All Articles
All Articles
FOOD + DRINK

The Scholium Project

FOOD + DRINK

The Scholium Project

A philosopher's reductive approach to wine challenges the palate and the industry

by Karen Day
on 19 December 2011
scholium-project2.jpg scholium-project3.jpg

The idea of switching careers in mid-life may seem far-fetched for most, but for philosophy professor Abe Schoener this aspiration became a reality when he decided to turn the tables in 1998 and become a student of viticulture. Taking sabbatical from St. John's College, Schoener headed west where he enrolled as an intern at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars in Napa to gain some insight on the biology behind grape growing. Under the tutelage of Napa native and prolific winemaker John Kongsgaard, Schoener soon created his own varietal and has been experimenting with the non-intervention approach to making wine ever since, naming his small-batch operation the Scholium Project. (Scholium means a marginal note or explanatory comment made by a scholar.)

scholium-project10.jpg

Rather than manipulate the juice with additional nutrients, bacteria or enzymes, Schoener simply lets the liquid ferment to become his wine. This Taoist-like tack to producing wine is rooted in Schoener's background in ancient philosophy. He tells us, "There's no doubt about it that my wine-making has been influenced by the philosophies that I study, and to the degree that I am a non-interventionist, that is for sure a philosophical position, and one that I enjoy very much." Schoener's theoretical stance may be to let nature take its course, but this technique is also warranted through several years of trial and error where he saw that problems occurring during the process typically corrected themselves. "Once you learn that wine is self-regulating, you learn to stay out of the way."

scholium-project11.jpg

Schoener likens the more traditional method of controlling the wine fermentation process to simply a culture fixated on minimizing losses. While he admittedly lost an incredible amount of wine in the beginning, like any good scholar, his relentless research and experimentation has led to a real understanding of wine's microbial components and a greater ability to control loss. Schoener's approach is like a surfer who pushes the limits of every wave to get the most out of the ride, but understands that, no matter how skilled you become, Mother Nature is deeply complex and there is always a degree of chance.

While Schoener recognizes that winemaking is actually a simplified process—he's far from a beaker-toting chemist—he is aiming to put a little artistry back into it, creating vintages and blends that "make you sit up a little bit, but at the same time give you pleasure." The philosopher's position is ostensibly to challenge an industry that tends to unconsciously run on a flavor treadmill powered by controlled consistency on a grand scale. Schoener aims to put a delicate poetry back into the bottle by creating good wine that has evolved out of an accumulation of knowledge on the fundamentals of biology and reduction.

scholium-project4.jpg

Finding a harmonious intersection between pure science and sheer artistry, Schoener's philosophical mind for oenology leads to controversial wines that—whether "right" or "wrong"—have a distinct flavor personality that awakes your senses. Scholium Project wines sell from the online emporium (or can be tasted at San Francisco's Press Club, where we enjoyed a glass). Bottles typically span $20-$85.

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me
Loading More...