Cult Wine: Scarecrow
Winemaker: Celia Welch
Proprietor: Bret Lopez
Inaugural Vintage: 2003
Annual Production: 800-1,000 cases
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Napa Valley
Other Wines: Yes, One
Estate Vineyard: Yes
Grape Source: 100% Estate Grown


In order to understand why there are thousands of people on the waiting list to buy Scarecrow and why a five-case offering brought in a record-breaking $125,000 at the 2011 Premiere Napa Valley Auction, one must learn the story of the “Old Men.”

The story began in 1945, when Hollywood legend J.J. Cohn planted 80 acres of Cabernet vines on the 180-acre parcel in Rutherford that he had purchased a few years prior as a summer retreat for his family. Cohn's property bordered the legendary Inglenook Vineyard, managed at the time by John Daniel Jr., who convinced Cohn to plant so that Inglenook could buy the grapes with a view to producing world-class Bordeaux-style wines. J.J. Cohn fruit figured prominently in Inglenook's superlative Cabernet Sauvignon of the post-war era and has more recently gone into wines of such renown as Opus One, Niebaum-Coppola, Duckhorn, Insignia and Etude.

J.J. Cohn Estate grapes are highly sought after, in part, because Cohn bucked the trend, begun in the mid 1960s, of replacing vines planted on St. George rootstock with the supposedly superior AxR#1 hybrid. Over time, vines grafted onto this new stock proved highly vulnerable to Phylloxera. But by then virtually all of the old St. George vines in Napa had been destroyed. Only the original 1945 J.J. Cohn vines survived. These highly prized “Old Men” continue to grow uncommonly rich fruit – the hallmark of Scarecrow wine. But they only produce half a ton per acre, another reason Scarecrow is so scarce.

Scarecrow gets its name from Cohn's iconic film, The Wizard of Oz. Cohn rose from dire poverty as the son of Russian immigrants in Harlem to become the chief of Production at MGM. The Scarecrow label pays tribute to the beloved movie's endearing and indomitable character, whose optimism echos Cohn's own credo, “Nothing is impossible.”

Scarecrow is owned by Bret Lopez, Cohn's grandson, who returned to Napa, after a meteoric career as a commercial photographer, to honor his family heritage and fulfill the promise of the J.J. Cohn Estate. He and his partner, artist and jeweler Mimi DeBlasio, worked with the renowned vineyard manager Michael L. Wolf and the brilliant winemaker Celia Welch to launch the Scarecrow brand. Commenting on the astounding price fetched by Scarecrow at the PNV Auction, Bret thanked Celia: “Celia Welch is a genius, a humble genius who coaxes the sublime flavors from the Old Men.”

Winery Website

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