As I entered into the world of Fresno food culture about five years ago, certain local foodies quickly popped up on my radar. One was David Scheidt. I knew he did something in the financial world (still does), but mostly, I knew him as a knowledgeable, snarky food critic who often refers to himself in the third person (some of his chef friends do it, too – is this a thing?).
Dave knows the restaurant industry inside and out, he makes the best pasta I’ve ever had (he taught me how to make it here), and even better, he makes incredible wine from his own vineyard in Healdsburg, Calif., Mastro Scheidt Family Cellars.
He’ll be sharing every wine of his current release at The Tasting Room on Palm/Nees this Saturday, October 11, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for a Cellar Takeover (with a few snacks from Hye Girl, too).
David has been a chief encourager in my cooking and restaurant explorations over the years. Whenever I lose hope in Fresno (c’mon, we all have our moments), he reminds me about the history of local restaurants who have sustained themselves, the talents of chefs known and unknown in the area, and the community who strongly supports agriculture and quality food. Then, he pats me on the back, pours me another of glass of wine, and says, “it’s going to be alright, Alisa.”
So, meet David the winemaker in this Q&A, and then meet him in person on Saturday. Ask him to pour you a glass of the good stuff!
AM: You have some serious Fresno roots (food-related, too). Care to elaborate?
DS: It’s true, my mother’s last name is Mastro, which is a very familiar name around Fresno. When my Italian relatives left Southern Italy from the town of Bisceglie in Puglia around 1906 and came directly to Fresno to farm, the full Italian surname was Mastrogiacomo. At Ellis Island, it was shortened to Mastro.
My father’s family, the Scheidt’s from the Volga River, Prussians, settled in around Sanger and Fresno, also around 1906. My grandfather, Ferdinand, had a family farm in Sanger until the 60’s. I named the wine company, Mastro Scheidt after my parents and my craft wine growler brand is Mastrogiacomo, out of respect to the full Italian family name.
AM: How did you get interested in winemaking?
DS: Wine has always been on the table; we never had a family event without wine. When I moved to the Bay Area with my brother John in 1997, we were visiting Healdsburg regularly. We met a lot of people in the wine business, and in 2007, the first vintage from Mastro Scheidt was produced. We knew exactly what vineyards we wanted and what style of wine to produce. I learn by doing, and frankly, I jumped into the deep end of the pool to make my first vintage. We have sold out every vintage within one year of its release, so I’m doing something right.
AM: What has this year’s harvest been like for you?
DS: The 2014 Harvest was about one week earlier than last year and five weeks earlier than normal. The grapes in all of our wines are from Sonoma County, so we typically harvest grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon in October, not early September. We’ve had a couple years of drought, which effects everything and everyone, from Napa to Fresno. It’s all connected, the whole wine industry. I drank my first bottle of wine in Fresno and sold my first bottle of Mastro Scheidt wine in Fresno.
The Harvest Event: Cellar Takeover is a reminder of my connection to the Valley and the celebration we all share in a successful grape harvest, whether you’re harvesting in Madera or Napa.
AM: Which of your wines should everyone try at least once?
DS: It has to be the Craft Growler, a.k.a. The Jug. Jug wine has always been negatively viewed by pretty much everyone. I wanted to change that perception by custom-blending a high-quality wine into an easily identified craft container. We debuted The Jug in San Francisco earlier this year, and 120 jugs (one barrel of wine) sold out in two days. I knew we had something special.
AM: You’ve been known to both promote and critique a lot of local restaurants. Do you have a favorite place to eat in Fresno?
DS: Indeed, I’ve been known to dine out quite a bit. In fact, just last Friday I had the Fire Drill gourmet burger at The Schoolhouse in Sanger for lunch. Then for dinner I pulled off a very difficult maneuver, called the “Cross-Town Quadruple”, starting at Trelio for a single portion of mutton over polenta. Then, I drove across town to Lela’s for an order of carnitas egg rolls. Next, I rolled over to Cracked Pepper Bistro and had rack of lamb. And finally, I walked next door to Parma for those cookies everyone loves for dessert, along with an Amaro to aide in digestion.
Yes…all in one night. I do have a favorite: eating well!
For more information about the Cellar Takeover or to order Mastro Scheidt wines directly, visit MastroScheidt.com.
Photo Credits: David Scheidt
In midst of all this, a girl has gotta eat, right? Alisa is loves chatting with chefs behind the scenes and exploring the rich food culture of the Central Valley.