The holidays are behind us, but there is still the prospect of at least a couple more months of winter’s dreary weather before Spring arrives. In most of Northern California, this is shaping up to be a wet year. We need the rain and snow. But the long, cold, damp nights can certainly put a chill on the early part of this new year. A sip or two of Scott Harvey’s Port-style wine, Forte’ will help warm your bones and lighten your spirit.
Port originated hundreds of years ago in Europe’s wine-making and sea-faring regions when casks of wine were necessary to keep a ship’s crew happy and healthy during a long voyage. However, the constant motion, briny air, and variable temperatures in the hold of an old sailing ship would often ruin wine in the barrel. Nothing could lead to mutiny faster than running out of drinkable wine halfway through your voyage.
They found that adding some distilled spirits to the barrel stabilized the wine so it was still drinkable months later. And of course, it had a little extra kick to it. Over time, Spanish and Portuguese winemakers began producing “fortified” wines specifically to ship to England, because they would survive the long and arduous voyage. And apparently, the English enjoyed the extra kick.
Sea voyages have become a little easier since then, but luckily, Scott Harvey and Mollie's wine-making expertise extends to fortified wines. The Forte’ Port-style wine is a delightful beverage that can keep even the saltiest of sailors happy through the long voyage from here to Spring.
Forte’ is made from four Portuguese grape varietals grown especially for Scott in Amador County. The wine-making process starts like any other red wine, but at just the right point during fermentation, Scott and his protege Mollie will add in enough high-proof neutral alcohol to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar content of about 10 Brix. By comparison, most of our typical red wines are allowed to ferment until there is very little residual sugar left, well under 1 Brix.
The Forte’s higher alcohol and sugar content are the hallmarks of a classic “Late Bottled” vintage Port-style, but since it is not produced in Portugal’s Douro Valley, Scott won’t call it “Port.” The name “Forte’” embodies the characteristics of the wine, it’s fortified, it’s stronger, and it is emblematic of Scott and Mollie's expertise with a wide variety of wines.
So while we invite you to enjoy Scott Harvey wines all year round, the winter months are an especially good time to curl up with your significant other, a glass of Forte’ a good movie, a small plate of cheese and fruit, and a fire in the fireplace. Unless you were planning to sail off to Portugal for a couple of months, that’s a pretty good way to get through Winter.
California’s history is steeped in wine just as surely as it is in the gold rush that shaped the California we know today. Gold transformed Sacramento from a sleepy little outpost into a boom-town. It had the same effect on the foothill towns of Auburn, Placerville, Jackson, and the many smaller towns sprinkled in between—including a little burg at the foot of the Shenandoah Valley known as Plymouth. The gold eventually petered out. The wine stayed strong.
Imagine what life was like in the Sierra Foothills in the 1860s. The Goldrush really began in 1849 and while there were still fortunes to be pulled out of the soils and streams of what would eventually become Amador County, there was also money to be made providing the things gold miners needed. clothing, tools, food, and…yes, wine.
It was about then that a family named Upton decided to quit mining and start farming instead. They planted what was originally 16 acres of Zinfandel vines in the Shenandoah Valley. We don’t know the exact year they planted, but we do know from a surveyor’s hand-written notes that the property was planted in vines and was producing grapes in July of 1869. Hence the name of Scott Harvey’s flagship Zinfandel “Vineyard 1869.”
Those vines, now at least 152 years old, are still producing grapes and Scott Harvey has access to most of the harvest. The full story of ownership of those vines gets a little complicated, and there has already been a lot written about that. If you must, google “Vineyard 1869” and you’ll get the details. I’d like to focus on the wine Scott Harvey produces from those gnarled old vines.
Let’s start with the 2018 vintage—still available in our library collection. This Zinfandel has the balance, the character, and the Old World style you’ve come to expect from Scott Harvey Wines, but it has something so much…more.
The vines in vineyard 1869 have been growing so long, the roots reach down 20-25 feet, passing through many different strata of soil, and pulling different mineral qualities out of each one. The result is a wine of amazing complexity and a rich, smooth supple texture. The first sip invites another, and another…
The new vintage, 2019, has all the promises of the previous year. The subtle tannin backbone is tempered by the rich fruit and mineral complexity the Vineyard 1869 rootstock reliably delivers. This is a wine that’s eminently drinkable now, and will only improve with time.
And if you’re looking for older bottles of Old Vine Zin, We do have some in the library dating back several years. Some even in large format bottles. If you want to make a statement at your holiday table, a magnum (or two) of the oldest Old Vine Zinfandel in the state will certainly do that!
So with the holidays approaching, Vineyard 1869 is an elegant “message in a bottle” for your guests or as a gift to your host that you want to share the best. It’s also a great history lesson. Everyone knows about California’s Gold Rush. Not many know that the California Grape Rush was right on its heels.
If you’ve been to any of our three tasting facilities, you know that in addition to great wines, Scott Harvey also offers some really fun merchandise, too. We usually have clothing and caps, wine paraphernalia and even candles and lip balm. These items provide another way for you to savor and remember your experience with Scott Harvey Wines.
Some of these items are very popular. Men just love the “Inzinerator” T-shirt, emblazoned with a big flashy, superhero “Z.” And the ladies seem to especially like the “Tickle Me Pink” merchandise. We also have some really nice polo shirts with the Scott Harvey Griffin logo, suitable for the front nine at your favorite golf course or the back forty at your favorite vineyard.
But of all the merchandise we offer at Scott Harvey tasting rooms, the item that seems to get the most attention is “Scott’s Balls.”
You see, not every winemaker has balls like Scott Harvey, and even fewer of them actually sell their balls. Scott is more than man enough to part with his balls, after they have given their last true measure of devotion to the winemaking process.
OK—for those of you who don’t know, “Scott’s Balls” are real oak balls, milled to about the size of a ping pong ball, and they are an integral part of aging Scott Harvey red wines. Scott, and his protege, Winemaker Mollie Haycock, generally use neutral french oak barrels for aging. “Neutral” means the barrels have been used, and no longer have as much of the oak essence to impart to the wine as they did when they were brand new.
Instead, Scott and Mollie add new oak balls into the barrel and let them steep in the wine as it ages for 24 months or so. They can add as many balls as they want into each barrel and they can remove the balls whenever they want to. It gives them a little more control over that facet of the winemaking process.
Typically, the balls stay in the barrel throughout the aging period and are removed when the barrel is emptied so the wine can be bottled. So, what would you do with several thousand wine-infused oak balls?
It turns out that Scott’s Balls are great in barbecues and smokers, imparting an oaky, smokey, tangy wine flavor to whatever you put on the grill. So at Scott Harvey, we dry them and then we package them up for sale. Yes, Scott’s Balls can be purchased in their own handy little sack.
So the next time you visit us in the Shenandoah Valley, Sutter Creek or the Old Sugar Mill, check out our merchandise, take home a T-Shirt or two, and a bag of Scott’s Balls if they’re available,
And since there is absolutely no Voodoo involved in this, go ahead and light Scott’s Balls on fire anytime you want. He won't mind!
When my kids were younger, we must have watched the Disney movie “The Lion King” at least 100 times. The classic tale has since been remade as a Broadway musical. The signature song is “The Circle of Life.” Now, the Amador County foothills don’t have a lot in common with the African savannah, but the “Circle of Life” plays out in the vineyards and wineries of Amador just as surely as it does on the Serengeti.
That’s one of the (many) appealing things about wine. Each year, each varietal, each vineyard is different, but just as certainly as the sun rises and sets, the “circle of life” is present among the vines. While there is comfort in the regularity of the seasons, now, during the harvest and crush there is also the usual angst of trying to get 20 things done at the same time.
Deciding when to pick is an individual decision for each vineyard based on the sugar content of the grapes, mainly, but several other factors also come into play. And the truth is, winemakers and growers also have to deal with the purely practical variables like, are the picking crews available when you need them? Is there capacity to process the grapes and manage the juice after crush?
As the harvest ramps up and the “crush” becomes a literal term, Amador County is at its most vibrant. The grape clusters hang heavy on the vines. The leaves are showing a touch of fall color and the picking crews are out early to beat the afternoon heat. Trucks rumble along the narrow roads bringing tons of fruit to crushers.
And the wineries are alive with activity. Grapes arriving daily, the forklift scurries around moving grapes, juice, and equipment. The crusher runs almost continuously and pumps and hoses direct the juice to fermentation vats. Of course, everything must be cleaned thoroughly, too.
To be very clear, I am not personally involved in the crush, or the intense period of activity. I am comfortable in my niche, pouring Scott Harvey wine at the Old Sugar Mill. But, I have some empathy for Scott, Jana, Mollie, Dom, and the others who are directly involved in the crush. I know they enjoy it, but I also know they are happy when each harvest is done.
Thereare downtimes, too, in the winery’s circle of life. The middle of winter, when the vines are dormant and most of the winemaking has been done, offers a chance to slow down, relax, sip a bit of a previous year’s work and enjoy the circle of life from a different perspective.
So the next time you open a bottle of Scott Harvey wine, think about the year it was made—the vintage. Think about what you were doing in the fall of that year, as the grapes were being picked, crushed, and processed into the bottle you are about to open. Place the bottle into its own arc in the circle of your life, and enjoy.
Like all agriculture, growing wine grapes is subject to the whims of Mother Nature. Most growers and winemakers are used to it—as much as you can get used to something that threatens your livelihood. Wet years might provide a larger yield; more tons per acre, but the wine can literally be watered down from too much rain. Dry years, conversely, often produce the deep color and intense flavors that make for a notable vintage…but, the yield is smaller.
Most winemakers, whether they own vineyards or not, follow the weather and other variables pretty closely. They want to know what’s happening in the vineyard long before the grapes get to the crush pad. At Scott Harvey Wines, Scott, Jana, and newly promoted Winemaker, Molly Haycock all spend a lot of time in the vineyards talking to the growers, sampling grapes and planning for the harvest.
The weather at harvest time matters, too. If it’s too cold, the grapes may not develop the sugar content or other desirable components. Too hot and the grapes can get a little raisiny. Rain at the wrong time can cause fungus and other problems. These are the “usual” risk factors that make the wine business both fascinating and a little crazy-making at times. The weather, the temperature, the yield, are the typical risks involved in growing grapes and making wine.
Recently, another risk factor has been a cause for worry in the wine industry. Wildfires have always occurred in California, but lately, we have seen larger, more devastating fires that have destroyed lives, homes, and property. Recent fires in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino wine country also destroyed vineyards and wineries. The smoke was so heavy that many vineyards not directly threatened by the flames suffered “smoke taint” and the grapes were ruined.
To really understand smoke taint I think you need a degree in chemistry, but simply put, heavy or prolonged smoke in the vineyard at the wrong time can permeate the grape skins. You can’t wash it off and it isn’t always apparent. Grapes that taste fine in the field and test OK in the lab might still produce an off-flavor during fermentation that ruins the wine.
Amador County suffered through some smoky days last summer and fall, but Scott Harvey Wines has been fortunate so far. Our wine, like most of the wine produced in Amador County, has not suffered from smoke taint. The 2020 Amador vintages should be just fine.
So now, as they do every year, growers and winemakers are keeping an eye on the weather. 2021 is already noted for being a dry year. Hopefully, the vines will produce the rich, intense fruit that makes for a notable vintage. And hopefully, the yield, though it may be somewhat smaller, will still be good. And also, hopefully, despite the lack of rain and snow, the 2021 fire year will not be as intense as it has been in recent years.
There are already too many other things to worry about.
Winemaking embodies both art and science. The winemaker has to decide when to harvest based on the right sugar content, acidity, and tannin. And there are dozens more scientific variables to consider throughout the growing and winemaking process. The artistry is in knowing how these different components will interact with each other in the field, the vat, the barrel, the bottle, and eventually in the glass. In the long run, what really matters is does it taste good? Do you enjoy drinking it?
The history of wine is closely tied to the history of human society. The first “wine” was probably discovered by accident when some early humans ate wild grapes that had fermented on the vine. How long did it take before someone figured out how to improve on that natural process?
Today, viticulture and enology, the sciences of growing grapes and making wine, are taught at prestigious universities. Wine can be chemically analyzed at every stage of the process and adjusted with additives. Some wineries manipulate some of their products to provide a consistent flavor profile vintage to vintage, regardless of the natural differences that occur in the growing and winemaking cycle. And some winemakers prefer to keep things simple.
And that’s what I love about Scott Harvey Wines. Scott has access to some of the best wine grapes grown in Northern California and he generally lets the fruit speak for itself. Harvest the grapes at the right moment, crush them, ferment the juice, let it age, usually in oak barrels, but maybe stainless steel, and then bottle it. Scott doesn’t usually stray very far from that basic process. Scott’s 45-plus years of experience gives him deep insight into how annual differences in rainfall, temperature, length of the growing season and more will affect the year’s vintage.
That depth of experience also comes into play in the blending process. Many of Scott’s wines are 100 percent single varietal, and some, like the Toy Barbera, for example, are single-vineyard varietals—all Barbera from one very special vineyard. But he does blend some of our wines to provide a different flavor profile and to enhance the year-to-year differences in some varietals.
For example, take a taste of the 2018 Griffin Society Zinfandel sometime. (You have to be a wine club member to buy it.) The 2018 Zinfandel is a great wine on its own. Scott wanted to make a special wine for the Griffin Society so he blended in 24 percent of the 2018 Syrah, also a very nice stand-alone varietal. The resulting wine takes on a whole new personality with a beautiful, rich red color, a fruit-forward aroma, and a hint of cedar on the finish. It is a remarkable wine.
That’s the artistry of Scott Harvey’s winemaking. Sure, there’s science involved, too but it’s really his experience, knowledge, and palate that define Scott Harvey Wines. So, as always, we invite you to enjoy our wines with your eyes, your nose, and your palate. Share it with friends and family. Pair it with different food and enjoy it again and again in different settings. Scott Harvey wine is art in a bottle—with a little science to back it up.
Springtime in Amador County and the Shenandoah Valley means grape buds are beginning to break on the vines, wildflowers are blooming. The warmer weather makes it an idyllic setting to sit outside with a glass of wine and enjoy the annual renewal of life. The same things are true in Clarksburg at the Old Sugar Mill where Scott Harvey Wines has a third tasting site open on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Old Sugar Mill was built in 1934 to process sugar beets. It closed in 1993 and sat vacant for about a decade. The beautiful, cavernous brick buildings have now been repurposed for wine production and tasting. It sits just off the levee road along the Sacramento River among Yolo County vineyards that replaced the sugar beets many years ago. The Old Sugar Mill is home to more than a dozen wineries and lots of open space.
Yolo County recently moved into the "Orange Tier" and after so many people have been sheltered in place for so long, an open, inviting space to enjoy the spring renewal is especially welcome. There are usually some food trucks available on the weekends and visitors can purchase a variety of food items to go with the wine. There are tables and chairs, bench seating and an ample lawn area that allows for casual dining and sipping with plenty of social distance.
The Scott Harvey tasting site is in "The Boiler Room" a huge open building that is also used for weddings and other events. The tasting room staff sets up tasting tables outside as well and patrons can enjoy the spring weather as they sip Scott Harvey's spectacular wines. The site is also open for wine club members to pick up their allocations.
The Old Sugar Mill is just 15 minutes from downtown Sacramento and offers easy access to Scott Harvey Wines. The tasting room staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and always happy to see Scott Harvey fans or people new to wine altogether. The setting also makes it an attractive stop for bicyclists, boaters, and day-trippers from almost anywhere in Northern California.
The swallows have just returned to The Mill, as they do every spring to nest, giving bird watchers another reason to visit. It's fascinating to watch them flying to and from the river as they build their mud-nests in the exterior nooks and crannies of the brick buildings
Of course, Scott Harvey fans are always welcome at our Amador County winery and tasting room in the Shenandoah Valley and our second site in Sutter Creek. However, we also invite you to check out the Scott Harvey tasting room and the Old Sugar Mill. The same great wine and attention to detail in another idyllic setting.
Scott Harvey tasting rooms:
Old Sugar Mill,
35265 Willow Avenue, Clarksburg CA
11-4 Saturday and Sunday only
10861 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth CA,
11-4 every day reservations required
79 Main Street, Sutter Creek CA
11-4 Tuesday-Sunday reservations required
You may or may not know how significant the Zinfandel varietal is in Amador County, but with this month being Zinfandel month for Scott Harvey Wines, Scott took some time to elaborate on the various plantings and noteworthy events of this grape in our region. Enjoy Scott’s account of the history of how Zinfandel came to be celebrated in this part of California, and how he became involved in working with the grape.
Zinfandel first came to Amador County during the California Gold Rush. Gold was found in the Sierra Foothills in 1848, and soon the California Gold Rush of 1849 was attracting large numbers of people from all around the world to the Sierra Nevada and what would later become Amador County. These gold miners brought a thirst with them, and soon some of them began to plant vineyards on their mining claims. Incredibly, our Vineyard 1869 Zinfandel is a vineyard that still produces wine from this period.
The vineyard was planted on the Upton gold mining claim and was developed by Mahala Upton, a widow with six children. Not only is this vineyard still making wonderful wine, but many of her descendants are still farming in the Shenandoah Valley of Amador County today.
From 1920 until the end of 1933, Prohibition took its toll on Amador County’s commercial winery production with only one winery surviving. The rest of the grape growers, including my grandfather, moved to selling grapes to the home winemaking market. They sold grapes to what we called “Jobbers”. These were people that bought grapes in wooden grape boxes and sent them east on railroad cars to the markets in Chicago and New York. In fact, some of the great wine family names you know of today started out this way. The Gallo brothers, Ernest and Julio Gallo, were both born in Amador County. Robert
Mondavi, originally from an Italian mining community from the iron ranges of Minnesota, was sent to California to secure grapes during Prohibition.
Grape acreage in Amador County increased during Prohibition because the terroir in this county produces grapes at higher sugar levels while maintaining great acidity. Since home winemakers don’t use SO2 (sulfur dioxide), the naturally higher alcohol levels from the Amador Zinfandel would make the wine last longer, or as the home winemakers put it, “the wine was less likely to go sour.”
During and after Prohibition, Zinfandel growers of Amador county continued to sell their grapes to home winemakers. However, things were soon to change because of a Sacramento college teacher by the name of Charles Myers.
As an accomplished home winemaker in the early 1960s, Charles was lamenting to one of his classes about the high cost of grapes in Napa Valley. A student-directed him to her cousins in Shenandoah Valley who grew Prohibition-era Zinfandel vineyards, and the rest is history. The high quality of Charles’ Amador county Deaver Vineyard Zinfandels got people like Sacramento wine merchant, Darrel Corti, and Napa Valley’s Trinchero family to invest in Amador County Zinfandel and promote it. From there, Corti convinced a man named Cary Gott to build a substantial winery in 1973. In 1974, I went to work for Cary Gott at Montevina Winery as an apprentice. Ever since I have been making and promoting Zinfandel from Amador County, going on 46 years now.
Cheers to Zinfandel month and this incredible grape we’re proud to produce for you each year. If you’re local, stop in and try our classic Amador County wines - we’re open daily from 11am-5pm!
- Scott Harvey, Winemaker
For the last two days while in the apex of harvest PG&E elected to cut power to the whole Shenandoah Valley and Fiddletown wine appellations of Amador County. They also cut power to Napa Valley and Sonoma as well. We produce wine at three different wineries that are located in Amador County, Napa Valley, and Clarksburg. They say it is due to high wind danger. I’m not sure about the rest of the wine-growing regions in northern California, but in Amador County, there has been no wind event to speak of. I would think that PG&E would have the ability to turn on and off different areas depending on the danger in each.
This will cost our winery in revenue and potential wine quality and will probably cost the Northern California wine industry millions of dollars.
There needs to be some better answers to this problem than just shutting off the power to all of northern California’s wine regions. Otherwise, I can see the lawsuits flying at PG&E at a time they can hardly afford any more lawsuits. The other answer is to put in a permanent high-powered generator for such occasions. Probably at a cost of $20,000 or more.
CEO and Winemaker
One of the great things about wine is its versatility. There are countless varietals to choose from, all easily enjoyable in a range of settings. And since we thoroughly enjoy the outdoors here at Scott Harvey Wines, particularly during the summer months, we’re sharing our favorite ways to sip on your favorite wines all season long. So whether you’re more of a “beach bum”, prefer a day on the river or a weekend in the mountains, our wide variety of wines are the perfect complement to any day trip or vacation you plan this summer. Want to see why? Read on!
1. The Beach
Our Amador County winery might not be particularly close to the shore, but it’s one of our favorite places to visit! Amador County can be sweltering during the summer months, and there’s nothing like a beautiful day at the beach to get a breath of fresh ocean air.
While lighter whites and Rosés like our 2018 Jana Sauvignon Blanc or Tickle Me Pink are perfect for hot beach days, sometimes it gets a little breezy and chilly (at least at our Northern California beaches!).
Because of that, we love to bring along our 2016 J&S Reserve Syrah. Aromas of raspberry, pepper, and cherry and bright, spicy flavors make this a feel-good wine to walk along the beach with loved ones.
2. The River
Moving more inland but still savoring the water, a favorite pastime of ours is going to the river to relax, enjoy a meal, and cool of by canoeing or floating down. The comradery of spending time with friends and family is one of the most heartwarming parts of summer, and you can’t beat our Barberas to continue the fun in the sun!
Our 2018 Rosé of Barbera is dry in style and packed with a well-rounded mouthfeel, while our 2016 J&S Reserve Barbera is a fruit-forward wine that boasts rich, full flavors that express both the varietal and the Amador County terroir. Both wines have the potential to pair beautifully with any picnic you pack. Or, simply sip on them while you soak up the sun!
3. The Mountains
Our final favorite location to enjoy Scott’s wines is in a mountain setting, and we love our 2016 Vineyard 1869 Zinfandel anytime we head to the hills. With flavors of blackberry, fig, and violets and hints of coffee with bright currants on the nose, the old vine complexity of this wine is unmistakable and absolutely delicious.
Whether you’re sipping it in the still of the afternoon amongst the trees, on a boat on the lake, or in a group around the dinner table or a campfire, we love how this wine has the power to bring people together in even the most remote settings.
We love this idea so much, in fact, that for the second year in a row we’re thrilled to host our Wine Club Weekend Glamping Trip! If you’re a wine club member, join us as we escape the city lights and leave the noise at home. Let the beautiful scenery of the Sierra Buttes be the backdrop of a beautiful weekend with friends.
From Friday, August 23rd at 2pm through Sunday, August 25th, “glamp” in style with incredible wine and food pairings at the Lakes Basin Recreation Area at the Gold Lake Beach Resort. Pack your suitcase and hiking shoes and leave the rest to us! Enjoy group hikes during the day and wine and food pairings at night prepared by our Estate Chef, Brian Overhauser.
For more information, click here, contact email@example.com, or call us at (209) 267-0122 and ask for Melissa.
Whether you prefer the beach, are more of a casual river dweller or enjoy the serenity of the mountains, our wines are ready to go whenever and wherever you are. Happy summer, Scott Harvey fans!
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