Please note that we don’t get wine headaches, so we can’t comment on whether the wines will prevent them. Also, we were sent two bottles of Scout & Cellar wine after the interview happened. We did not request them, but we did not pay for them, either.
With all the green-washing out there these days, it’s certainly reasonable to question just about anything labeled “clean” or “green.” Neither term has any official meaning with anyone. But it’s a term that has meaning for Sarah Shadonix.
“I’m super passionate and geeky about wine,” she said.
Passionate enough to give up a career as a litigator, then go to work for an ecommerce site, curating their wines.
“I was going out to Sonoma [County, California] once a week, refining my skills,” she said.
Getting wine headaches
That led to an advanced certificate from the Wines & Spirit Education Trust, (the WSET thing you hear sommeliers claim fairly often). But then she started to develop headaches when she drank wine. Like many wine-drinkers facing this problem, not all wines gave her headaches. But not like many wine-drinkers, Shadonix dove “deep into the rabbit hole.”
What she found was a problem with the labeling on a lot of wines.
“There wasn’t a clear package on the market,” she said.
Which sounds a little odd when you consider just how stringent the rules are when it comes to wine labels.
Creating the winery
Shadonix decided to create her own wine company, one with a mission to create clean wine. What this means in her case, according to the Scout & Cellar website, is wine that’s been grown “without toxic pesticides” (well, not toxic to humans), “artificial processing aids or ingredients,” and wine that is low in sulfites.
Shadonix said that it was probably residue from commonly used pesticides in some of the wines she was drinking that caused her wine headaches, and also the amount of sulfites in the wine. All wine has sulfites in it. It’s a natural by-product of the fermenting process. But Scout & Cellar wines are made to have 100 parts per million of sulfites. It’s on the company’s FAQ page.
As noted above, we don’t get wine headaches so we can’t comment on whether or not you will when drinking a Scout & Cellar wine. As for the two wines we were sent, they weren’t bad.
We tasted a 2021 Conte de la Terre Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Based on the very light color and lack of florals in the nose, it was probably a cool climate Pinot Gris. The nose did have melon and a hint of minerality. The medium body could have been a combination of steel and neutral oak. A hint of richness in the mouthfeel and a bit of acidity also supports the mix of wood and metal. A bit short in the finish but very dry which can be a challenge in some “native” ferments that tend to poop out before the sugars give out. Savory snacks like spicy nuts, hard and creamy cheeses, olives and charcuterie made this wine easy to enjoy without regard to its creation. It is good wine regardless of the yeast and/or chemical inputs.
One other interesting note, Shadonix obviously understands that designating a wine as clean has no official standing. Instead, the website touts the wine company’s Clean-Crafted Commitment – which is their proprietary designation and a trademark.