Scholium Project Tasting with Abe Schoener

Abe Schoener from Scholium Project Wines

Abe Schoener is a sommelier's winemaker and if he's coming to town, you do whatever it takes to get an audience with him. I met Abe for the first time yesterday morning when I had and opportunity to taste through his Scholium Project Selections at the Cream Wine Company headquarters.

Something rather unique struck me about Abe upon our initial greeting -- he had a warm handshake. Not a sweaty paw kind of handshake but rather one that emits waves of vibrant energy that conveys a sense of who he is as a person. If humans can embody a biodynamic force field, Abe certainly has one. I could see why so many of my colleagues have become enamored with him - he draws you in from the very start. 

We sat down for the tasting and Abe took me through the genesis and history of his winemaking career. He began in 1998 when he took a sabbatical from teaching ancient philosophy at St. John's college to follow his interest in the biology behind grape growing. He met John Kongsgaard during an internship at Stag's Leap Cellars and from there a desire to start his own winery eventually blossomed into the Scholium Project.

Abe's style of winemaking - one that endears his legion of fans in the sommelier community - is based on non-intervention and experimentation. He speaks of his wines as I imagine a Montessori school teacher would describe his/her students: each one on its own unique and individual path. His job is to foster, nurture and guide but basically let the wine find its ultimate destiny. According to Abe, "Once you learn that wine is self-regulating, you learn to stay out of the way." Non-orthodox winemaking is his philosophy and this could mean letting a batch of Chardonnay ferment for two years if that's what it needs or barrel aging a blend without So2, racking or even topping off. With conventional winemaking, these techniques may not necessarily give you successful results but in the limelight of Abe's magical energy, his wines thrive and eventually come into their own.

Will soon be available at The Boarding House

We began the tasting with the Clos Thalès wines from Maury in the Roussillon, midway between Priorat and the northern Rhone and forty miles inland from Collioure. The vineyards are planted in broken schist and decomposed granite. The conditions are so harsh that not much else grows in the vineyards; even weeds are scarce. Clos Thalès is a collaborative effort between nine friends including Abe, Master Sommelier Chris Blanchard and his partner Kimberly Jones. I was actually first introduced to Clos Thalès by Chris and Kimberly. They had generously shared a bottle of the Carignane Blanc with me back in April and it rocked my world as I had never even dreamed Carignane Blanc was possible. They said Abe and Cream were bringing it into Illinois and I was on a mission to secure an allocation for The Boarding House.

By law, Maury can be white, red (minimum 75% Grenache) and the most popular style - fortified and sweet. The Clos Thalès wines don't conform to the local appellation laws which is a good thing. The inspiration behind the project was to make wine from "crazy ancient vineyards" planted with Carignane, Carignane Blanc, Grenache, Grenache Gris and other white grapes.

2008 Clos Thalès Foun del Bosc Blanc -- made from a selection of Carignane Noir grapes that at some point mutated to white grapes. This was a very unique experience as I had never seen or even heard of Carignane Blanc until the Clos Thalès wines. Nose exudes mango skin, peach fuzz, peach pit, wet gravel, honeysuckle. Palate is savory and loaded with umami driven notes of almond skin. Alcohol clocks in at 14.9% but you don't feel it.

2007 Clos Thalès Clos d'en Coulon -- 100% Grenache. Tasting this wine reminded me of Jay McInerney's quote about Grenache from his book, Bacchus and Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar, "Theoretically, each brings something different to the party: Sturdy Mourvedre provides the house; peppery Counoise is the skinny joke teller; Syrah broods and leans against the wall, pretending to hold it up; and Grenache sashays in and promises great sex to everyone in the room." Sometimes the promise can empty but this is what Grenache is like when it's great. Nose jumps at you with ripe raspberries, strawberries, port, fig compote and raisins. Palate has great structure with dry and dusty tannins, excellent concentration. Flavor reminds me of the fig jam that comes on cheese boards and I can see this pairing quite nicely with aged sheep cheese or even strong game such as venison.

The Scholium Project lineup - each one unique, delicious and a must-have experience

Next we moved on the Scholium Project wines made from small vineyards throughout California. Abe purposely doesn't indicate the grape and favors the broad California appellation on his labels as to prevent any preconceived notions. Many of the wines are named in honor of ancient references - Abe studied ancient Greek philosophy.

09 Scholium Project Naucratis Verhelho, Los Slough Vineyard, Clarksburg -- Lost Slough Vineyard is located in the Sacramento Delta. Stainless steel fermented and aged. Tropical nose with peaches and green apples. Very fresh and bright style, perfect for summer sipping. Freshness gives way to umami savoriness and minerality. Crisp acidity makes me crave calamari and seafood with a lemon white wine sauce. Takes me to Galicia!

09 Riquewihr Los Slough Vineyards  (500 ml) -- Riquewihr is a village in Alsace and this is a fitting homage to an Alsace style Gewurztraminer. Mango, peaches, lychees, floral. Voluptuous, curvy and sexy but not the sloppy, spilling out kind. Think the late Anna Nicole Smith during her Guess Jeans days. Crisp texture, dry and slight nuttiness on the finish.

09 Midan Al-Tahrir -- Name inspired by the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt. Blend of three vineyards, four grapes (Verdelho, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc). Barrel fermented and aged for two years without racking, stirring or SO2. Considering this wine was basically left alone for two years, I would expect it to be oxidized and sherry-like but the nose is remarkably fresh with notes of jasmine, roses, lychees, tropical fruit and peaches. The barrels lost about 5 inches but the micro-activity and equilibrium in the winery somehow kept the wine fresh and in balance.

07 Choephoroi Los Olivos -- 100% Chardonnay. This shows the most oxidative notes of all the wines we tasted yesterday. Made in the same manner as the Al-Tahrir but far more nutty in the nose. Palate shows a bit more freshness with lemon curd that eventually gives way to a fino sherry-like quality. I imagine this would pair well with Spanish tapas such as marcona almods, oily fish and salty, fatty jamon.

08 Choephoroi Los Olivos -- 100% Chardonnay. Remarkably different than the 07. Mush fresher in the nose with notes of honey, lemons, lively and bright. This took two years to ferment yet shows a great deal of vibrant youthfulness.

05 Babylon Tenbrink Vineyards -- 100% Petite Sirah. Funkiness in the nose with leather, animal, blood, reminds me of rare lamb. Excellent core of concentration with dry and dusty tannins. This is not your usual jolly, golly Petite Sirah studded with blueberry pancake syrup flavors. More serious and reminiscent of Northern Rhone Syrah. Would pair oh so well with rich, fatty meats prepared Mediterranean style with rosemary and thyme.

07 Bricco Babelico Tenbrink Vineyards -- 100% Petite Sirah. The name evokes a Nebbiolo reference that makes complete sense once you experience the tannic finish. The fruit is luscious and friendly at first but then unexpectedly the finish leaves your mouth dry and puckered. Very interesting. This wine reminds of meeting someone really attractive and at first they are flirtatious and charming and you feel all fuzzy and giddy and then all of a sudden the object of your affection turns on you with a rude and vicious comment completely out of left field. Very interesting wine indeed and hard to believe the fruit is the same as the Babylon.


TRIO Animal Foundation Rockin' for Rescue 

My Pug, Haruki, and I will be hosting what will sure to be a rockin' good time for a rockin' good cause and we hope you can join us. Enjoy tasty bites from Hot Doug's and All on the Road Catering as you dance the night away with the musical stylings of Dr. Bombay and Purple Apple

The Trio Animal Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that assists shelters, rescues and individuals by paying the medical bills of homeless pets. TAF also promotes adoption and responsible pet ownership, including spay and neuter.

Purchase tickets here.



Six Wines for Spring

Craig Perman from Perman Wine Selections

The Boarding House won’t open until later this summer but we paid a visit to Craig Perman from Perman Selections and selected 6 wines that we think pair well with the spirit of the season. We hope you enjoy this as a preview of the types of wines you can expect to enjoy once we're ready to start pouring. With an extreme dedication to customer service, Craig has been selling wine for 13 years. Visit him and we have no doubt that you'll leave with a bottle that you’re absolutely going to love.

100% Pinot Noir


April brings wedding, brunch and bridal showers. This is the bottle to bring to add a little sparkle to any occasion. Winemaker Bertrand Brigandat produces a small range of Champagne from a small parcel of vineyards in the Aube region. The N.V. Brut Tradition is made entirely of Pinot Noir and features notes of black cherries, red fruits, hints of citrus and a long vibrant finish.

Get to know Grolleau Gris 


The road less travelled is often the most rewarding. Get to know Grolleau Gris, a rather obscure white grape variety from the Loire Valley region of France. It is known for producing fairly neutral white wines that may form part of the blend of the region's Vin de Pays Jardin de la France appellation. When restricted to low yields as it has been here, Grolleau Gris can produce wines of refreshing finesse somewhat similar in style to a snappy Sauvignon Blanc. With notes of citrus rind, stone fruits and minerals, it’s an excellent white to enjoy as an aperitif or try pairing it with lighter salads, tart & tangy cheese and Asian fare.

Vineyards in Mantinia


Stop and smell the roses. With aromas of fresh cut flowers and tree blossoms, this is springtime in a glass. Moschofilero is a deep pink-skinned grape used to make strongly perfumed wines in Greece but the shining examples come from the high plateau of Mantinia in the Peleponnese. Conditions here are much cooler therefore the grapes retain a necessary amount of acidity to balance the aromatics and keep the wine from  becoming to flabby or cloying. We suggest pairing this wine with first of the season white or green asparagus.

Note the cherry color of this rosato


 In 1992, the year Adrianna Galasso embarked on her career to become a sommelier, her father gave her, as a gift, a vineyard that he planted himself in 1972. Thus began the era of Torre dei Beati (Tower of the Blessed). Cerasuolo means “cherry" in Italian and refers to the the pale red color of rose wines. In this case, the term has a specific meaning as Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is a DOC reserved for rose wines made from the Montepulciano grape grown in Abruzzo. The Torre dei Beati is cherry pink color, dry on the palate with notes of pomegranates, cherries and a refreshing finish. It is ideal for patio picnics to be enjoyed with charcuterie and pleasant company.

The spectrum of wines from Edmunds St. John


Steve Edmunds and his wife, Cornelia St. John, started Edmunds St John in 1985. They were part of early pioneers who worked with Rhone varietals such as Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre and this is their version of another often overlooked grape - Gamay. Craig mentioned that he was getting this Gamay in stock soon and we both agree that Gamay often gets a bad rap. One can blame nouveau or just bad, grapey renditions but when handled properly, Gamay can rival Pinot Noir in terms of intensity, perfume and elegance. Steve sourced this Gamay from Barsotti Ranch, just to the North of Camino, at a bit over 3,000 feet elevation. The soils are composed, in large part, of decomposed granite, similar to what you'll find in the Beaujolais region in France. The color is a lovely ruby-red with notes of violets, raspberry, a little pepper and crushed minerals. Flavors are very focussed, penetrating, and persistent, with gorgeous texture, and fine length. Serve this slightly chilled and enjoy with a simple roast chicken dinner and if you happen to spot them – morel mushrooms.

Winemaker Cyriaque Rozier


Cyriaque Rozier, the highly acclaimed winemaker and vineyard manager at Château La Roque, makes his own wine under the label Château Fontanès in Pic St-Loup in the Languedoc. He first started his domaine in 2003, and undertook planting a vineyard according to biodynamic guidelines. The original cuttings for his vines were all selected from his favorite domaines in Côte-Rôtie, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and Bandol. This Rhone style blend of mostly Syrah and Grenache is an excellent wine to stock up on for everyday enjoyment. It’s hearty enough to enjoy with the last of the colder days of the season yet robust enough to pair with any excuse to fire up the grill.

Perman Wine Selections

 802 W Washington Blvd
Chicago, IL 60607
312 666 4417

Tue-Fri 12-8, Sat 11-7



Follow The Boarding House on Twitter

Our Twitter page is live and running. Follow us @BoardingHse to receive updates, wine tips, pairing suggestions and photos of our journey to The Boarding House. You can also connect with us on Facebook!

We love hearing from fellow wine and food enthusiasts so let us know about your favorite wines, pairings or what you would like to see featured when we open our doors later this summer.


Alpana Singh


Chicago Chefs Spring into Action Benefit 

The Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network (The Network)

hosts their 2012 “Chicago Chefs Spring Into Action” Benefit on

Thursday, March 22, 2012 at the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel.

The Network is a collaborative membership organization dedicated to improving the lives of those impacted by domestic violence through education, public policy and advocacy and the connection of community members to direct services providers.  

Many of Chicago’s finest chefs will be serving decadent dishes, complemented by sommeliers, and mixologists offering fine wines, gourmet coffees, teas, and unique cocktails, all in support of The Network.

I am proud to serve as the evening's Master of Ceremonies.

Participating Restaurants and Chefs include:

  • 312 Aquaponics: William Walker
  • avec: Koren Grieveson
  • Bittersweet Pastry Shop: Celeste Zeccola
  • Brunch: Joseph J. Pierro,
  • Frankie’s Scaloppine: Chris Favero & José Aguilar
  • GT Fish & Oyster: Giuseppe Tentori & Jessica Carney
  • Market Bar Chicago: Evan Packer
  • Mercadito Restaurants: Patricio Sandoval
  • Mercat a la Planxa: Patricio Sandoval
  • Park Grill Restaurant: Alex Shalev & Thomas Donnelly
  • Ristorante Prosecco: Mark Sparacino
  • Rockit Bar & Grill: Amanda Downing
  • Rosebud Restaurants: Michael Ponzio
  • Tavernita: Michael Ponzio
  • Terry’s Toffee: Terry Opalek & Michael Frontier

Guests will enjoy live and silent auctions led by Auction Specialist John Walcher of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers while strolling the chef stations and enjoying a spectrum of featured beverages including unique cocktails (sponsored by Heaven Hill Distilleries) presented by notable mixologists Angie Jackson of The Cocktail Cottage and Lynn House of Blackbird Restaurant. Gancia Asti Cuvee Platinum, Alexandria Nicole Cellars fine wines, Chicago Coffees and Teas featuring LaVazza coffee and Rishi teas, and Jo Snow Syrups presenting custom sodas will all also be serving delicious refreshments for every taste.

Tickets are available online at through Wednesday, March 22, 2012. For more information, contact the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network at 312.527.0730.