Santa Barbara Wine Country has a cast of wildly eclectic characters. When you think of those characters, Larry Schaffer always comes to mind. Last year we had a wonderful opportunity to speak with Larry Schaffer who is the owner and winemaker at tercero. It was the Spring Vintners Weekend and on top of everything else, Larry had an out of town wine tasting dinner to pour his wines at. None the less, he made time for us. We met Maeapple at his tasting room and she took us through a tasting before Larry arrived. Larry is graduate of the UC Davis program for Viticulture and Enology. He is passionate about many things; wine, of course, screw caps and as we discuss with him here, Rhones.
“So I started doing Rhones. My Masters thesis was on tannin development in Syrah. And so I fell in love with Syrahs throughout the state of California. Had a couple of Grenaches that really intrigued me. My favorite wines of all time have been old world Chateau Neufs. To me there is something magical aromatically about those wines and how they develop. I love gentle giant wines that continue to expand and twist and turn and I find Rhones do that more than other varieties do.
I’m also a fan of underdogs and making Rhones in a region that is not known for Rhones is basically being an underdog. Starting off making wine you kind of have to find a niche. It can’t be what everyone else is doing, so for me that’s kind of where I got my start. That’s why I started doing what I did. And the more I did it the more variety I saw in those varieties, the more I continue to fall in love with it. I’m on the board of directors for the Rhone Ranger, I’m the President of the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Rhone Rangers.. Rhones are definitely my passion.
I hope to never get bored with doing it in Santa Barbara County. Such diverse soils climates terroir whatever you want to say. And our vintages have been so varied that there has been no similarity over the last decade of any individual wine that I have made. I enjoy that.”
You can often find Larry at his tercero Tasting room in Los Olivos. It is off the beaten path at 2445 Alamo Pintado Ave, suite 104 (find the entrance on San Marcos). They are open Thursday through Monday from noon to about 5 pm or you can call them at 805-245-9584 and set an appointment. If Larry is not there Maeapple with take great care of you. We did a pairing with the tercero 2013 Mourvedre Rose from Vogelzang Vineyard in Happy Canyon, that you can check out here.
One of the most beautiful things about Santa Barbara County Wines is that the winemakers are passionate AND accessible. They love to speak about their wines and this region. When you go to the Grand Tasting either in the Spring or at Harvest, you will often find the winemaker themselves behind the table pouring wine and speaking animatedly about these wines. The wines are their children, and they love to tell you about them. Just don’t ask for their favorite…you will always get the same answer “And which of your children is your favorite? Don’t you love them all the same?”
If you want to meet some of these passionate people you should head to the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend and their Grand Tasting on Saturday April 23rd. the links will take you to more information and tickets. You can also visit the Santa Barbara Vintners site for more details on this beautiful area and it’s wineries.