Meet The Maker
In the faraway paradise of Tahiti, at a restaurant in Papéete in 1969, two old friends shared a bottle of 1962 Mouton Rothschild, and the love affair of Tom Schafer and the transformative power of wine began. This memorable “meet-cute” led to the founding of àMaurice winery (named in dedication to pater familias Albert Maurice Schafer) and a family that includes Anna Schafer Cohen, partner and winemaker, raised in the world of winemaking, and a leading figure to watch as she aims to widen the appeal as well as the industry of wine.
A Student of Life
Anna is a practically trained winemaker, apprenticed at a young age in the early days of àMaurice. She was a part of the winery’s foundation, from the elbow grease of harvest season, into her adulthood where she gained the practiced skills of creating that ephemeral quality of wine. “My dad was the visionary and driving force behind the winery,” noting that, “My mom is the secret weapon. She has an incredible palate, and she calls all the blending trials. She comes in at the end and has final say. It’s good to have somebody that hasn’t tried the wine because you can find nuances.” This hands-on approach has taken Anna to 36 countries, working vineyards in Northern and Southern hemispheres. She’s gone through academic oenological training, but she would be the first to credit her expertise through knowledge gained from working harvest in Argentina, or the tasting experience of Tibetan barley wine in the Szechuan province of China.
Decide What You Like
“There are few things that have that mystique to it, and wine is one of them,” says Anna, and she’s part of the shift of demystifying wine’s reputation as something elite and privileged. “The biggest thing with wine is, it’s made by farmers, produced by manual labor, and it’s magical in a way where you’re preserving and elevating it.” She is grateful over the near-extinct wine-splaining “expert” swaggering into a tasting room who knows little but says plenty. That has allowed the romance and intrigue of wine to remain, minus the pretense that has kept people from feeling free to explore it. “When you break it down, you just need to decide what you like. Nobody needs to know if they have blueberry tastes in it.” And the proof is on the shelves, whether it’s a specialty bottle shop or a grocery store – Anna credits not only the diversity of varietals that are easily available, but the wide distribution of price points on quality wines, where a reasonably priced bottle can taste as good (if not better) than a higher priced vintage, and a few searches on the internet can easily reveal those treasures.
Good People, Good Wine
When Anna recommends local wines, she talks about them in terms of the people. She has the unique perspective as an industry peer but framed within the respect she has for their wines; the quality of the product is akin to the quality of the people who made it. DeLille’s Jason Gorski? “Took the program and made it amazing – such a nice guy, reminds me of my brother.” Avennia’s Chris Peterson? “He doesn’t have an ego, and he just nails it every time. He’s very open and always open to help.” And La Rata’s Elizabeth Bourcier gets high praise from Schafer as “Hands down, the best winemaker in the state.”
People matter to Anna, as she’s one of the few who operate a successful family business – contrary to the common adage to never work with family.
Wine as Art
Anna discusses àMaurice’s wines through the people and places that created it. Their 2016 Artist Blend is a versatile Merlot-forward red, where they specifically selected warmer areas to source the Merlot grapes that have a stronger cherry-like flavor. She credits Miguel Rodriquez: “Love the way he farms. Hands down the best Cab Franc grower in the state, if not any other.” And she describes it as an art lover would discuss a favorite work: “It has a rose petal quality to it that I really love. We treat it delicately. It’s a universal wine that can pretty much go with everything. It has a lovely spirit about it.”
Family remains central to Anna’s orbit, and her career and life experience has flourished from that, thanks to a magical dinner in Tahiti, enjoyed over a memorable bottle of wine. “It sent him to the moon,” she recalls of a memory that, while not her own, has evolved to something central in her own story. “He had never had anything like that, and he kept the bottle.” It’s still there to this day, displayed with honor in the family home’s wine cellar.
On the Horizon
àMaurice continues to operate their popular wine club and are looking forward to the potential for more in-person events at their flagship tasting room and vineyard, located in Walla Walla. The Woodinville tasting room, located in the popular Hollywood District and located next door to Purple Café, continues its indoor and outdoor tastings Thursday through Monday. As the weather warms up encouraging more visitors, they recommend making reservations.
Let’s Get Pouring
Pick up a bottle of àMaurice at any Metropolitan Market location, or visit one of their two tasting room locations:
Woodinville Tasting Room | 14463 Woodinville Redmond Road NE, Woodinville, WA 98072
Walla Walla Tasting Room & Vineyard | 178 Vineyard Lane, Walla Walla, WA 99362