The scarecrow story begins in a patch of earth with a fabled past. The J.J. Cohn Estate, where Scarecrow grapes are born, borders what was once the legendary vineyard of Inglenook winemaker Gustave Niebaum, whose plantings blanketed more than 1,000 acres of the Napa Valley at the close of the 19th century.
John Daniel Jr. took the helm at Inglenook in 1939, determined to restore the label to pre-Prohibition standing and produce world-class Bordeaux-style wines. In 1945, Daniel convinced his neighbor, J.J. Cohn, to plant eighty acres of Cabernet vines on the 180-acre parcel Cohn had purchased a few years prior. The property served as a summer retreat for Cohn’s wife and their family. He had no ambitions to become a winemaker himself, but Daniel promised to buy his grapes, so Cohn planted vines. The rest, as they say, is history.
J.J. Cohn fruit figured prominently in Inglenook’s superlative Cabernet Sauvignons 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 the mid-1960s, of replacing vines planted on St. George rootstock with the supposedly su y superior AxR#I 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 produce uncommonly rich fruit—the hallmark of Scarecrow wine.
Vineyard Manager Michael Wolf:
The 2012 season seemed remarkably “normal” after 2011. Decent winter rainfall lingered into March which gave the vines plenty of push for early growth. Bloomtime weather was very favorable and the lack of major weather events during the season, like heat spikes, led to long even ripening. The agreeable conditions produced a good set with higher than average yields, but as always a great deal of fruit was sacrificed at the J.J. Cohn Estate in the interest of vine balance and fruit quality. The J.J. Cohn Estate was harvested between 10/4 and 10/21, just before the first significant rain of the season on 10/22, and the fruit remained in great shape.
Harvested between October 4 and 21, 2012, entirely by hand from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown on the J.J. Cohn Estate, this wine was created by selecting small blocks from the vineyard to vinify as individual lots. The wine was fermented on skins for about 4 weeks, transferred to French oak barrels and aged for about 12 months, then blended and returned to barrels for an additional 10 months. The wine was bottled without fining or filtration in July, 2014.
Winemaker Celia Welch writes of the 2012 Scarecrow:
Crafted from the oldest, most balanced and most intensely flavorful Cabernet lots grown on the J. J. Cohn Estate, this impressive wine shows dark aromas of spiced plums, blackberries, mocha and cassis. Its dark complexity is equally evident on the palate, where the wine is at once refreshing and somewhat mysterious. The layers of complex flavors reveal themselves with time in the glass, shifting and swirling between bright fruit and dark vanilla/caramel tones.