When it comes to wine-making, organic is one thing, but biodynamic is a whole different level. In this episode, Arianna Lyrist sips some certified vegan, biodynamic wine, The Bernhard Cabernet Sauvignon, with Mandy Crowe Koslin of up-and-coming natural wine company, Scout & Cellar. Mandy breaks down what makes a biodynamic wine and how they ensure pure and clean products every time. They also discuss the extent of its benefits not only for wine drinkers but for the earth as well. She also talks about how she found out about Scout & Cellar and where her passion for wine came from. Tune in to learn more about sustainable wine-making practices and where to get your own glass of biodynamic wine.
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Mandy Crowe Koslin
I’m interviewing Mandy who is with an up-and-coming natural wine company called Scout & Cellar. How are you?
I’m good. I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
I’m excited to have you here. Let’s dive right in. I have this Cabernet Sauvignon that she has brought. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
That is the Bernhard. We are starting it out with a bang because that’s our show-stopping Cab. At Scout & Cellar, we are about biodynamic clean wines, and I know we are going to get into that. This is a nice, beautiful, and bold Cab that comes from Napa Valley, which Napa is known for its Cabs. The company was started by a woman named Sarah Shadonix. This is a private label that we’ve got from a vineyard in Napa. Sarah is involved with the actual production of this specific wine. It’s a certified organic and vegan Cab from Napa.
One thing I like is if you look on our website, it tells you what food pairs with each of the wines specifically. I love how it’s very down-to-earth because sometimes, you can get a little uppity with the wine pairings like a rack of lamb. They are mostly white pizza, salad or other very cool stuff. This one would be grass-fed beef or roasted mushrooms, basically a good nice steak dinner that you would want to pair with this.
This wine is so beautiful that it can be drank solo by itself. It’s nice and smooth. The name Bernhard is named after Sarah, the Scout & Cellar Owner. Her grandfather was a hairstylist back in the day many years ago. He was this really gregarious, stylish man that had these beautiful cocktail parties. He was a big Casanova and a really charming guy, so it’s named after him. This is the most expensive and nicest Cab that we have. It’s a $72 bottle of Cab from Napa Valley. I’m so glad you chose this one because this is my favorite wine that we have. It’s so good.
It’s blackberry plum.
It’s earthy but bold.It’s just incredible to see how the wine changes and goes with particular food. It makes the food and wine come alive when you put them together. Click To Tweet
Also, very light for a Cab. It’s lighter than usual.
You could have it with a steak dinner or you could drink it as an after-dinner hang out with friends.
It’s not so heavy. You can have it later at night or after a big meal. Tell me more about when did you first come to Nashville and how was your journey of going into a career in wine.
I grew up in Southern Indiana. I consider myself very much a Midwesterner. I ended up going to college at the University of Florida. It was a pretty big jump to college. I went there for a swimming scholarship. I was a swimmer on the national team and went to Olympic trials in 1996 to compete. That was my life for a long time. When I graduated college, I’ve got into medical sales and worked my way back up to be close enough to Indiana where I’m from and my parents still live but not all the way. Nashville is the biggest town in between here and there.
Midwesterner is good for sales pharmaceutical because national is big healthcare.
I have been in medical sales for fifteen years. That was my normal day job. My hobby was always very much food and wine. My husband and I met and bonded over food. We love really good food, and Nashville is an amazing place to be if you love good, new, up-and-coming, cutting-edge, and cool restaurants. By getting into those kinds of places, we, by default, got into wine pairings. Our favorite thing to do is to go and get a course-style dinner with a sommelier that pairs the wines with the food because it’s so incredible to see how the wine changes and goes with a particular food. It makes the food and the wine come alive when you put them together.
It enhances or it can be the opposite. Usually, if you have a good sommelier on your hand, then he or she will do it right. That’s cool.
That’s how I came to fall in love with wine, and what it can do to your food or even by itself. It’s all the different varietals. I fell in love with the way that wine makes me feel. I love talking about it. I’m passionate about it. That’s how I’ve got into, as a hobby, loving wine.
How did you find Scout & Cellar?
I’m one of those crunchy granola-type moms. I’m a full-time working mom and my husband is a full-time working dad. We both travel. We have three little kids that keep us super busy, so life is really overwhelming. Wine is my hobby. I’m very interested in clean living, clean eating, what kind of products do we use on our bodies or what are in these products that we don’t know about. I had gotten into that a couple of years ago but I never thought about the wine. I was feeding my kids only organic and eating only organic myself. I was trying to take care of myself and my family but then drinking whatever wine from the grocery store.
Often, to some that know to be overlooked to something that you don’t think of as far as alcohol. You have been vegetarian and eating very healthy overall, and for some reason, you don’t think about it as far as with what you drink.
It’s your indulgence, so you don’t think about it in those terms. I love red wine, and I couldn’t drink red wine because even after a glass or two, I would wake up the next day and not feel good. I would still go about my day but I would not feel so good and not my best. The more people I ran into, I found that there are people that love wine that can’t drink it at all. It prompted me to do a little bit of research on this.
What happened was I found that there are things in the wine that are possibly not good that might make you not feel so good. Some of those things for red wine are, for instance, Mega Purple. That’s a chemical that’s used as a dye in wine. If you have ever drunk red wine and had red teeth or you get that weird little funky lip line that looks like lip liner, that would be from Mega Purple. That would be something that would be in a lot of wines. It contains different GMOs, pesticides, and chemicals.
I also found out through the research that sometimes winemakers add strange things like fish bladders and egg whites to add consistency to the wine. If you have ever had, especially a red wine that has that gelatin or smooth, silky type finish, that could possibly be from an animal by-product like the fish bladder. This is why I pointed out that this wine is vegan, which may sound a little bit funny. You may think all wine is vegan but it is not because of those things. Those are some things that are added to wine that many people do not realize or do not know about.
With that, I found out about Scout & Cellar in my research and about Sarah Shadonix who is the Owner and Founder of Scout & Cellar. Sarah started this business. She’s out of Celina, Texas. She was a corporate attorney. She also has three little kids. Her husband is an attorney and very busy. She decided her passion was in wine and started studying wine. She ended up becoming a level three sommelier. I’m sure your audience knows what that means but it’s one below master level. There are only a couple of hundred people in the world that are at that level.
She was drinking all these wines and she realized that when she was drinking French wines, she didn’t feel bad the next day but when she was drinking other wines from other regions including the United States, she would feel terrible to the point of where she did not think she was going to be able to continue working in this field. Being a lawyer, she did the research.Not all wine is vegan. Click To Tweet
She found out the things that I also found out and decided to start Scout & Cellar. Scout & Cellar is Sarah traveling around the world to these small-batch family vineyards and vetting them out. First of all, do their farming practices match up with our philosophy and our mission, which is we want biodynamic wines? It goes a step further than organic, which a lot of people do not realize.
What is the definition of biodynamic? What do you mean by that?
Let me go back to organic. Back in the day, organic was king. When I was trying to figure out clean wine, I would only buy organic wine. In joining Scout & Cellar and researching, I learned organic means that during the grape growing process, there is are no GMOs or chemicals that can be used to alter the grapes in any way during the growing process but winemaking has two different processes to it. The grape growing and then the actual winemaking or the vinification of the wine.
A certified organic wine means there was nothing that was added to the grapes. It does not mean that there was nothing added during the winemaking process or there’s no extra synthetic ingredients or chemicals added during the vinification process. It could be manipulated in that process and still be an organic wine.
It’s usually depending on the harvest that year.
Biodynamic wines would mean there is nothing added. There are no GMOs or pesticides. There was no manipulation of the grapes during the growing and including the vinification process. What she’s looking for are the small-batch wineries that are making wine like wine was made hundreds of years ago. It’s old school. What I’m equating it to is like the farm-to-table food movement. It’s old-school winemaking.
I love the fact that she’s supporting these boutique wineries that offer such a heavy caliber of quality. It’s expensive to have a winery.
Biodynamic would mean no heavy machinery is used. Most of them are not mass production wineries or small boutique wineries. Most of them are handpicked, hand-harvested, and handmade, so there’s no heavy machinery, pesticides, or GMOs. None of that’s allowed in there. There are also no added sugars. That’s another big one. That’s added to a lot of the wines, especially the Stateside wines. We in the United States love our sugar. There can be up to 16 grams of sugar in a bottle of wine that’s added. That’s more than a donut.
Using this bottle here, what level in the bottle would that be?
On our website, we have the residual sugars written down for every single one of these wines, and most of them are less than 1 gram per liter of residual sugar because there’s no sugar ever added to our wine. The only sugar that’s left is what’s left after fermentation, which during fermentation, the sugar is made into alcohol, which is winemaking. That’s one of the rules of our clean crafted wine, which is a term that Sarah coined.
One of the other ones is sulfites, which is a natural anti-microbial that’s in the grapes. I have had people ask me, “What about sulfite-free wine?” That’s called grape juice because sulfites are in wine. You cannot remove them entirely but a lot of winemakers will add extra sulfites because it is an excellent preservative and helps with the consistency of the wine.
It’s like adding sodium to food to make the shelf life longer.
All of our wines have 100 or less. In the United States, wines are allowed to have 350 parts per million sulfites. All of ours have 100 or less, and most of them are less than 50, so you won’t get a headache if you drink this wine. If you find that you are someone that drinks wine and has not felt good afterward, you may find that drinking this wine does not only taste different and purer but you may find that you do not have those same symptoms because of that. That’s why most of the winemakers come to Scout & Cellar. It’s to say, “We want to be one of your wines,” and about 15% of those make it through the process because it’s so strict.
Also, what biodynamic means is we want to have partners that are committed to the sustainability of the vineyards, and making sure that whatever farming practices and winemaking practices they are doing, it’s not just good for them now but that they are taking steps that are good for the future of grapes, the farmers, and the land. It’s a giant cycle of the Earth and the greater good of all of the farming.
That’s a great company that she’s supporting that.
The final step is that we lab test every single batch of wine as well to ensure that it does not have any of the things that we say it doesn’t have in it. Each one of those tests is about $500 and we screen for over 250 synthetics or chemicals. I’m sure you have read articles about even organic wineries Stateside that have been found to have roundup or other chemicals in because it’s in the ground sometimes.
That’s if they used the land again.A lot of these big winemakers have the chemical formulation ready to go and figured out to the T that the grape doesn’t even matter in the equation. Click To Tweet
We take every possible step that you could take to ensure that the wine is as pure as possible and that what you are tasting and drinking is real wine that comes from the actual grape. I thought this was so interesting. I work with a woman that used to own her winery. Now, she works for Scout & Cellar but she was telling a group of us that she remembers that they used to have to do the pesticide sprays a couple of times a year. When they would do that, they all had to wear hazmat suits and stay off of the vineyard for two days because of the amount of toxic chemicals. That was very scary.
She also said that it’s very common, especially in a lot of these mass-produced wines. I will give you an example. I used to love Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. It was the ultimate mom jam. That wine is delicious but there’s a reason why that wine tastes exactly the same every time. Every single year you go to the grocery store, it does not matter. That wine tastes the same.
Many people don’t think about that. They don’t do more in-depth research about wine and its process of it. It’s something you don’t think of. It’s easily overlooked.
What she shared with me, which blew my mind, is that a lot of these big winemakers have the chemical formulation ready to go and figure out to the tee. The grape doesn’t even matter in the equation.
Sometimes, you are going to get a very different tasting grape one year to the next depending on the weather or soil. There are many factors. They’ve got it all down with the additives, the sugar, and the chemicals to make sure that that wine tastes exactly the same regardless of what the grape turns out like.
I’m new myself to wine. I have been studying it in 2021 and it’s along this journey that I’m finding so much more about it. I love what Scout & Cellar is doing, especially educating people with as you were saying the food movement. It’s going right along with that. It’s clean crafted wine. People deserve to know what they are ingesting in their bodies because it can hurt people. You are either supplying nutritional value to what you are putting in your body or you are going against it. It goes with anything like food, vitamins, pills but also in wine and alcohol for that matter.
The thing that tipped me over the edge with being so excited about this company is that because Sarah is a level three sommelier, these are amazing wines. You can taste the difference in it. Literally, every wine has its own special story that’s an incredible story. I get asked sometimes, “What’s the difference between this and whatever company that’s diet wine?” Technically, it falls into somewhat of that category because it doesn’t have added sugar.
Some of the wines have no carbs. You could consider having these if you were on a keto diet. It could fall into that category but I’m always hesitant to talk about that because I’m like, “This is not diet wine. This is just wine the way it was supposed to be made hundreds of years ago that our ancestors were out there handpicking the grapes and making them into wine and selling them. This is what that is.”
It’s delicious, especially because I have not tried the Bernard. One of my favorites was the Zinfandel with the resident. That was very good. Are most of the wines blends?
Some of them are and some of them aren’t. It runs the gamut. Now, we have 26 different skews, so 26 different varietals are pure and some are blends. This is a cool story. There’s one called the Field House White Blend, which is another private label because we do have some private labels as well as some European, French, Italian, and all different small-batch wineries as well.
The Field House White Blend is normally a blend of several different types of grapes but this 2022, it’s a 100% Viognier, so there were a lot of questions with that because if you look at the label, it says Field House White Blend but then if you look at the back, it’s 100% Viognier. That was because when we were making the wine, and we get the grapes from several different certified organic vineyards in California to blend that wine, Sarah was not satisfied with the other types of grapes that came in.
The perfect example of how this is a different situation than going and buying a bottle off of the grocery store shelf, she thought the grapes were not of quality, so she ditched those grapes. Now, it’s 100% Viognier. We didn’t change the label of the bottle because there are a million rules and regulations, and you can’t just change the label. The 2018 Fieldhouse White is 100% Viognier. In 2023, it may well be a blend again or it might be a different grape. That’s a really cool story.
I know you mentioned this but she has a couple of vineyards.
She is involved in winemaking. When we have wines that our own private labels, she will either be involved directly in making those or she will be consulting with that particular vineyard to make the wine.
She does emergent negotiant roles where she’s buying the grapes from the growers and then using her label on it or her company.Every wine has its own special story. Click To Tweet
In some instances, we are making it, and in some instances, she’s supervising the vineyard making that special label but those private label wines are wine you cannot get anywhere. They are Scout & Cellar wines.
Where would you like to see, as far as you personally, the overall as the company grows in the future?
The company is a couple of years old. We had $20 million in sales our first year. We have barely scratched the surface, especially here locally in Nashville because people still don’t know who Scout & Cellar is. It’s such an amazing and important time. We are all brokers of Scout & Cellar, so anybody can do this and be a part of this company, which is incredible because what we are doing is sharing this story with people. We do that face-to-face. I host tastings. I go to people’s houses. I bring bottles. I do tastings for them.
What I would love to see is a lot more people, especially in middle Tennessee, that want to be involved with this, share the story of Scout & Cellar, and grow this business because there is no other company that is doing this, the way that we are doing it. Other people are starting to take notice and go, “We are clean,” but no one is doing it to the level that we are doing it. I want people to love the wine, get to taste the difference, and be a part of the company because it is such an incredible place to be.
I have been to a few of your Scout & Cellar tastings and it’s a lot of fun. There are a lot of great people who work with the company. I love the majority of the wine at the tasting. It was all very aromatic, and I could taste the flavors. Some people think, “This is a natural wine. It takes a lot of the complexity out,” but I have not found that. There are still quite a lot of flavors, especially in this Cab I have now. It’s very good.
Before every tasting, I tell the crowd that I’m doing the tasting with, “Please come in with an open mind because you may find that this wine tastes different than what you are used to or what you think you like or don’t like,” because I will sometimes have people that are like, “I don’t drink whites. I’m not going to taste the whites.” I say, “Taste everything because I can tell you from personal experience that I was the same way. I didn’t drink Chardonnay because that’s for old ladies that smoke but now, I can tell you that Chardonnay is probably my favorite wine because I didn’t know that it could taste like this. I had no idea.” The different Chardonnays that we have from all over the world are like, “This tastes so different than what I was used to.”
I’m not a wine expert by any means. I’m not a sommelier. I’m just a mom that loves to drink wine with her mom friends but another example of that would be Riesling. I used to be like, “Riesling is the devil. I hate it. It’s disgusting. It’s syrup. I don’t drink it.” We had a Dove Hunt Dog Riesling that came out in November of 2021. I happened to have nothing else in my house except for that. I opened it out of default. It tastes so crisp and clean. It was not at all what I thought a Riesling tastes like that. My husband and I both were like, “This might be our new favorite.” You may find that drinking this wine surprises you that even the varietals you thought you did or didn’t like taste like.
That’s the key though with what you said earlier of having an open mind of tasting wine and you trying different varietals of vintage years of a variety of producers and going on local wine shop and telling them your preferences. If someone at the wine shop might recommend, “You will like this,” then maybe you should try to branch out a little bit and be open. We had talked about being more open in a restaurant setting.
If it seems like the waitress or waiter knows what they are talking about and loves wine, then take a risk and try something different. I’m enjoying this. I have one last question. The final question is if there is anything you want to say to anyone who is interested in wine or in wanting to join the company, what advice would you like to give to our audience and people who love drinking wine?
When I joined Scout & Cellar, I was a busy mom who has about 10,000 plates in the air probably like a lot of people. My friends were like, “Are you insane? You are going to do another business? You are crazy,” but I felt so passionate about it. I call it my fun job because this is what I love to do. I encourage people that do love wine and that are interested in it to reach out because, whether you want to be a part of the company or just try and drink the wine, do it.
You may find that this could be something for you that you didn’t even know. Before, I had no idea I would be doing this, and now, I hope to eventually be doing this full-time because I love the wine and I love talking about it. The people I have met through this are incredible. It has opened up a whole new world for me and an appreciation of how wine is made and what all goes into it, which is incredible.
That’s great. Are there any tastings or anything that if anyone is interested can come see or at least get in contact with?
You can get in contact with me. My email is MandySue5998@Yahoo.com. You can send me an email. I can come to your house whoever you are. I usually bring 4 or 5 bottles of different varietals. I do a professional wine tasting at your house where we taste 4 or 5 different wines and I tell you about them. It would be a fun night.
You can order the wine from me and it will be delivered to your house directly in about 4 or 5 business days from then. It’s awesome to have wine delivered right to your doorstep. I like to consider myself a wine concierge because I like helping people decide and find what they love because we have something for everyone. It’s exciting. You can feel free to get in touch with me that way.
Thank you for coming and being a guest on the show. We will have to have you back in a year and see if you are still doing it, you are what you are up to, and how the company has grown. We need to check back in.
I would love to.