Q&A With àMaurice Winemaker Anna Schafer
Anna Schafer is an ambitious upstart in Washington's Walla Walla wine scene. Her second vintage was poured at French Laundry and Per Se, the sort of star-making placements that many vintners could only dream of. Though her family is new to the wine industry, there are traces of its history in much of Anna's work. The àMaurice name and signature come from a letter from a letter her great grandfather wrote to his father, Maurice, and her grandfather's ecologically minded approach to the timber industry imbued her with a passion for sustainability.
Q: How did you discover the world of wine?
AS: My mother is an amazing cook and my father loved wine, so beginning when I was 18 I started drinking wine with special family dinners. That is where we starting making our plan to start our winery, over the table.
Q: Why did you decide to go the route of training under winemakers as opposed to going to winemaking school?
AS: I lived in Florence, Italy to study art my junior year at university. It was there that I began to see that art could be understood better through apprenticeship rather than a true, sit and study education (although I do plenty of that on my own). When we decided that we were going to tackle the daunting world of wine, I learned more from other winemakers than I did out of a book. Supposedly there are 3,000 decisions into a bottle of wine. I don't know if it is that much, but I do know that you will learn more collectively than on your own.
Q: Why Walla Walla?
AS: When we started we wanted to be part of a community. There is a tremendous community of winemakers and growers in Walla Walla. We also have many extremely talented chefs, and local food within a few miles was important to us. I eat at a restaurant, Saffron, and my waitress is the one who grows many of the vegetables I am eating. That is farm to table!
Q: I know other winemakers in Walla Walla come to you for advice on doing Syrah right. What is your secret?
AS: Syrah, as many say, is very terroir driven. How we ferment it is based heavily on what the fruit and stems taste like. I do several different ferments: co-fermenting with Viognier, whole cluster at different percentages and whole berry. Generally we are pretty reductive in our winemaking, but sometimes the wines like having some oxygen. Each day is different, and each lot wants something different.
Q: What inspires you?
AS: In winemaking, it sounds corny, but I have to say being in the vineyard during verasion, the onset of grape ripening, and harvest. The vines are so full of life; it is hard to not feel the energy. In life, artists inspire me. Art is a broad category. My brother is a general contractor who rehabilitates previously used spaces for new tenants. His passion and detail in planning is inspiring.