Los Angeles Natural Wine From Pre-Prohibition Vines: Rajat Parr's Scythian Wine Co.

Rajat Parr has had his hands in a lot of amazing wine projects, including Phelan Farms, Domaine de la Côte, Evening Land, and Sandhi; Scythian Wine Co. may be his most ambitious and unique yet.

Introducing the newest project from Rajat Parr: Scythian Wine Co. A former sommelier turned vigneron, Raj is now resurrecting the reputation of pre-Prohibition vines from around Los Angeles County (yes, Los Angeles, really). In 2019 Raj and Dominic Galleano started rehabilitating his family's old vines that have been hidden away in between warehouses, corporate parks, neighborhoods, and highways.

Before Prohibition, Los Angeles was actually the epicenter of the California wine industry, producing great wines from varieties such as Palomino, Mission (aka Pais), Garnacha Tintorera and Zinfandel. Only a few of these vines survived prohibition and are a glimpse into California's wine heritage and what could’ve been California and North America's wine legacy if not for Prohibition. The vine’s Raj sources fruit from are nearly over 100 years old and none of the vineyards have ever seen chemical treatments; not even copper or sulfur, which are permitted in organic farming.

From these miraculous survivors Raj makes low-intervention wines in a small cellar near Boyle Heights, just east of Downtown Los Angeles, using minimal additives and neutral vessels. The vineyards Raj is sourcing from are all on sandy granitic soils including the Lopez Vineyard, planted in 1912 in San Bernadino, Francis Road Vineyard, planted in 1912 in Ontario, the Galleano Home Vineyard planted in 1912 in Jurupa Valley, and the Lone Wolf Vineyard, planted in 1896 in the Pechanga Native American Reservation in Temecula Valley.

Since these vines are very old they are naturally low yielding so only a small amount of wine is able to be produced. During Raj’s recent visit I was able to tie together a bit of the history of the historic winery still standing in Downtown LA and the vines that they are using today. The wines are just as energetic and lively as any we have featured in the shop and as a native Angeleno I get just a bit hometown proud to see such an exemplary steward for natural winemaking producing high quality wines from a once forgotten mainstay of the California wine industry.


On a recent extended trip to my stomping grounds I learned about Los Angeles’ wine making history with a visit to some of the oldest buildings in Downtown Los Angeles’ Olvera Street. This is a place I used to visit often as a child, as many Mexican-American families do, including the site of one of the earliest wineries in California. Since then I’ve put together bits and pieces of what could possibly be a resurgence of a growing natural wine scene out of SoCal with rumblings of wine coming from unexpected locales just north of LA, just east, and a bit further south from Temecula among other locations.
Rajat Parr hails from Calcutta, India where he read about wine and observed his cousins restaurants but never tasted wine until he was 20 while living with an uncle in London. After graduating from Culinary Institute of America in New York and an externship as a chef at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, Parr moved to San Francisco and quickly rose through the ranks to become an assistant to celebrity-sommelier Larry Stone at the Rubicon Restaurant. After only a few years Raj became a sommelier himself curating some of the largest and most well known restaurants wine programs before venturing away from wine service to become a vigneron himself in the early part of the 2000's. Parr was featured in the 2015 documentary Somm: Into the Bottle. Prior to the Scythians Wine Co. Raj founded multiple wine labels including Domaine de la Cote, Sandhi, Phelan, and Evening Land and has collaborated with natural wine labels throughout the world including Envinate Wines from Spain.
Jeremy Hernandez
Image of Scythian Wine Co. 'Revolution' Cucamonga Valley Red 2022
Scythian Wine Co. 'Revolution' Cucamonga Valley Red 2022
The Cucamonga Revolution Red 2022 which is 70% Zinfandel and 30% Palomino from the Lopez Vineyard and drinks like a crunchy fruit forward light red, perfect for the coming warm weather. Notes of fruit leather, deep purple fruits like raspberry, and sage on the nose. There's great tension on the palate with a hint of cherry cola; thin but present tannin; and slight reminiscence of black tea. There's a rustic edge but it accompanies beautifully delicious fruit. The reference points here are the reds of Metras and Hiyu, but it has its own distinct soulful charm. JH
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Image of Scythian Wine Co. Misturado de Cucamonga 2022
Scythian Wine Co. Misturado de Cucamonga 2022
This is comprised of 50% Alicante Bouschet from the Galleano Home Vineyard, planted in 1912 in the Jurupa Valley; plus 30% Palomino and 20% Zinfandel from the Lopez Vineyard, planted in 1912 in San Bernadino. This was one of my favorites: crisp, crunchy, cherry and a bit salty, with a zippy acidic finish and great structure throughout. This has zero sulfur added, like the Misturado wines from Envinate of the same name. JH
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Image of Scythian Wine Co. The Scythians Palomino 2022
Scythian Wine Co. The Scythians Palomino 2022
The Scythians Palomino and is 95% Palomino and 5% of some unknown red and white varieties from the Lopez Vineyard, planted in 1912 in San Bernadino. The vines are on sandy granite, are dry-farmed (no irrigation) and have never been sprayed with any chemical treatments. This is a complex yet refreshing mineral white with structure and body to stand up to food. Aromas of mustard, ginger, chalk, and lemon pith are met with a bit of mint, ginger ale, and refreshing citrus on the palate. It's fermented in Cota 45 Sherry barrels wihich adds some subtle almond and pink sea salt notes. Exceptional and compelling. JH
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Image of Scythian Wine Co. 'Lone Wolf' Pais 2022
Scythian Wine Co. 'Lone Wolf' Pais 2022
[ONE BTL PER CUSTOMER] This is beautiful and vibrant expression of Mission, aka Pais. The Lone Wolf vines were planted in 1896 in Temeculah but after Prohibition were abandoned and left unpruned for many years. During this time the Mission vines interbred with each other and various other local non-vinifera varieties. So refreshing, bright and mineral, with notes of strawberry, black tea, eucalyptus and cinnamon. Beneath this is a smoky, feral complexity with hints of wheat beer and beet. An ethereal and haunting wine that is utterly unique. Only 600 bottles made with zero sulfur, unfiltered and unfined. JH
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