Tercero Wines Visit - Larry Schaffer Alert!

It’s a beautiful almost Fall day here in the Bay Area. Time to finally write up the notes from my August visit to Tercero! Los Olivos is a beautiful village, and it was in full form on this warm, dusty California day. The only downer was constantly checking the weather for the huge tropical storm moving up the Sea of Cortez towards SoCal. It ended up shortening our stay as one of our party needed to leave early the next day to dodge the torrential rains heading towards her home in the San Fernando Valley. As it was, we never saw a drop of rain in Los Olivos or on our trip back North.

If you haven’t been to Los Olivos, it’s really worth checking out. Yes, it is chock full of tasting rooms and little boutiques, but it still has this bucolic California feel to it. I am a sucker for hot and dusty little hamlets – it takes me back fifty years to a California that is not quite gone yet! I had messaged @larry_schaffer a few weeks before to let him know we would be in town, and would love to meet him at his tasting room.

We arrived and Larry wasn’t there yet. We were poured the 2021 Trilogia while waiting. Trilogia is Larry’s NOT Rhône blend. The 2021 has 60% Grenache Blanc, 24% Clairette and 16% Gewürztraminer. This is a super-aromatic blend that I would describe as a bit feinherb – a little spicy with a touch of acid, but feels sweet on the palate. It is a joy to sniff.

Then Larry arrived. He seems to be going a million miles an hour. He made time for us despite having a big engagement that afternoon, and was taking care of his toddler as well. When it comes to presenting his wines, he prefers to give the technical details without stating what he thinks of it. He is more interested in our reactions to his handiwork, so is more questions asking we think.

I find this an interesting approach, because technically Larry is very sharp. He also wants his wines to reflect the year rather than pushing sameness vintage to vintage. So while he is a proponent of using yeast inoculations rather than wild yeasts, he also uses more traditional techniques, such as foot stomping. For me I read this as a drive to always produce a great product but one that will reflect the nature of the vintage.

Larry poured the 2021 Clairette Blanche. It felt like a 180 from the Triologa, as it feels and is very dry. This is a wine that screams for seafood and would be very happy with some raw oysters. My family was a bit skeptical on this one, but I think it was more the juxtaposition of tastes. This is a really great food wine.

Next up was the 2021 Malvasia Bianca. A very complete wine. This is another super aromatic wine, dolce and floral, just a feast for the nose. On the palate you get a surprise, as it is chock full-bodied of acidity and minerals, tons of orchard fruit, and a lip-smacking finish. I think this is the first year that Larry has made this. It’s well worth checking out.

Then came one of the wines I was really hoping to try, the 2021 Ros é of Mourvedre. I find this to be an understated but compelling addition to the stable of outstanding Provincial varietal Rosés. It is just spot on from the pale burnished gold color to the subtle union of smokiness, vine fruit and minerality. I really want to see what happens in a few years with this, and would love to see some WB notes on aged versions.

Larry also served his light “Summer” red, a 2021 Nouveau Mourvèdre fermented via carbonic maceration. This is a light red wine seriously made but not meant to take seriously, a real testament to the winemaker. It easily works as a red that can work as Rosé, or fit in with Pizza, burgers, grilled fish, you name it.

( We also had the 2021 Counoise, for which I tapped no notes. My only recollection is it was light, fruity and tasty in the way one expects from California Counoise.)

Larry then served up a 2020 Pinot Noir “Kessler-Haak”, from the Sta. Rita Hills. No, not Burgundy, but to me, I thought of Pommard as a reference when tasting this young wine. It has the structure needed for aging, with fruit less dominant. My notes fail me, but I recall the body being lighter than expected, which may be what made me think Pommard rather than Santa Barbara County. It isn’t something I would want to open and savor now, but want to see what develops in the years to come.

We finished with yet another non-Rhône, the 2020 Cabernet Franc. Larry described this as more akin to a Loire approach to the grape, as opposed to, say an opulent Napa Valley style. Even without this rare prompting I would totally agree, as there is a definite green streak tempering this drink. There is still ripeness as befitting Santa Barbara vines but the dark fruits mix joyfully with the vegetal side. This is a wine that belongs as part of a meal, and one of the most enjoyable California Cabernet Francs I have tasted.

After that Larry needed to run, but we spent a little more time on the tasting room veranda, enjoying watching fellow tourists go by and savoring the last sips of wine. If you make it to Los Olivos, you really need to spend some time checking out Tercero. Thank you Larry for your hospitality and superb wine!



It truly was a pleasure and honor tasting with you all last month. I dig it when berserkers let me know they will be around - I will make every effort to be there and taste in person if at all possible.

That trilogia is a really fun wine - and though it’s base lay in the rhone area ( with nearly 85% of it being Grenache Blanc and Clairette Blanche), the foot stomped Gewurztraminer certainly gives it some aromatic nuances not be found in those blends.

It was the 2022 Clairette Blanche I poured for you - my 2021 is now sold out (well I have a few cases for library and re-releases) and I’m really enjoying how that wine is turning out. I poured it at a tasting last night and a few folks picked up a nice floral quality that I had not noted before.

Glad you enjoyed that Malvasia - it’s such a fun and fascinating wine to pour for folks. And yep, that 2021 Mourvedre Rose is just hitting its stride and will continue to drink well for a few years.

I think I did pour you my 2021 Counoise, but your write up sounds like the write up for my 2021 Nouveau Mourvedre, my carbonic Mourvedre that I call my 4pm wine. I also did pour you the Counoise, but it was not fermented using carbonic maceration - it was foot stomped and fermented with the stems and then aged in 500l puncheons.

As you mentioned, the Pinot is certainly young and I also believe its best days lay ahead, but it certainly is still tasty now. And I really dig that Cab Franc - I really love Chinons and though I can’t make them here, I certainly try to nod my head to that region (I also will be bottling my first chenin shortly - I figure if I’m going to make a Loire red, I might as well do a white, too!).

Thanks again for the visit and hope to see you all down here again sooner rather than later.



Great notes. Always one of the highlights on our Central Coast trips is to visit with Larry.

Doh! It was the Nouveau Mourvèdre I described. Thanks, I’ll fix it.


Nice notes - looking forward to making it out there one day!

Larry - looking forward to seeing you in the near future!

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