Thursday, March 29, 2012

Winemaker Profile: Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines

If you know anything about Santa Barbara County Wine Country and its colorful characters of winemakers, then you know the name Larry Schaffer.  A couple of things come to mind when you hear his name: "eccentric," "mad scientist," "cheerleader for Santa Barbara County wines" and "zany." Perhaps you have your own description, but remember, this is a family-oriented blog.

It all started when Schaffer left a career in the publishing business to pursue a degree in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis and his dream of becoming a winemaker.  With his degree in hand, Larry moved his family from Southern California to the bucolic Santa Ynez Valley to become the enologist for Fess Parker Winery.

During his stint on the winemaking team at Fess Parker, Larry began his quest to produce Rhône varietal wines under his new label, tercero wines.  With his winemaking and sales experience, Larry has transformed his Santa Barbara County wine label into a grassroots business built on a solid viral following and word-of-mouth notoriety.  Nobody said it was going to be easy to distinguish himself from the other well-established wineries in Santa Barbara County, but Schaffer remains focused on his goal of producing acid driven, Rhône varietal wines.

Tercero Wines offers a range of wines including Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, a Rhône blend, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Rosé, and a dry Gewürztraminer.  The grapes are sourced from a numerous vineyards in Santa Barbara County including Thompson, Larner, Tierra Alta, Watch Hill, White Hawk, and Camp 4.  Be sure to ask Larry what's his favorite wine.  He'll ask you which one of your children do you love more.  Come on Larry; everyone has a favorite child.  They just don't say it front of the other children...

With six vintages under his belt, Schaffer continues to perfect his craft and expand his label with the opening of a new tasting room in Downtown Los Olivos.  You can find Schaffer and tercero wines at any of the tasting events held each year by the major wine industry associations such as the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association, where he serves on the Board as Vice President, Family Winemakers of California, and Rhône Rangers; just look for the guy with the Erlenmeyer flasks.  What better (or cheaper) way to decant wines, right?

If there is one thing Larry enjoys most, it's connecting with people and sharing his reasons why Santa Barbara County is the premier grape growing and wine producing region in California.  SBC is an amazingly diverse region with numerous AVAs and microclimates that truly produce some of the best wines in the world.  But whatever you do, don't loop Santa Barbara County in with the rest of the Central Coast and don't assume one part of Santa Barbara County is the same as all other parts. Schaffer will make sure you leave with the facts.  Don't worry Larry; we are quickly learning.

tercero wines
2445 Alamo Pintado Road, Los Olivos (entrance on San Marcos Ave. next to Dragonette Cellars)
(805) 245-9584
Open Friday-Monday, 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. or call for an appointment
Facebook: tercero wines
Twitter: @tercerowines

tercero wines line up
tercero wines tasting room
Schaffer pouring at Family Winemakers San Diego Tasting 2012


Wandering Wino said...

Larry is a great guy making nice Rhones and Outlier.

Xochitl said...

I never miss an opportunity to stop by Larry's table to say hi and taste his wines. I like Outlier too. Congratulations to him on following his passion so successfully - Cheers!

Anonymous said...

His wines are among the best made in the region. His passion for quality is excellent.

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