Connoisseurs Fred Schrader And Michael Herklots Share Their Wine And Cigar Philosophies

Fred Schrader

If you are into hedonistically proportioned Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Schrader is a name that you already should know. Fred Schrader, co-founder of Colgin-Schrader, burst onto the Cult Cabernet scene in 1992 with quality wines that wowed connoisseurs the world over. Since leaving Colgin-Schrader, which is now simply Colgin, Fred founded Schrader Cellars and has continued his commitment to making “the best wine in the world.”

At the Kahala Food & Wine Classic I had the chance to ask the jovial connoisseur who his icons of the wine world are. Helen Turley (who is one of Schrader’s close friends and tutors, along with her husband John Wetlaufer), Henri Jayer from Burgundy, Henri Bonneau in Chateauneuf du Pape and Romano Dal Forno in Italy came to mind, all more than worthy and “uncompromising” winemakers, according to Schrader. It is refreshing to note that a Napa Valley Cabernet producer is in tune with worldly wines rather than just what’s in his back yard. Even more refreshing is Schrader’s explanation of how his philosophy is to “let the vineyard tell you,” and with his minimalist winemaking style want to express the To-Kalon Vineyard above all else. After all, Schrader reminds me that the To-Kalon vineyard was originally planted in 1858 on a rock bed, causing the vines to struggle in order to produce great fruit. “Ninety to 95 percent of the quality of the wine comes from the vineyard,” he adds.

His attention to detail is fanatic – balanced yields from particular vine rows that he contracts from Andy Beckstoffer (owner of To-Kalon Vineyard), picking time for ideal ripeness, “hands-on” fermentation, the best barrels available (Darnajou here) and knowing when to take the wine to bottle are essential differences between great and merely good wines.

All this shows in the quality of the 2005 Schrader Cellars T6 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is exclusively from the Clone 6. It has a gargantuan nose of sweet black fruit laced with a plethora of anise and vanillin spices. Explosive is a perfect word to describe it as the richness of black fruit and glycerin quickly coats your senses. There is plenty of “wow” factor in this wine, and it just keeps going. Schrader also has just begun production of Pinot Noir on 15 acres in the true Sonoma Coast planted in 2001 under the Aston Estate. I was privileged to taste the yet-to-be-released 2006 Aston Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from Clones 115 and 667. Savory notes blend together with sweet cherry, tea and vanilla in the nose and the palate. It has a sexy texture that only Pinot Noir can attain. From young vines, this is an impressive beginning for an ambitious project, one that no doubt will attain even higher heights of quality and acclaim. That is the hallmark of all Schrader’s wine projects.

Michael herklots

Lust for life – that is what Michael Herklots, general manager of Davidoff of Geneva at the Time Warner Center in New York, exhibits most of. As we enjoyed the newly released Davidoff Robusto Extra Limited Edition 2008 Reserva 12 (5.5 x 52) on a bench on the Peninsula of the Kahala Resort drinking Bollinger Champagne with a gorgeous view of Diamond Head, it was evident that Herklots enjoys his lot in life.

And he is knowledgeable beyond his years as a cigar connoisseur, with frequent visits to the Dominican Republic. We compare and contrast wine with cigars. Michael is quick to note that “wine has vintage differences, whereas most cigars are blended for consistency,” much like non-vintage Champagne, I add. He also points out that aging cigars is a very interesting exercise to see how it evolves in flavor. Age is something that cannot be replicated in a blend. The difference, he points out, is that you can still taste a cigar when it is “new” or just released and compare it with an “aged” example, which you cannot do with wine.

Herklots’ answer to my question, “what is the intellectual and cultural value of cigars?” is eloquent. First it is planted, picked, strung, fermented, aged, rolled and packed all by hand. There is the art to blending the different types of tobacco, origins and parts of the tobacco plant. “It is amazing this hand- crafted product can cost less than 10 bucks!,” he says. “Especially today in our hectic lives, it is important to be able to take the time to enjoy and unwind from your day with a cigar.”

It is a highly personal time for Herklots when he enjoys a cigar as he lets his mind wander, his problems float away with the smoke. He believes it leads to more productivity and is a reward in itself. At the same time, cigars cause an instant camaraderie that exhibited itself in the moment. Michael generously gave a cigar to another gentleman who was enjoying one only 25 feet away from us, and he reciprocated by giving us one each, as well as sharing conversation.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a CEO or a bus driver,” Herklots says. “When you enjoy a cigar you are celebrating life. That’s what is magical about cigars.”

Davidoff Robusto Extra Limited Edition 2008 Reserva 12 (5.5 x 52) Creamy starts with high-toned spices and floweriness that builds in complexity. More medium than full bodied, it is a very classy and elegant cigar that is easy to enjoy.

Winston Churchill Chequers (5.5 x 46) is the first pure Cuban seed cigar made by Davidoff utilizing Dominican Republic filler, Peruvian and Nicaraguan binder and Ecuadorian sun-grown wrapper. This was a very impressive cigar with loads of deep flavors of leather, roasted coffee bean and a hint of cocoa. Definitely on the fuller side for those looking for an impactful cigar. Excellent.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier.