tercero’s Larry Schaffer, Rhone specialist: part 1 white wines


While February’s Santa Barbara Love #winestudio introduced Que Syrah Sue to Larry Schaffer and his Tercero wines, I met Larry in July of 2014 when he hosted a bunch of us wine bloggers at his tasting room in Los Olivos (2445 Alamo Pentad Ave) before the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Ynez.

And we all left with half a case or more of tercero wine!

Why? Specializing in Rhone wines, tercero is not only off the beaten track in Los Olivos but he offers Rhone wines that are also off the beaten track.

But overall I think it’s because Larry makes straightforward, unpretentious, accessible, enjoyable wines that are also affordable.

One: Tercero has a simple pricing strategy: all whites are $25 and all reds are $35 (except for a few library and collaborative efforts). Larry can do this partly because he doesn’t have an expensive oak treatment plan: he likes the fruit to speak for itself so he uses all neutral (at least 4 years old) French oak which means the oak is very subtle on the palate if noticed at all.

Two: Tercero uses stelvin i.e. screw top closures which are less expensive than natural corks, and as Larry proudly proclaims, he has had NO problems with TCA in his six years of wine making at Tercero. These are very uncomplicated to open! And close. And save for later in the day or for another day. These closures allow him more control over the wine, and the experience that the wine consumer will enjoy.

“I can’t be there when someone opens up my wine,” he says. “I also can not deal with variation.” So to maintain control and to reduce issues of variation, he uses stelvin or screw top closures instead of natural cork. These caps keep the wine in the bottle for aging and make them perfect for tailgating or a picnic in the park. Restaurants appreciate them as well.

Three: Tercero Wines have simple to read and comprehend labels; in the past these have featured an oak leaf but the wines he is bottling in springs 2016 have a different look.

We tasted three wines during the final February #wine studio and then the following weekend, we visited Larry in his tasting room and sampled many more– and then we each bought at least a half case…

tercero Grenache Blanc  2013  13.6% alcohol SRP $25.00 175 cases

This was Sue’s introduction to tercero, and she says it could easily become one of her favorite wines! That’s saying a lot because Que Syrah Sue is really more of a red wine drinker than a white wine one (but that is changing thanks to #WineStudio!) We liked  the tercero Grenache Blanc 2013 so much after the #winestudio tasting that we each bought a bottle when we visited Larry in the tasting room. And I am finishing up my bottle of it now as I work on this post!

For #WineStudio, we paired tercero Grenache Blanc 2013 with oysters, ceasar salad, and linguine with clam sauce. The best pairing was with the caesar salad– with plenty of anchovies!

Color is a very light straw, no green tinges like a Sauv blanc can have; tercero Grenache Blanc 2013 has a very pure pale yellow color.

The nose has more floral perfume like white flowers in the spring, honeysuckle and jasmine, rather than fruit, but the fruit in the tercero Grenache Blanc 2013 is mostly white stone fruit with some grapefruit.

On the palate, there’s a nice mouth feel, a lot of acidity but with roundness, nice minerality. It’s minerally and crisp, which is why the tercero Grenache Blanc 2013 went so well with the ceasar salad.

Grenache blanc is an interesting grape, and this is an interesting wine that would be great for picnics or summer wine. The tercero Grenache Blanc 2013 has a very fresh expression that would be fun with a watermelon mint feta salad in the summer time.

This past weekend, I brought the tercero Grenache Blanc 2013 I bought in the tasting room to the AWP conference in LA. I found myself hungry and with a few minutes between afternoon and evening sessions so went back to my car which I parked for free a few blocks away from the convention center to change and eat something. I must admit that, punk that I am, I screwed open the tercero Grenache Blanc (unchilled!), poured some into a mason jar, and enjoyed it in my car with my chicken salad from TJs (chicken, cranberries, pecans) on crackers with spring salad mix plus an aged gouda. Delish! And then again, punk that I am, I poured more into my jar and took the tercero Grenache Blanc 2013 with me to enjoy while I was at various readings and events instead of buying crummy overpriced wine by the glass! And while I was tempted, I didn’t take any photos…but I think you can picture it in your imagination! And now I am enjoying the final glass while I work on this blog post…and it is almost as fresh and lovely today as it was three days ago! The tercero Grenache Blanc 2013 is a wine I need to just always have in my cellar so next time I pass through Los Olivos, I am buying more!

tercero Outlier 2014 Dry Gewurtraminer SRP $25

Larry told us he made this wine because he enjoys spicy Asian cuisine and this wine pairs wonderfully with this style of food because it is floral, fruity and off dry. Nice palate cleaner it is slightly sweet and spicy at the same time. Gewirtz is a nice transitional wine. I really wanted to buy a bottle, so next time I will because there have been a number of occasions this past month when I thought, gee, this meal would pair so well with that wine! I am a big fan of a well-made dry Gewirtz– and this is a great example.

tercero Albarino 2014 $25 13.2% ala SRP $25

All of Larry’s white varietals are unique and unusual, and the albarino is no exception. I bought it at the tasting room even though it wasn’t open for tasting because I knew it would be interesting and good!

And I was right–it is interesting and good!


We opened it for the first night of a two month study on Tuesday nights from 6-7pm of Spanish Albarino with #WineStudio on Twitter and found that we liked it best in a Lenox Pinot Gregio glass.

Grown in a Chumash owned vineyard, this Albarino is very enjoyable and very nicely balanced with a honey, almost golden color, nose of honeysuckle and white stone fruit, and on the palate, honey, but not sweet; it has a really nice pleasant roundness on the palette especially when paired with food. The wine became much sweeter when I had it with tangy sourdough bread and chèvre with basil and sun dried tomato, however, this Albarino is a wine to enjoy with or without food.

tercero Roussanne 2013 13.7% alc $25

This easy drinking white wine is a great seafood or roast chicken wine, very clean with nice honey suckle floral elements and mouth feel. It can go from cold to room temperatures. Light colored, nice light colored food wine.

tercero Mourvedre Rose $25

Larry said he left the juice on the skins for an hour, then cold fermented it. After a transfer to older oak barrels, it was a very pale pink with an orange tinge. Light crisp clean, this wine has tropical notes including passion fruit and guava. Because it hadn’t been bottled yet, we could not take any of this wine with us, much to our dismay. Next time!

Fortunately I had a bottle of this that I bought at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference!


A visit to tercero in Los Olivos is well worth a trip just off the main drag. If you find yourself in Los Olivos or traveling past, take the road less traveled, get off the beaten path and visit Larry at tercero.

Update: Read about tercero’s RED WINES HERE. Visit Larry at Hospice du Rhone this weekend or Santa Barbara Vintners Spring  Fest next weekend.



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