Central Valley region
94 Point Winner & named 'Best of the Best!'
While it is but a small cog in their family’s huge winery business, tiny Scott Family Estate could be considered on a level with any winery in its portfolio. The family in mention is the Zaninovichs (Zann-in-ovich) who are Croatian in origin, but have been in the United States for generations. The family has owned and farmed produce and other viticultural items since the 1940’s, predominantly located throughout the Central Valley.
Sometime in the early 1970’s, Marko Zaninovich acquired some property (over 180 acres) in the highly acclaimed Arroyo Seco area of the Salinas Valley that was planted in grapes. He spruced up the property and began selling the grapes to wineries or having the grapes made into wine and then selling it off to other wineries. As Arroyo Seco grapes and wines emerged as one of the leading vineyards in the entire central coast, it became apparent to the Zaninovich Family that they would one day commemorate these wonderful grapes with a wine of their own. The acquisition of venerable San Martin Winery in early 1994 provided a platform for their activities in that area.
Meanwhile, the family had also invested in the heralded Rutherford Ranch Winery of Napa Valley with Ernie and Virginia Van Asperen. When the Van Asperens retired in May of 2000, the Zaninovichs became the owners of Rutherford Ranch, Round Hill and all associated brands of the Rutherford Wine Company.
Enter Morgan Zaninovich, 36, the Vice President and General Manager of the entire conglomeration. A Purdue graduate in Agricultural Economics, Morgan took note of the great scores and awards other wineries were making with the grapes from his Arroyo Seco vineyards.
“We always throw around a number of different marketing ideas to the family,” Morgan declared. “Some stick, others don’t. We wanted to make some really special Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs and we knew we had the grapes to do it.
We also wanted to recognize the family’s patriarch, Ray Scott, my mother’s father. He is now 98 years young and the Scott Family Estate wines are our recognition of his remarkable life.”
Morgan Zaninovich also indicated that the family took a somewhat chancy course in directing the wines be made in the classic French style rather than the more fruity California style.
“We knew our grapes really well and all are Dijon Clones. We thought the flavor profiles favored the Burgundian style as well as the low yields from the grapes. We were getting only 2 ½ to 3 tons per acre compared to 5 to 6 tons per acre others around us got. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes also benefitted from artisan handling where much of the work is done by hand. This also applied to the vines where all the cloning was grafted in our own nursery.”
The initial release of Scott Family Estate occurred in 2008, when around 700 cases became available. When the public and the wine industry press awarded the wines formidable scores and acceptance, Scott Family Estate became an overnight success.
“When we began Scott Family Estate,” continued Morgan Zaninovich, “it was pretty difficult to estimate just how well we would do. We took a long look at just what other wineries in this category were doing and took our chances. We certainly hoped like hell we weren’t creating an orphan that no one would want.”
From the plaudits that were doled out, there was little chance that Scott Family Estate would not make it on the big stage. The wines also added a super premium entry into the Rutherford Wine Company’s expansive portfolio.
“When you create something you expect to be good and then name it after your favorite relative, well that’s something to consider. I know everyone involved is extremely happy with what we have accomplished.”
Today, both parents, Marko and Theo are still active in the business. Marko takes up his time with the financial aspects and some of the growing parts of the business while Theo is involved with label development and marketing. Morgan’s brother Andrew manages all the vineyards while his brother Marko also assists in similar essentials of the business.
It isn’t that often that a large winery operation makes a big splash with a smallish, exclusive operation, but Scott Family Estate has easily accomplished that feat. Foresight, good planning and some outstanding grapes have created a vehicle that consumers will celebrate and that should certainly withstand the test of time.