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California winemaker plans $2m central LA winery

California winemaker Abe Schoener, of boutique producer Scholium Project, is seeking funding to build a US$2m urban winery in Los Angeles.

Schoener (pictured) intends to start a winery in the Central Avenue district of Los Angeles, an area that was almost abandoned before seeing a renaissance a few years ago.

Grapes will be sourced ‘from unheralded vineyards in the hills east and north of San Diego, the Santa Monica mountains, and Rancho Cucamonga [in San Bernardino]. Lots of good old-vine fruit’, he told Decanter.com.

His plan is more evidence of an emerging trend for winemaking in the heart of big cities. Urban wineries already exist in San Francisco, New York and London.

Schoener is looking for an industrial building to house his winery, and is seeking funding ‘most likely from the kinds of people who invest in restaurants’. Single shares will be a minimum of US$120,000.

Eventually, he says, he hopes to ‘plant vineyards adjacent to the LA river in central LA — just as there used to be.’ Los Angeles is the cradle of California wine, the earliest vines being planted there before the gold rush in the 1820s.

The winery will be open to the public. ‘A tasting room in this part of LA will be a vibrant scene,’ he said. He expects to have raised the full US$2m by 1 September.

At Scholium, Schoener specialises in small quantities of high-end wines. They are carried by London merchants such as the Sampler and Roberson Wine, and are on the wine list at Claridges’ new restaurant Fera, as well as major restaurants and merchants in the United States.

Schoener denies he is a ‘natural’ winemaker but is celebrated for his non-interventionist approach to winemaking – the fermentation on the renowned Choepheroi 2008 Chardonnay took more than two years, for example.

At present Scholium produces around 3,000 cases of some dozen different wines, sourcing a wide variety of grapes from Lodi, Napa Valley and west to the Sonoma Coast.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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