The legacy of the man who made Insignia, the iconic Bordeaux-style red blend created in 1974 that propelled Joseph Phelps to fame, is defined by Pinot Noir.
Walter Schug departed this world in 2015 but his passion for Pinot Noir lives on at Schug Carneros Estate which is celebrating 41 years of devotion to the variety. Axel and Claudia Schug, third generation winegrowers, were joined by chef Kristine Schug and winemaker Johannes Scheid as they presented a retrospective tasting that spanned the past, present and future of the Carneros estate winery.
The tasting began with the wine that started it all, the Schug Cellars 1980 Heinemann Vineyard Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, which was the first wine made by Walter Schug for his own label.
Schug had Pinot Noir in his blood. He grew up in the family winery – Staatsweingut Assmannshausen – founded by his father, a Spatburgunder specialist who was surrounded by Riesling in the heart of Germany’s Mosel region.
The inaugural Schug vintage was described by Jonathan Cristaldi, editor ar large for SOMM Journal, as “…lively and energetic, showing no signs of slowing down. Packed with brown spices, earth, and black truffle notes it is a marvel at 41 years old.” He went on to characterize the following wines, “The ‘83 Heinemann vineyard was surprisingly robust and tannic, the ‘86 literally opulent and the ‘92 Cab a throwback to those California yesteryear reds that make us fall in love all over again with that unmistakable California “style” which may or may not be lost for good.”
The complete list of wines tasted included:
2020 Rose of Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
2017 Rouge de Noirs Brut, Pinot Noir Sparkling Wine, Carneros – fragrant with raspberries and crisp acidity.
1980 Heinemann Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley – matsutake mushroom, cinnamon, leather, earth, camphor.
1983 Heinemann Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley – umami, salted cherries, blood orange, sous bois.
1983 Beckstoffer Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Carneros-Napa Valley
1986 Beckstoffer Vineyard Pinot Noir, Carneros-Napa Valley – cranberry, softly textured, exotic spice
1992 Hertiage Reserve Pinot Noir, Carneros – Pretty fruit mid-palate, tobacco, sapidity
1992 Heritage Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley – very ethereal tannins, tart cassis, cumin, brown spice
2002 Heritage Reserve Chardonnay, Carneros – a stunner, balanced, brioche, lemon butter, touch of coconut yet crisp, focused
2020 White Pinot Noir, Carneros – charming, blossom, elderflower, structure from dry extract
2019 Estate Grown Chardonnay, Carneros – This was Johannes’ first vintage for the winery. Rich on the palate from musque with lemon zest.
2019 Ricci Vineyard, St. Laurent, Carneros – charming chilled, melon and spice
2018 Estate Grown Pinot Noir, Carneros – roses, pomegranate, vanilla
2019 Rancho Salina Cabernet Sauvignon, Moon Mountain – the future