual wine they made. Each of the Scholium Project wines I’ve been lucky enough to taste shows no immediate references to typical varietal characteristics or to other wines from their surrounding areas.

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The title for this Chardonnay, Choephoroi, names ancient Greek libation bearers–those that worked in service to participants of organized festivals. On their website, the Scholium Project attributes the inspiration for such usage to the play of the same name written by Aeschylus. Keeping this reference in mind, we know not to take such an idea of wine as pleasure for granted, as Aeschylus’s play warns us about the seriousness of fate, our own passions, and the impact of such things on our own following generations.

It’s an interesting framework to consider for this wine. The flavors offered here carry a richness that alludes to the multi-generational nature of the play it honors. You may think I’m reaching here, but the layers of complexity truly are reflective of such intensive layering. As the wine begins, it shows scents of tart apple, unripe pineapple, orange zest, and even hints of cooked tomato. But as it warms the character changes, opening to the richness of almost too ripe pear mixed with marzipan, of ripe yellow plum mixed with sea salted air. The body is rich in the mouth, and yet it presents as both wonderfully flavorful and somehow delicate.

I’m impressed too by the balance of minerals offered–they start as wet chalky earth, and develop into sea water stones. As such, the minerals bring with them the balance of freshness these concentrated fleshy fruits desire.

I honestly experienced this wine as an invitation to the full range of what it is to be human, which is why I describe it in the wine comic as “erotic.” This wine makes contact with each of my senses–the color is intense, floating through a highly viscous drink, in case you wonder how my eyes might be charmed–but it also calls on my intellect. I want to take time with this wine, and in return it is patient with me–willing to open slowly to share its range of experiences–growing, fermenting, and even oxidizing; sharing with me the wine makers’ process.

If you suspect I’m being too poetic or effusive in relation to this wine… it’s hard for me to imagine how else to speak about a wine so appropriately named after an ancient Greek tragedy. Surely the wine makers couldn’t have chosen such a moving, and intellectually driven namesake without expecting to illicit the simultaneity of feeling and thought in their own wine drinkers.

Really, take time with this one. Let yourself try something surprising. It’s harder to find, but worth the effort. The Scholium Project’s 2007 Choephoroi Los Olivos Vineyards is unique.

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