American wine dream blooms on Portuguese soil

Tue Mar 24, 2009 8:43am EDT
 
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By Andrei Khalip LISBON (Reuters Life!) - Mark Schultz has spent just a few years in Portugal, has no previous wine-making experience and has amassed a heap of awards for his red wines.

The financial trader, who comes from the U.S. "beer capital" of Milwaukee, pins the success of his Mark Stephen Schultz Selection range on a lifelong passion for wine, a love for chemistry in college and a more somber "seminal moment," when he was operated on for cancer before moving to Portugal in 2004.

"It took the scare of death when I was 50 to say, okay you've been talking about it all your life. Either let's do this right now or shut up," the cheerful 57-year-old said, holding a glass during a wine-tasting in his spacious villa by a vineyard.

His website (www.msswines.com) proclaims that his plantation in Cartaxo near Lisbon is the realization of an "American dream." But Schultz admits that "more properly it's a dream of an American," adding with a laugh, in reference to sizeable costs: "Not everyone in America is stupid enough for this."

His 2005 Touriga Nacional Reserva wine won the silver medal in the National Bottled Wine Competition last year, gold in the prestigious national Coimbra contest and figures in Portugal 2008/09 Wine Guide. Others, like Private Reserve and Touriga Nacional/Syrah have also won national and regional awards.

"It was cool winning all these awards. But then I think I did expect it. I never like to do anything half-assed," he says.

Schultz, who had lived in Spain before Portugal, was lured by the rich, intensely red Portuguese wines and by the blending of various vine castes to get the best from each, which he says appealed to the trained chemist inside him.

Schultz's own plantation is yet to produce a wine, the first harvest from last year has been fermented and awaits its day.

His Selection Reserve line, of which about 350,000 bottles have been produced since 2005, is made from grapes he buys from farmers who grow the vines to his specifications in various regions. The grapes are then transformed into wines at wineries of his choice, using their abundant spare capacities.   Continued...

 
<p>Mark Stephen Schultz's from U.S. poses with a glass of white wine on the balcony of his home in Cartaxo, north of Lisbon, March 23, 2009. Even ignoring the fact that he comes from the U.S. "beer capital" Milwaukee, with just a few years in Portugal and no previous wine-making experience, Mark Stephen Schultz's reds have got an impressive number of awards. The stock trader-turned winemaker attributes the success of his Selection range to a lifelong passion for wine, college-time love for chemistry and a more sombre "seminal moment", when he was operated for cancer before moving to Portugal in 2004. REUTERS/Jose Manuel Ribeiroi</p>