tercero’s Larry Schaffer, Rhone specialist: part 2 red wines


Whether you are a red wine fan or a white wine fan, whether you are an adventurous wine drinker or a more traditional one, a visit to Santa Barbara County’s tercero in Los Olivos is well worth a trip just off the main drag (2445 Alamo Pintado Ave, suite 104).

At the end of our late February visit, Que Syrah Sue bought seven bottles of tercero and I bought six. We were both tempted to buy more and we both look forward to going back. And here’s why:

tercero owner and winemaker Larry Schaffer  has a wonderful philosophy and personality, and we appreciate his approach to wine to really showcase the fruit and not mask it with oak. We appreciate his playfulness and willingness to take chances with and play which is refreshing in a wine industry that can be so pretentious.

Larry got into wine from publishing because he’d done what he’d wanted to do in that field and he was curious how grapes turned into wine. After four years of study, he became Enologist for Fess Parker Winery in the Santa Ynez Valley, where he found a winemaking community willing and wanting to help each other plus a great place to raise his children. A year later, he took the plunge to buying grapes and making his own wines. Now he uses his sales/marketing skills along with his technical winemaking skills to see what he can produce with a special interest in wines from the Rhone region of Spain: grenache, syrah, mourvedre, roussanne, grenache blanc, and more.

Where did the name TERCERO come from? Larry says that it means ‘third’ in Spanish, and he’s the third child in his family plus he has three kids, and it’s the name of the dorms he lived in at UC Davis.

Below are our thoughts on many of the tercero red wines we had an opportunity to taste recently; go here to read part 1 and learn more about why we love Larry and his wines. Read here about #WineStudio’s Santa Barbara Wine Love event that got us going!

tercero Aberration 13% $35

Sue was not a fan of this wine but I thought it was great: young fruit makes it fun in the nose. The tercero Aberration is meant to be like a Beaujolais, a young drinking fresh fruity wine. The vibrant pink translucent color really grabbed my attention. A great picnic wine, serve the tercero Aberration at a cool temperature. It has lots of Christmas spice and would be a great wine for a holiday party or meal. The nose was very unusual — hard to place it. The whole cluster fruit and fermentation gives it a surprising depth. The tercero Aberration is made from Cinnsult, grenache, and mourvedre fruit came from camp 4.

aberration label sm

This image from the tercero website shows what the new labels look like!

tercero Grenache Larner 2010 $35

Larry said this tercero Grenache Larner 2010 has elements of a warm climate grenache in a cold climate year– the acidity level is great in this wine. While it was a cold year, it was a cold crop –a frost year but a bolder and bigger wine than the 2011. Sue and I both bought bottles of the 2010 Grenache: we were both impressed by its intensity. We are really excited about trying this wine with food.

“Whole cluster needs time,” says Larry.

tercero Grenache Larner Vineyard 2011 14.5% alcohol – $35.00

This is a bright, fruity wine that we sampled as part of February’s #winestudio event. We sampled it again in the tasting room–the wine had been opened for a week and it was still vibrant and delicious, with plentiful baking spices on the nose. We were impressed that Larry did nothing except screw the cap closed and keep it at a cool temperature.

I loved this wine paired with the brininess of herbed lemon greek olives.

tercero Grenache Larner Vineyard 2011 is a wine that can go from the salad plate to the main plate.

The tercero Grenache Larner Vineyard 2011 also does extremely well with vegetables. We made roasted brussel sprouts and surprisingly they were wonderful with this wine. We also had it with a beet salad, and it was fabulous. The tercero Grenache Larner Vineyard 2011 went well with lamb chops as well. The herbs and spices brought out the fruit in the wine and complimented the meal. The tercero Grenache Larner Vineyard 2011 would go well with any roasted vegetables or soups that are made with roasted vegies. It would go well with roast pork or beef with roast vegies on the side.

The Grenache even paired well with the oysters: it brought out the earthy richness in the Pacifics from Jolly Oyster (grown in Baja).

Color is really pretty; for a 2011 it looks young in the glass because it has a purple ring around it. Grenache has such a pretty color. Swirl it around in a giant glass and look at the beautiful translucence of the garnet.

tercero Mourvedre 2012 14.5% 

When we asked Larry which varietal he liked working with the most, he said mourvedre because of the challenges that it offers — it comes in late, at the end of harvest. The 2011s, he said are acid driven and bright; the 2012s have a fresh bright nose but they are bigger than the 2011s and more structured and elegant. This is a blend of two vineyards. The 2012 showcases pure clean baking spices rather than cooking herbs, with a fresh bright nose. Bigger than 2011. We would have bought this wine but he was bottling it later that week. This was a barrel sample.

tercero Syrah 2010 Larner Vineyard 14.4% alc

Sue bought two bottles of this wine and they are both already gone — in fact, her sweetie helped her consume these almost immediately: they did not even get close to her cellar. Cofermented with viognier gives this syrah a floral aspect to go with its round body, ramped up flavors of spicy, peppery, blueberry syrah.

tercero Cuvee Loco Larner Vineyard 2010 14.8% alcohol $35.00

We first fell in love with this wine when we tasted this 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre blend on #Winestudio. Larry produced about 100 cases.

The color is more coral more orangish, orange around the rim, very dense.

The nose is a bit hot on this wine, and herbal. But while herbal sometime reads bell pepper, this is more herbs of provence: menthol, sage, lavender.

Dark deep rich husky.

The syrah and mourvedre changes the characteristics of the Grenache. This is also a different vintage which could have something to do with the fruit. We could easily drink this wine for a nice winter party. This to us was a wonderful stand alone wine. We were surprised it did not pair as well with the meal as the Grenache described above, however it was wonderful whenever it was stand alone. It was great with a nutty Ibirico cheese which brought out the tart cherry flavors, like a wine granola bar!

tercero Verbiage (rouge) 2010 62.5% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 12.5% Mourvedre

Larry says “the blend on this wine is 62.5% Grenache (from Watch Hill and Camp 4 Vineyards), 25% Syrah (from Larner and White Hawk Vineyards), and 12.5% Mourvedre (from Camp 4 as well). Each component was fermented and aged separately for 34 months in older French oak barrels.”

This is a great wine to share with good friends and for great conversations.

We thought we’d only be in tercero for an hour or so and texted home that we’d be back soon… but once Larry showed up in the tasting room and started sharing his stories we should have known we were in it for the long haul! But we loved every minute!

By the time we tasted tercero Verbiage, we had spent so much time with Larry and we had learned so much about him and his passion!

The back label reads “I love to talk -a lot!” and we can attest to this as we spent a few hours talking to Larry at his tasting room “I also love to make wine – a lot! This label pays homage to the fact that every wine tells a story. And every wine maker has stories to tell.

We both bought two bottles of this wine…and I’ve already drank one of mine at the Bruce Springsteen concert! I know, I’m such a punk eating and drinking in the parking lot! We had it with cheese, bread, crackers, and a kale salad. But it seemed right because of Larry’s background in the music publishing world.

Like we said in the beginning, it is well worth leaving the main drag in Los Olivos to find tercero and fast some off-the-beaten track very affordable Rhone red and white wines! I was camping recently about 20 minutes away from the tasting room and the only thing that kept me from driving over there instead of was that it was a  Monday and I figured he’d be closed!

PS Meet Larry yourself this weekend at Hospice du Rhone in Paso Robles or next weekend at the Spring Vintners Festival in Buellton.

3 thoughts on “tercero’s Larry Schaffer, Rhone specialist: part 2 red wines

  1. Larry was not in the music business. He was the head of marketing for Frank Schaffer
    Publications,. we published education material for the elementary grades.. Just a natural
    At marketing.
    Frank Schaffer (his dad)


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