Although the Erna Schein winery is young – it was founded in 2005 – the people behind it are no newcomers. Already in 1993, Les Behrens and his wife Lisa Drinkward and their friends Bob and Lily Hitchcock, started to make wines. Their wine company, Behrens & Hitchcock, soon gained a great reputation for their very serious wines. All grapes were purchased, but over the years growers with great vineyards offered them to buy grapes. The wine became better, and better. “In the end, we made some 20 different wines every year”, Les says and added that it must have been quite confusing for the consumers.
Les and Lisa, who were restaurateurs, sold their restaurant in 1997 to focus full time on the Behrens & Hitchcok label. They bought a property on the top of Spring Mountain and built a small winery. In the early 2000s, things changed. Bob and Lily wanted to retire, and in 2004 they sold their share of the company to Les and Lisa. Since there were no more Hitchcocks in the new company, they changed the name to Erna Schein, the mother of Les Behrens.
Although Lisa Drinward is a winemaker (she have her own label with the well known winemaker Françoise Peschon of Araujo), it’s Les Berhens who makes the wines, with Mark Porembowski as assistant winemaker. A dozen wines, 3 000 cases anualy, are now produced.
This is a fantastic small boutique operation!
2006 Cemetary/ 93-95 p
This is a cuvée of approximately 75-80 percent Cabernet Sauvignon with the balance of mostly Merlot and some Petite Verdot, all grapes purchased from two very famous but not official stated vineyards in St Helena (I guess I promised not to reveal which these vineyards are, so I’ll keep my mouth shut). “We have an understanding with the owners not to mention the vineyards on our labels”, Les Behrens said to me when I asked him a few years ago. Well, the source may be a secret, but there’s no secret at all that this is a stunning wine! Already on the nose, the great quality reveals itself – this is not just fermented and oak aged grape juice – this is a good example of a wine driven by its terroir.
There’s something sauvage about the nose, a kind of forest floor quality that adds complexity to the dark, ripe but very elegant fruit. I find the combination of a typical Californian cabernet and classic clarets of Bordeaux to be very interesting, and seductive. Around 90 percent of the French oak barrels are new – still the oak flavors are very well integrated. The classic notes and structure dominates the taste, which today is a bit too young and not completely developed to offer its full potential. After two hours in the decanter …
Drink it 2012-2026.