Meet the winemaker: Scythian Wine Company


2 min read

Scythian Wine Company is a project by sommelier turned winemaker Rajat Parr and philosophy professor turned winemaker Abe Schoener, who collaborate to make natural wines from organic, dry farmed 100+ year old vines from the Cucamonga Valley in southern California.

We had the chance to speak with Rajat about Scythian's work. We hope you enjoy our conversation.

Can you tell me about your background - how you came to be a winemaker and what has influenced you along the way, prior to starting Scythian Wine Company?

I started out working in restaurants for 18 years, mostly drinking European - French - wine, and getting to know the history of it definitely got me interested, in learning about the vines and how they differ around the world. That's how it got me. Old vines in particular because, in the new world and in California especially, there's a lot more younger vineyards and so hearing that historical side really got my interest.

What led to you starting Scythian Wine Company? How did you and Abe Schoener cross paths?

I met Abe in around 2010 when I was working in a restaurant in San Francisco, I had my own restaurant there, and we connected on the topic of old vines. Then around 2018, he spent some time in Santa Barbara and was going to move to LA to start the Scholium Project - I think his first vintage was 2019. He and Christina Rasmussen came to LA at the same time and the three of us started kind of driving around Southern California looking at vineyards, at some of the old vineyards Abe had told me about. I had no idea about it really. That's when he started LA River Wine Company in 2019 and made the first vintage, so that's how we discovered all these vineyards, mostly drinking European wine. 

Why were old vines so interesting to you? Why do they matter from a historical perspective?

Everyone in France and Spain would mention how old vines are better vines, so to me I always had this idea about old vines and then I went to the Canary Islands in 2017 and saw some vines which were 2-300 years old, which just got me intrigued. I came back to California and asked a friend of mine, where are the old vines in California? Who told me either up north in Sacramento or south of LA. It was just the history side of things and how much the Europeans admired old vines that got us interested. 

Grapes loaded onto a truck, ready to go to the Scythian cellars.

Can you tell me about your other project, Phelan Farm, and how you work there?

Phelan Farm is where I live now, in Cambria. It's maybe 5-6 hours north of the vineyards in Cucamonga and we have 4.5 hectares of vines and some apples. We grow other things here, but mainly grapes. It's a very different climate. It's very coastal, cool, foggy and wet as opposed to the Cucamonga, which is warm and dry, and very sunny. Here at Phelan Farm, we have mostly Jura and Savoie varieties and farm in a regenerative way, with no chemicals in the vineyards or the cellar. 

Visit Scythian Wine Company's RAW WINE profile to learn more about the winery, and discover which RAW WINE fairs they're pouring at soon.

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