The Scarecrow story begins in a patch of earth with a fabled past. The J.J. Cohn Estate, where Scarecrow grapes are born, borders what was once the legendary vineyard of Inglenook winemaker Gustave Niebaum, whose plantings blanketed more than 1,000 acres of the Napa Valley at the close of the 19th century.
John Daniel Jr. took the helm at Inglenook in 1939, determined to restore the label to pre-Prohibition standing and produce world-class Bordeaux-style wines. In 1945, Daniel convinced his neighbor, J.J. Cohn, to plant eighty acres of Cabernet vines on the 180-acre parcel Cohn had purchased a few years prior. The property served as a summer retreat for Cohn's wife and their family. He had no ambitions to become a winemaker himself, but Daniel promised to buy his grapes, so Cohn planted vines. The rest, as they say, is history.
J.J. Cohn fruit figured prominently in Inglenook's superlative Cabernet Sauvignons of the post-war era, and has more recently gone into wines of such renown as Opus One, Niebaum-Coppola, Duckhorn, Insignia and Etude.
J.J. Cohn Estate grapes are highly sought-after in part because Cohn bucked the trend, begun in the mid- 1960s, of replacing vines planted on St. George rootstock with the supposedly superior AxR#I hybrid. Over time, vines grafted onto this new stock proved highly vulnerable to phylloxera. But by then, virtually all of the old St. George vines in Napa had been destroyed. Only the original 1945 J.J. Cohn vines survived. These highly prized "Old Men" continue to produce uncommonly rich fruit—the hallmark of Scarecrow wine.
But the Scarecrow story doesn’t end there. This is more than a tale of enchanted ground and the exceptional wine that flows out of it. The Scarecrow story is a story, too, of an extraordinary family legacy. Joseph Judson Cohn was born in Harlem in 1895 to Russian immigrants. Cohn spent his childhood in dire poverty and never learned to prefer the taste of fresh bread over stale—even after he’d found great success in Hollywood.
A move west in the 1920s launched Cohn’s studio career. Highly resourceful and extremely capable, Cohn began as a bookkeeper, distinguished himself early and rose quickly through the ranks to become Chief of Production at MGM. His unofficial credo, "Nothing is impossible," became the motto of his MGM staff. They knew him as a man who simply refused to take "No" for an answer. View all Scarecrow Wines
About Napa ValleyView a map of Napa Valley wineries
It's hard not to think of Napa Valley when thinking of California wines. The region is, after all, the one that brought world recognition to California wine making. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux Blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Notable FactsWithin the Napa Valley lie smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two is St.-Helena and finally, just grated an AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap and Mount Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.