FULL BODIED SERIES: 1 ON 1 WITH MICHAEL SCHOLZ, VP OF WINEMAKING – ST. SUPÉRY ESTATE VINEYARD & WINERY

The year is almost over! Several superlatives can be used to describe 2020: “weirdest,” “most unforgettable,” “most complaints about Wi-Fi.” Fortunately, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and FaceTime helped connect us over long distances. Of course, it wasn’t the same not seeing my “apple cheek” niece and nephew smile, hearing my brother-in-law complain about the Cowboys losing (per usual), or my mother telling me how much she loves me in person. “Love has no bounds.” This holiday season has put that to the test. I try to remember these are the times to lean into your health and loves ones, hopefully over a glass of wine.

Speaking of love…do you care about the environment? Do you believe in giving back to the earth? St. Supéry is Certified Green for Land & Winery with a commitment to protecting our environment for future generations. I would like to say that is what initially caught my interest, but I must admit that the name was already in my head from my wife’s insistence on reading the “St. Supéry” sign in her overly exaggerated middle school French accent whenever we would drive by their Rutherford Estate. I figured at the very least it was my duty to visit – apologize for my family’s disrespect LOL – and try the wines.

This fall I finally turned into their driveway to meet with Michael Scholz, Winemaker for St. Supéry in Rutherford, Napa Valley CA. To say the estate is a picturesque assortment of vibrant green is an understatement. After checking in and reading the lengthy (but much appreciated) sign regarding COVID procedures, I met up with with Michael near a Destemmer along with a very active dog.

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Pleasure to meet you Michael. Will it be just us or will your “friend” be taking part in our interview? 

(Smiles) Angus and I are a package deal. I appreciate you visiting us during these interesting times!

Before we get started, how are you and your family holding up?

Thank you for asking, Noël. This year has been difficult for everyone, some more than others. I am thankful that COVID hasn’t directly affected me or my family but the fires have…

Michael & Angus

Did you lose property?

No, but to clarify I consider the winery and its people part of my family. The fires have had an impact on St. Supéry so that has had an impact on me.

I understand, Michael, and respect that mindset. Can you talk about what happened?

We had to cancel Harvest this year. Fires are now a part of everyday life it seems. We thought a few years ago this would be a one-time thing. Now my colleagues and I are like, “Damn, again.”

I’m still educating myself on everything wine especially on the production side. How does canceling Harvest affect St. Supéry?

We will have Sauvignon Blanc this year but other no other 2020 Vintage. This will have a HUGE financial impact.

Again, I’m still learning so I apologize if this is obvious, but other wineries have been using “smoke-tainted” grapes over the last few years to produce wine. Is that not possible for St. Supéry?

Not at all. It’s a question everyone in the wine industry is thinking about. There are levels to how much of an impact the smoke has had on the grapes. At St. Supéry we determined our harvest was affected to such a degree that we couldn’t produce wine this year. Our pledge is to put the “best wine in bottle,” which is one of our highest commitments. 

Principles are easy until they are inconvenient, but if you break them, were they ever worth anything?

That’s it exactly. I’m lucky we are in a position to financially absorb this, keep our doors open, and satisfy our customers.

Changing gears…This may not be the first time you have heard this, but do I detect an accent? Sounds Australian. Am I close?

(Laughs) You are correct! This is the first time I heard that…today. I grew up in Australia’s Barossa Valley on an old family vineyard.

I see wine is your blood. Is that where your passion for wine comes from?

Yes, but I would say “viticulture” as my heart and soul are in the field. I’m a country boy who loved driving the tractor around the farm as a kid. I actually started as a grape grower so winemaking came later.

Barossa is a renowned wine region. I’m sure you could have stayed in Barossa. How did you end up in the US?

Winemakers love to travel to other regions to learn about all things wine. I made it a goal to work cellars in other countries which brought me to the states. (Laughs) I did intend to go back to Australia but I kept getting invited back, which is what eventually lead to my role at St. Supéry. 

 So, Michael what should “lead” others to St Supéry? Why should wine newbies and connoisseurs visit?

St. Supéry is committed to longevity! We will leave the land in better condition than we found it for future generations. Furthermore, we are an a “Estate brand” which means our wines are produced from grapes grown on our properties. As a sustainable farm we control 100% of the process from vine to glass. (Smirking) Lastly, we have chickens.

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I’m was taking a sip of wine when he made the “chicken” comment so I nearly spit it out with laughter.

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Well, I was on the fence about St. Supéry, but knowing about the chickens just brought it home for me. 

(Laughs) It’s usually what closes the deal for most people. Seriously though, wine is a culture of sitting around a table sharing ideas and experiences. St. Supéry is proud to be a part of that, whether you are on site here or with one of our bottles wherever you are in the world.

I’m convinced, Michael, but with so many wines to choose from at St. Supéry where do I start?

Start with RU3 which fully represents our property. The “R” & “U” stand for Rutherford.  The “3” signifies the three winemakers involved in the development and the three varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot) used to make the wine. 

Is this your favorite wine at St. Supéry?

(Smiles) Asking me about my favorite wine is like asking me about my favorite kid. However, I will say Cabernet Blends in general are my favorite.

Outside Tasting Area

I love wine but I’m in love with wine events. What is your favorite event at St. Supéry? 

Spring Fling in April/May.

Any final words?

Things will be better tomorrow than yesterday.

Wines to try: 2015 Napa Valley Estate Élu. 2018 Napa Valley Estate Virtú. 2018 Dollarhide Estate Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. RU3 – ANY YEAR

Website: https://stsupery.com

Location: 8440 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford, CA

Phone: 707.963.4507

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