Scott Harvey Wines
"I am really an old world winemaker in the new wine world"
To better understand the evolution of this month’s Platinum Series selection from Scott Harvey Wines, it is necessary to trace the career of the namesake founder/winemaker for the past three decades. Scott Harvey’s career and accomplishments rank high on the scale with other modern wine industry pioneers and ground breakers who orchestrated a number of different entities during their long careers.
The road for the wine entrepreneur began as a high school exchange student to the Rhineland Pfalz wine region of Germany where he was exposed to a number of top German wineries.
He next attended Cal State Sacramento before starting in the wine business at Amador County’s Montevina Winery. In 1975, he returned to Germany, where he apprenticed at K. Fitz-Ritter Winery while attending the Weinbau Schule in Neustadt. Completing school, Harvey returned to Montevina, where he broadened his experience in all aspects of the business. He went on to become winemaker for other Amador entities, Story Winery and Renwood Winery, where he was given credit for helping to establish Amador County as one of the top growing and producing regions in California. In 1990, Dan Berger, the well respected wine writer for the Los Angeles Times, named Scott Harvey one of the “Ten Best Winemakers in America.”
Scott Harvey went on to become winemaker for Folie A Deux Winery of Napa Valley, a well respected entity that was begun in 1996, and honed his craft for a number of years.
His own Scott Harvey Wines became a reality in 2003, when Harvey learned that Folie A Deux Winery would soon be sold to the Trinchero Family of Sutter Home Winery fame. Along with noted winemaker Richard Peterson, Harvey was then a partner in the Folie A Deux venture, in addition to serving as both president and winemaker.
“When I realized that the sale was going to take place, I immediately saw it as an opportunity to do something that some of my friends and supporters had been urging me to do for a number of years,” recalled Harvey. He then approached the other owners of Folie A Deux and gained permission to begin producing a small amount of grapes from the Sierra Foothills, the region in which he was born and had formerly worked. His intention was to make a number of small lot wines from particular grape sources that he knew to be among the best in that part of Northern California.
He wanted to produce the wines prior to the actual sale of Folie A Deux. “I was fortunate to have some great growers that were willing to give me long term contracts on some exceptional grapes,” he added. “Since I had cut my teeth in the wine business in the foothills, I knew where the finest grapes were grown and made use of the personal contacts I had developed throughout my career. It was great of the other Folie A Deux owners to allow me to get a jump start on making wines as Scott Harvey Wines.” The new winery made its initial release of almost 2,000 cases in 2004. Scott Harvey’s wines have garnered a great deal of critical acclaim since their inception some seven years ago. The wines can be found in numerous states and on many upscale wine lists around the country.
Since its beginning, Scott Harvey Wines has remained mostly a family operation. Jana Harvey, a long time wine industry veteran with an imposing resume of her own, handles all the sales and marketing as she did for several outstanding Napa Valley wineries, including Cuvaison. The couple’s nephew, Bill Crowe, has worked with Harvey for years and is now a production mainstay who gets involved in practically every aspect of the winery. Another nephew, Michael Harants, is a noted graphic artist whose first work was for the winery. Today, Harants does all of the company’s labels and has a say regarding some of the marketing and sales materials.
The winery’s tasting room is set in historic Sutter Creek, California, often referred to as the “Jewel of the Mother Lode” for the California gold rush. Harvey’s daughter, Paulette Harvey Williams, welcomes all visitors to the marvelous tasting room that is neatly located at 21 Eureka Street.
In many ways, Scott Harvey Wines could fit the definition of a near perfect winery. It continues to produce a number of wines that are palate friendly and food satisfying. Its ownership has stuck to their guns and produces wines that they enjoy making as opposed to attempting to duplicate some of the more “modern style” wineries that get great attention in the wine industry’s journals.
Through it all, Scott Harvey still considers himself something of an anomaly. He puts it thusly, “I am really an old world winemaker in the new wine world.” Whatever Harvey’s philosophy, he seems to be doing something right, and the California wine industry is all the better for it.
A Note from Scott Harvey
Dear Platinum Series Members,
The 2006 Amador County Old Vine Reserve Zinfandel is traditionally from my step Grandfather’s (George DeMille) Vineyard blended with grapes from the Steinberg Vineyard. The DeMille Vineyard is 80 years old. In the old days my step grandfather sold these grapes to home winemakers. During prohibition, Amador County actually increased in grape acreage. If he sold these grapes to the Portuguese in West Sacramento he got $25 per ton. If he sold them to the Basque on the other side of the Sierra’s in Minden/Gardnerville he got $35 per ton...so over the mountain we would go. What he didn’t sell he left setting in his front yard in the 50 pound lug boxes we used to pick grapes into. They would sit there molding until he decided nobody was going to come by and buy them.
At that point he would put them in an old 4ft x 6ft dairy tank and beat them with a baseball bat. This made the family wine for all the family gatherings. My step grandfather was a crusty old guy having been of the famous Carlson’s Marine Raiders, who hit four beach heads in the South Pacific in WWII, so family gatherings were venison and his rough homemade wine. When I came back from winemaking school in Germany in 1976, the venison still tasted great, but the wine no longer was palatable.
I asked Grandpa how many tons he got out of the old vineyard. He said it was an old vineyard and didn’t produce a lot, about 1 to 1.5 tons per acre or about four to six tons. “Good,” I said. “I’m buying it all.” Winery price at that time was $180 per ton – a lot better than the $35 he was getting from the Basque. I asked him how much he needed for the family and he said a barrel.
I told him I would make that wine also, wouldn’t pay him for the grapes needed to make it, but would make it and deliver it to him bottled and everything. Now I knew I was going to get great wine with that venison. About two weeks later, he showed up at the back gate of the winery with the old dairy tank and baseball bat in the back of his pickup. He said, “Scott, if you are going to make my wine, you can have all my equipment.” That was 1976, and I’ve been making wine from these grapes ever since.
This wine is produced in the old world style of balanced winemaking – made so the wine expresses the Amador Zinfandel terroir with good balance of fruit, French oak, structural tannins and medium alcohol.
Tasting notes are; briary varietal Zinfandel, deep raspberry, allspice, cloves and peppermint. Balanced with a rich full center of chocolate covered cherries and reminiscent of steak tartar. Long lingering finish showing a complete wine from beginning to end. Old Vine complexity with first growth quality.
Scott Harvey - Winemaker.
Few California winemakers have taken the course that Scott Harvey chose for his career. The early German apprenticeship and the years at Folie A Deux with Dick Peterson have indeed stamped his wines. Scott Harvey is truly a throwback to classic winemaking since he literally learned his trade from the ground up.
More about Scott and Jana Harvey
To better understand the evolution of this month's Gold Series selections from Scott Harvey Wines, it is necessary to trace the career of the namesake founder/winemaker for the past three decades. Scott Harvey's career and accomplishments rank high on the scale with other modern wine industry pioneers and ground breakers who orchestrated a number of different entities during their long careers.
The road for the now 54-year old wine entrepreneur began as a high school exchange student to the Rhineland Pfalz wine region of Germany where he was exposed to a number of top German wineries.
He next attended Cal State Sacramento before starting in the wine business at Amador County's Montevina Winery. In 1975, he returned to Germany, where he apprenticed at K. Fitz-Ritter Winery while attending the Weinbau Schule in Neustadt. Completing school, he returned to Montevina, where he broadened his experience in all aspects of the business. Three years later, he was named winemaker for another Amador entity, Story Winery.
Next in line was a stop at the new Santino Winery where Scott served as both general manager and winemaker. In 1992, Renwood Winery acquired Santino and Scott Harvey's talents and became one of the Sierra Foothills' most celebrated wineries. During this period, Scott Harvey and a handful of others were given credit for establishing Amador County as one of the top growing and producing regions in California, a status the region continues to enjoy. In 1990, Dan Berger, the well respected wine writer for the Los Angeles Times, named Scott Harvey one of the 'Ten Best Winemakers in America.'
Through it all, Scott Harvey still considers himself something of an anomaly. He puts it thusly, 'I am really an old world winemaker in the new wine world. I have always believed in the theory of making wines for food, but there is a growing trend that says that wines will be consumed without food. This isn't necessarily all bad, but it makes me return to what I know to be true. Wine doesn't taste bad without food but definitely tastes better with the correct food to accompany it. I also feel that the buying public doesn't really trust their wine merchant to the same degree that they trust their wine newspapers and periodicals, which makes for a somewhat cloudy situation.'
Harvey has also been a frequent judge at the California State Fair where he as literally judged hundreds of wines at a time. He knows that the wines that often get the best ratings are wines that have high alcohol or high acidity and somehow managed to catch the judges' attention.