If you are not familiar with our port-style wine, Iteration, yet, maybe now is the time. Port can typically draw a line in the sand amongst wine connoisseurs…invoking an automatic mouth water or turn of the nose.
However, if you are among those that just don’t understand it, we humbly ask you to continue reading for a few ways to expand your palate.
But if you are already a fan, and have simply been waiting for its return since selling out – go ahead and add to cart!
Winemaker Andy Schweiger first “decided” (read: convinced Fred to experiment with) Port was back in 1998. Since then, we have had much time to improve upon a much misunderstood nectar, and even added a white port-style wine, Napuro. We have also had a lot of time to experiment with pairings! While a classic favorite around here is Sally Schweiger’s Famous Port Brownies, recipe below, we also like to mix it up with Pointe Reyes Blue Cheese, Napa Cookie Co’s Wine Snaps, and even some spicy candied pecans from good ‘ole Trader Joe’s…as a matter of fact, this looks like an equally good appetizer here.
Andy has also on more than one occasion made many delicious creations in his smoker for us to sample – including some incredible candied salmon and bacon…but as it’s smack in the middle of harvest, I’m not about to go bug him for the recipe. Stay tuned, and rest assured I will post at a later date…in time for you to justify a request for your very own smoker from Santa.
Speaking of Santa, the holidays are a perfect time to break out a port, once you have finished with the main meal, but aren’t quite ready to show your guests the door, it’s a lovely way to extend the evening, and heighten the festivities of all being together. It can also make a perfect hostess gift, without being presumptuous of the meal, or the palates of the rest of the guests. Throw in some tiny fancy glasses, and it’s really a party. Whether you pair your port with appetizers, dessert, stinky cheese, or simply conversation, we hope you will let us know how you have enjoyed our Iteration, so that we can continue experimenting ourselves!
Sally Schweiger’s Classic Ghirardelli Brownies with a twist of Schweiger Iteration
¼ cup Schweiger Iteration
1/2 cup Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Chips
4 ounces Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Bar
1/3 cup (2/3 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan. Chop the 4 ounces of semi sweet chocolate bars into 1″ pieces. In the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water, melt the 4 ounces chopped chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Stir the Schweiger Iteration, brown sugar and vanilla into the chocolate mixture. Add the eggs and mix well. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly fold the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture, mixing well until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into 2-inch squares.
One of the most exciting projects we are able to offer here at Schweiger Vineyards is our Single Vineyard Select Cabernet program. While all of our wines are technically “single vineyard” as they are all sourced from our contiguous estate, we have gone even more micro and produced single vineyard block wines. A vineyard block is a designated group of vines within a vineyard, sometimes bordered by creeks, trees, property lines, dramatic difference in soil type, terrain, etc.
Winemaker Andy Schweiger created the Single Vineyard Select program to showcase the diversity of our Spring Mountain estate.
The first of which is the Gate Block, aptly named for its position immediately following our entrance gate on your left, bordered by creeks on two sides, treeline one one, and our driveway on the fourth. IT is comprised of about 55 rows and 1,756 plants. , and is technically broken into 4 sections within the block. The terrain is steep, rocky, and incredibly stressed due to the water runoff. We only make 2-4 barrels of this wine, depending on the yield of the vintage. We offer one additional Single Vineyard Carbernet, and that is our Montaire.
Montaire is sourced from a single vineyard block of Cabernet Sauvignon next to the family home. This block is in a microclimate of its own, as it is essentially a dimple in our hilly terroir. This allows the vineyard pocket to collect soil sediment and nutrients, along with the ability to hold onto some fog when it reaches our 2,000 ft elevation.
“Wine vines are highly sensitive to their local environment. They adapt in a variety of ways to different soil composition, hours of sunlight, and fluctuations in temperature, wind and humidity. Every vineyard is different and every vine variety is different.”
In our case, if you’ve been here, you can see just how different these blocks are from each other – from the slope of the land, to the shade and windscreen from the trees, the direction the sun hits them, and where the fog hangs out. This creates obvious differences in the fruit characteristics between the two, and a strong consistency from vintage to vintage. Beppi goes on to say,
“…when one vineyard tends to produce great fruit year after year, some producers will set it aside and bottle it separately. They feel it would be a shame to water it down, so to speak, with other juice.”
While we mostly agree – on the keeping some separate idea, we also believe the converse, and don’t want to hold it back from our flagship Cabernet Sauvignon, which represents a blend of all of our Cab vineyards, and Andy’s piece de resistance, our Bordeaux style blend, Dedication, which is every year, the best wine we can make from the property, which of course, would include some of our favorite Cabernet juice from both Gate and Montaire blocks.
So can you really taste the difference, or is it just all marketing hype?
Cathy Huyghe atForbes put a local winery’s claim to the test, and she says, “Yes, without a doubt.” However, you don’t need to take anyone’s word for it. While these two wines are made in incredibly limited amounts (48 cases apiece), if you act fast, you can get your hands on some, and conduct your very own blind tasting at home…with or without friends to lend their own opinions!
Currently, the 2014 Vintage has only been released to our Extended Family Wine Club, however we are now opening up these wines to the rest of our customers, as a 2-bottle gift set (one of each), or as 3 bottle sets available for pickup immediately at the winery, or for shipping beginning October 14.
If you really want to get fancy, you can purchase one of the handful of verticals we are offering. You can compare vintages of each block side by side and note the similarities in overall impact the particular season had, and how the different terroir and microclimates responded…and how they age over time. This experience is not for the faint of heart, or wallet, but we assure you, there aren’t very many other wineries who can offer this unique opportunity.
Of course, once you taste them, we love to hear your feedback, so email your photos and thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or better yet, post them straight to social media and see if you are in the majority of opinion!
Our ceremonial Blessing of the Grapes is a tradition we have carried on for the past 20 plus years here at Schweiger Vineyards. The first minister to do the Blessing was Pastor Ted Mueller, and the last 14 plus years it has been done by one of Fred and Sally‘s closest friends, Pastor Jim Beyer, of St. Mark Lutheran Church. Most times he is joined by Pastor Dennis Durham, also of St. Mark’s, and several others who have participated along the way.
It is not unique to us to hold a blessing ceremony, however it is not simply for show. We hold reverent the fact that God has blessed us with this land and each other, and strive to care for and steward these gifts.
Below is a chance for you to observe or participate in our annual tradition, as you hear the words of the ministers, we hope they are a blessing you to you as well.
From left to right – Pastor Jim Beyer; Pastor Mark Airey, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Healdsburg; Pastor Dennis Durham; Pastor Jim Bothwell, retired; Pastor Mike Schmid, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Napa.
Thank you for being a part of our family, we consider you a blessing as well!
My dear friend Suzanne Hoffman, author of award-winning Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, has developed wonderful relationships with the local wine families in her 30+ trips to this region over the last two decades, and leads unparalleled experiences for small groups…and the time has come for me to take advantage of her expertise!
I first met Suzanne in 2010 while participating in the Beaver Creek Culinary Weekend. She loved our family story and our wines even more. The following year, Suzanne asked if I could present our wines at an in-home tasting for some of her oenophile friends. Then, in 2012, she had me conduct a winemaker dinner for the local Chaîne des Rôtisseurs chapter at Mirabelle with Belgian Master Chef Daniel Joly. Suzanne even arranged for a Schweiger Vineyards winemaker dinner at the wildly popular Vail Valley restaurant, Zino, in 2013. She is family to us in every sense of the word and I always look forward to my opportunities to visit with her and her husband, Dani.
Piemonte is the enchanting region of northwest Italy that was once undiscovered, but now one of the most popular destinations for lovers of gastronomy, art, and culture.
I had an opportunity to scratch the surface of Piemonte this last July while visiting one of my coopers. They set up marvelous vineyard and winery tours, lunches, and despite their best planning, my family (almost) got our rental stuck in the mud. Suzanne’s knowledge of this region goes so much deeper and I can almost guarantee, that unlike my family experience, you won’t have to get out and push (unless you want to).
The Alps cradle Piemonte, Italy’s second largest region after Sicily, and dominate its diverse landscape of valleys, vineyard-carpeted rolling hills, and fertile flatland nourished by the Po River.
The region is home to myriad agricultural bounties – wine, rice, cheese, meat, hazelnuts, and the world-famous tartufi bianchi, or white truffles. It is rich not only in gastronomic and vinous pleasures, but in history, culture, and architecture. Despite its capital, Turin, hosting the 2006 Olympics, its notoriety as a premier wine region, and growing popularity among wine tourists, Piemonte remains an under-discovered part of Italy.
Highly personalized culinary, wine, and cultural experience with expert guides in a small group (maximum of 12 guests)
Quality time during winery visits and all dinners with local wine producers
Dine at quaint trattorie and Michelin star restaurants
Personalized visits to some of Piemonte’s leading wineries
Visit with local guide to Alba’s Saturday morning mercato
No hidden costs
Suzanne’s Labor of Love Piemonte tours sell out fast, so don’t wait to join in on this bucket list worthy adventure!
“By asking everyone to share their own unique stories, we’ve put together a lot of intriguing listening,” says Jeff Schechtman, who was the host/moderator for the series. “In today’s hectic world, with its many layers of artificiality in marketing, listening to these voices from the Spring Mountain District—real farmers and winemakers who made their homes in a dramatically beautiful part of the Napa Valley—is something rewarding,” adds Schechtman. “You’ll never taste a wine from the Spring Mountain District AVA the same way once you’ve heard these personal stories, full of rich detail,” he also said.
Host [00:00:06] Thanks for joining us for our look at the wineries and history of the Spring Mountain appellation.
Host [00:00:11] Right now we’re joined by Andy Schweiger, the winemaker and co proprietor of Schweiger vineyards and winery. Andy thanks so much for joining us. Tell us a little bit about when you came to the winery.
Andy [00:00:23] Well…. I don’t really have a when I came moment. I grew up with the vineyard being developed, so, I mean as far back because before I was born back in 1960 my dad purchased a landlocked parcel behind my grandparents home. So there’s a ridge up here that my grandparents used to own. And my dad purchased 54 acres behind that for today a steal at that time the very high price of two hundred fifty dollars an acre. And it was completely forested back then. So you know my earliest memories of the ranch were going up to visit Grandma and Grandpa and find Christmas trees cut them down and then go have chili at Grandma and Grandpa’s and then go decorate the Christmas tree.
Host [00:01:11] So it’s really fair to say that the vineyard, and more importantly Spring Mountain was your backyard as you grew up.
Andy [00:01:17] Exactly I actually my – uh, – we’re here at Paloma vineyards. And when I’m kind of telling this story out of order. But when my dad had finished developing our vineyard Jim and Barbara Richards asked my dad to develop a vineyard for them. So by the time I was 13 or 14 I was driving a tractor up here and my parents were on vacation and I actually had my first rattlesnake bite on this property.
Host [00:01:47] Well before we talk about Schweiger, I want to stay with this talk a little bit… About how you’ve watched your backyard, Spring Mountain, how you’ve watched you change over the years.
Andy [00:01:57] Well it’s been interesting for me because, you know my earliest memories up here was it being a single lane gravel road. My grandparents had a party line phone and I remember my grandmother had everybody’s rings memorized. And so if she wanted to get the juicy neighborhood gossip and she recognized the distinctive ring she’d reach up and hold down the receiver grab that earpiece and very carefully release it to hear what all the neighbors were up to.
Andy [00:02:28] And you know it’s come a little ways. I mean the road got paved got widened a little but otherwise you know it still has a nice rural feel you know it’s kind of interesting I think it’s — as I’ve grown up, that kind of I kind of grew up with the appellation.
Andy [00:02:46] My earliest aha moment was with Streblow vineyards no longer with us Streblow is now owned by Spring Mountain Winery and when I was a junior in high school is when I started working as a cellar rat. And I’d say my senior year of high school they were doing a series of open houses on the mountain and we weren’t making wine yet. And so I was writing with my parents and tasting wine and this Streblow Cabernet. So that was 1987. So it had to be there 84 their 85 Cabernet. That it was my aha moment. And I was like someday I want to make wine like this. It was structured it was very elegant. It didn’t have aggressive abusive tannins back in the 80s a lot of these wines being made up here had a lot of vegetative characters characteristics to it and it wasn’t vegetative. And that was kind of my moment of awakening that yes not only do I want to make wine but this is what I want to do.
Host [00:03:55] You were not one of these kids that grew up here and said I got to get out of here I don’t want to do the same thing as everybody else. Did you ever have that moment?
Andy [00:04:03] Interestingly enough my – well you know so I grew up farming and I would ride with my dad delivering grapes to other wineries.
Andy [00:04:14] So we you know so we had the property we were using it for Christmas trees and it was around about 82 that we had our first harvest and the reason we got into the vineyard business in the first place was my dad was a building contractor doing custom homes and in late 70s recession hit interest rate shot over 20 percent and he found himself suddenly out of a job and had two great finish carpenters who well he somehow convinced my mom that planting a vineyard as a hobby would be a fun thing to do just an acre or two until the next job came along and he offered his finished carpenters, “Hey I can lay you off and you can collect unemployment or I have some money saved up I can pay you to operate chainsaws and help me drop trees”. And into the day Friday they were like “No we’re finished carpenters we don’t use chainsaws.” No Monday morning they showed up ready to go to work with chainsaws. So that’s why I grew up with it. I joke my wife is a very good softball player and she used to pitch and shortly after we got married we started playing softball together and Okay this sounds like fun. I never played ball. I was dropping trees and working the farm and so I think that was my wife’s moment of. “My husband throws like a girl!” Which actually the way my wife plays ball, I would consider a compliment. But so I started working as riding in the truck delivering fruit and saw what what the people are doing inside the cellar, and I said that looks like fun.
Andy [00:05:53] So I’d say my only moment of wanting to get out of here was I guess I realized that the size of our operation for us to continue just being farmers there would never really be enough work for both Dad and I, plus having an income. So I kind of chose, you know I’m gonna study the winemaking portion of it. Still keep the farming in my blood and I’d say that’s a sad thing is there’s not enough winemakers out there today who understand and think like farmers.
Host [00:06:25] Tell us a little bit about the Schweiger property what it looks like today.
Andy [00:06:29] Well it’s you know it’s kind of fun it’s again it’s you when you live in an area like this and you see it every day you don’t necessarily appreciate the beauty of what you have. And I’d say there’s – Aha moments where you know you see a particular sunrise or particular sunset and you realize how blessed you are. And I’d say my biggest moment was last year during the Napa fires. That Wednesday evening we thought for sure the fires would overtake the ranch. And we -anything that had wheels on it. We drove and pushed out in the middle of vineyard if it got stuck it got stuck.
[00:07:10] But vineyards are great firebreaks and if we can save that $40,000 tractor if we can you know ground out that $20,000 thousand dollar forklift in the middle of vineyard that’s what we’re going to do. And that following morning coming to work and seeing the sunrise and everything that we’ve worked so hard to build is standing…it was just a beautiful morning. But you know our ranches like many other mountain ranches not like the valley floor where you don’t lay out your vineyard rose to follow the sun. You follow the terrain and when you come into our property there’s no vineyard on one side trees in the other and you go down the long lane. My mother would love to pave that road but you know what tractor work it stays gravel and all the buildings in the property – My dad my grandfather and now I, have helped out a little bit have built.
Andy [00:08:05] So it’s a sense of pride. You know people come and do our tank room and they look up and they see the beautiful Alaskan yellow cedar ceiling. And not only do I take pride in it – That yes is where I get to work – But, I laid every single one of those two by eights with my dad and built it up.
Host [00:08:27] What’s the biggest challenge.
Andy [00:08:29] Being a winemaker today in a place like Spring Mountain you know it’s there there’s multiple facets. I mean you introduce introduce me as the winemaker, which I am, but it’s also – I’m the primary person who goes out to sell wine. It’s becoming an increasingly competitive market. I’m very thankful that we have a strong club following, a strong consumer foundation because I’d say the sales world is so challenging because you have the large corporations that are gobbling up smaller wineries. And so we’re competing against these behemoths who can buy out the integrity of a wine shop or a restaurant and own the list then you can’t get in. You know it’s that it’s planning for the future it’s you know it’s I’d say planning for the future always trying to stay a step ahead of whether it’s new county regulations, new federal regulations, in a lot of what we do we do because – in our heart we know it’s right. We’ve been practicing sustainable farming since before sustainable farming was a thing because this is land that God has blessed us with. And as stewards it’s our job to take care of the land and make sure that when we’re no longer here on this earth that future generations can enjoy the fruit of our labors.
Host [00:10:00] Tell us about the wines.
Andy [00:10:01] Well yeah that’s you know I take a lot of great pride in that because you know I mentioned the Streblow wines earlier and I take a lot of pride and passion and what I do. You know I’ve worked for wineries that have brettanomyces issues and there’s some wineries that will even encourage that. I guess my philosophy is my dad and I work our butts off growing the best fruit we can. Why bring it in the cellar and bastardized it. So my first tenant is always be true to the vineyard. Be true to your terroir. Be true to the varietal and. I want when you taste my Chardonnay that this is Spring Mountain District Chardonnay that it has that unique minerality in that white peach component. It’s not….obscured by excessive use of oak or malolactic fermentation. I use- I use oak very much like I sometimes use the closet analogy where you have a clothes hanger in your closet and you can hang so many items of clothing on this clothes hanger before it starts to sag, and that’s the core of your fruit and you can use oak, you can use stirring of lees, to a point to build up to complement. But at the end of the day, I look at our job as winemakers as a sculptor presented with a slab of marble and our job is to see the Venus de Milo inside, not force it to be Lady Gaga.
Host [00:11:38] And how many acres do you have planted and what are you producing now?
Andy [00:11:42] So, the ranches 54 acres.
Andy [00:11:45] We farm 34, the remaining 20 – about half of it could be developed to vineyard. But it makes for natural forest breaks. It’s very unique that there is part of our property where wildlife can actually pass through the property without getting into the vineyard.
Andy [00:12:05] And that’s…that’s a problem I think Napa Valley has is you’ve got the monoculture as you go up Highway 29 of vineyard upon vineyard upon vineyard and migratory wildlife can’t pass. And you know so you see in the paper every day of bears encroaching, or coyotes down in in in cities and towns. So you know our approach is you know hey they were here first so let’s make sure that we respect them.
[00:12:34] In terms of what we have planted, well when we started it was – my dad got some advice from an old timer because back in ’79 when he was planting the vineyard other than — you had Williams up here you had Smith Madrone, Spring Mountain, and that was about it. So, he talked to a couple of old timers and decided Okay let’s do The King and the Queen Chardonnay and Cabernet, and along the way the nursery didn’t have enough Cabernet. So Dad put in probably a half acre of Merlot. And that’s pretty much all we did. ZD winery bought our chardonnay, and the Merlot and Cabernet would go to Stag’s Leap, Cafaro. Tthe Merlot from here this ranch went to Glenn Ellen for a number of years. So it’s kind of interesting that before people really before spring mountain district had become the Cabernet powerhouse it is today. It was oh, that’s Mountain fruit. That’s expensive farming. And it was hard to make a profit. The first vintage of wine I made from our fruit up here was our 1991. And that was a very small vineyard block that today we call our Gate Block, and it was only gonna be about two tons and it came right before the rest of our ranch and all the growers we were contracted to weren’t ready to receive it and they didn’t want to get their machinery dirty over two tons of mountain Cabernet. So I was at college at the time Dad called me up and said “OK we’re making wine”. So that was the first year we made it, we didn’t have a use permit then so that was just kind of winging it and just –
Host [00:14:22] –Home garage wine making–
[00:14:25] – and becoming a winery didn’t happen until ’94 by then I had graduated from college I was working full time at Chateau St Jean and the county was cracking down, making it harder to pull use permits. So my parents pulled the use permit and then called me up that evening and said “well we just pulled the winery use permit, so we need to make wine this year… But don’t quit your day job because we can’t afford to pay you anything.” So ’94 was a year of a lot of change for me. That was my first full year not being a student working for a living. My wife and I got married that year and that was the first year that we made wine under the Schweiger label begging and borrowing — and you know that’s the neat thing about this neighborhood is, we didn’t have a press. And Chris Howell over at Cain Vineyards, My dad and called him up–I’d met him on occasion and he said “yeah, bring your fermenters over here and you can use our press.” So the following year, my parents found an old apple cider press. And oh man that was a beast. But ’95-’99 you know we made some beautiful wines out of it but 2000 upgraded to a much nicer press but ’94 through ’98 I kept working full time for other wineries, and it wasn’t until ’99 that my parents and my wife and I sat down and looked at numbers and said OK I can take a very significant pay cut and come to work for the winery full time. And we took out a sizable loan that you know it had to be it had to be a multi-generation agreement, because my parents were going to take out a loan that they would not see paid off in their lifetime. And my wife and I were willing to take on that burden so, — or privilege I suppose. And that same year we broke ground and actually built our own facility. Before that we’d done other winemaking.
Andy [00:16:33] The first vintage that ’94 -we built a small refrigerated closet in the back of my dad’s vineyard shop and the following year in ’95 we built a wall and, well I hate that phrase. We constructed a barrier between my dad’s shop and what became our winery for the next five years. And in 2000 we broke ground on our tank room and barrel room with the promise that once we moved into there that that wall would come down and Dan can have his full shop back. And by the time we got everything moved in, I was like, you know this old barrel room has great refrigeration capacity. This is perfect for our white wine for barrel fermentation because I can really crank the temperature down to control the barrel temperature. So Dad never did get his shop back.
Host [00:17:27] Oh! (chuckle)
Host [00:17:28] Well do you have visitors up there, are you open to visitors?
Andy [00:17:31] We are – by appointment.
Andy [00:17:33] So it’s you know we get talked about county regulations and it’s you know it’s kind of sad that you know the large corporate wineries can afford to buy the blessing of the county to have unlimited guests come through their door and we’re very restricted as to the numbers that we can see in a given week. So the wealthy corporations get wealthier and a small wineries that are owned by families continue to plug away.
Host [00:18:01] Talk a little bit about what the visitor experience is like for the visitors that do come there by appointment. What’s their experience like? Talk about where you are on the mountain.
Andy [00:18:09] Sure well you know it’s really something that we want it to be memorable. We want it to be that family feeling. So even though myself or my dad or my mom or my wife can’t host anybody,or everybody all the time. Typically, I’ll make a point to cross through the tasting room, or my dad will. My wife’s a schoolteacher and she works on weekends occasionally. So usually first of all you’re going to meet somebody in the family who’s actively involved sand get to chat with them and then we’ve we have a lot of repeat visitors who just love coming up who feel part of the family. It’s that’s one of the reasons when – when we when my wife and I decide to have children, my wife wanted to be a stay at home mom for a number of years, and that was 2000… And my Dad had been hearing more about these things called “wine clubs”. So he asked Paula if she wanted to come on part time and research and start our wine club. So by 2001 we had started our wine club and it started out very simple with a key pad terminal for running the wine club memberships and do that twice a year.
Host [00:19:26] It’s gotten a little bigger. I.
Andy [00:19:27] T’s gotten a little bigger since then and it’s funny when they’re processing wine clubs and the internet goes down and everybody starts freaking out because I was the middle of processing 1500 shipments and the Internet went down I’m like Yeah. Well my heart simply bleeds cause once upon a time where we had to manually type in each credit card number and the amount, and it’s really funny because when the power goes out and I bring out the old carbon reader and say yeah you can still take credit cards just placed a credit card here and go choo choo.
Host [00:20:00] To what extent do you want to expand …you happy with the size you are now with the plans for the future?
Andy [00:20:06] So the other thing we’ve started doing for our guests, and this is a definite advance notice, is last year we purchased the six seater ATV and so we do tours of our vineyard and there’s a there’s several wineries that now they’re doing tours of their vineyard. But what sets ours apart hours apart is we limit it to parties of four – w could do five if you want to get a little cozy – and it’s either my dad or myself taking you through there, and we pack up wine and charcuterie and we take you out to the Chardonnay block and you get to taste our Chardonnay while in the chardonnay. And for those last few weeks up before harvest, you get that magical moment of here taste the fruit. This is what Chardonnay tastes like in the raw. So we really let Mother Nature dictate what’s going to happen on the tour. We pass through a block that we recently bought it over to a new varietals. And so I usually pause there and explain to people about propagation and grape vines. And it’s very personalized because you know I it’s fun I try to… get a gauge of where people are coming from before we start the tour or what they’re interested in. It’s really fun because I’ve had chemists and theoretical physicists and botanists and I just have so much fun geeking out with them and the further into the weeds they want to go. I could do that tour in probably 45 minutes. They – I usually end up spending two hours with guests… I’ve had tours that would go on and on and next thing you know my wife’s calling me and saying that you were supposed to be home to take Megan to the doctor at three o’clock. Oh sorry. I’m still with some guests.
Host [00:21:52] What are your plans if any for expansion at this point?
Andy [00:21:55] Expansion? Not really that interested. I really like what we have planted now with the 34-35 acres that we grow enough fruit that we can do about 8,000 cases in a vintage. But we don’t want the brand to grow too big too fast. Now too big too fast… What ’94 was our first year and here we are 2018 and I’m still talking about not growing too fast and so we say we bottle about 5,000 cases a year and sell the rest in the bulk market. And you know in all honesty you know I’m now in my late 40s. I preferred saying mid 40s three years ago, but you know 10 years ago when it came time to blending there’d always be one or two lots where -yeah that didn’t necessarily turn out the way I wanted it. I don’t think my standards have lowered but today when I’m doing my blending I don’t have those automatic….eeeeee-yeah. Let’s – everything that we’re making I want to include in the blends. So you know it’s it’s healthy because we get some good cash flow with some bulk wine sales, but should we ever choose to increase our production we have that capacity without clearing more land. I’m sometimes asked well why don’t you just sell fruit to other wineries instead of taking the time to do that labor. I mean my labor is cheap – so it – at the same time yeah, you could take it easy and sell that fruit and give yourself less work. But to me since my dad and I do all the farming together, it’s my way of closing that circle and making wine from all the fruit we’ve grown. Let’s let me learn lessons from that harvest and become a better grower and a better winemaker. And it’s really fun that since I’ve become a lot more involved in the farming operations we’re doing more in the farming that is more about finished wine quality. Most winemakers start walking the vineyard days before harvest and say yes pick. Today I do most of our spraying for mildew and over the past few years I’ve been realizing that you know our pHs are getting higher in our musts. Most winemakers take care of that by adding acid. Well we have high potassium in our soils. And so I’ve started spraying a foliar magnesium onto the grape vines. When you apply that magnesium, the magnesium inhibits the uptake of potassium, having less potass- let me back up a step. Potassium in excess amounts in wines harms the buffering capacity of your pH of your wine causing it to have higher pHs. Also that higher potassium causes more tartrates stability so as our wines age you start getting to drink crystals forming on the sides of the bottle. The past four years since I’ve started doing the full year magnesium sprays less potassium is getting in, so our pHs are coming into the winery much lower without ever making any additions to the fruit. We’re just using these…chemical biological triggers out in the vineyard to coax the vine to produce better fruit for us for winemaking.
Host [00:25:30] And talk about where you wines are available.
Andy [00:25:33] Primarily direct from the winery. We have….eight or nine distributors that we have good relationships with, but we’re primarily direct to consumer. So web sales have become a huge thing for us. We’re registered to legally ship too. It’s funny it always seems like there’s always one state that’s an issue, but, so I usually say yeah we can ship to 49 states and it’s usually Utah but there’s a way to get into Utah too.
Host [00:26:06] And restaurants you’re in a lot of restaurants?
Andy [00:26:08] So a select a select handful when we work with distributors. Our primary goal is on premise because we today have right about 1800 wine club members which for a 5,000 case winery ain’t too bad. So we try and focus on being in markets where they live so that they can find our wines and restaurants in their neighborhoods.
Host [00:26:32] Mm hmm. And what’s been the secret to growing the wine club to making that a success.
Andy [00:26:36] In my opinion it’s well when my wife started the club we decided to call it the Extended Family and that’s not lip service. That’s actually how whenever I meet somebody in the tasting room and Wendy or Michelle would say “oh they just joined the wine club” my first thing is welcome to the family. And that’s how we treat them. It’s I belong to a few clubs and I look at my club experience and what what I want from it and that’s you know you treat your customers with the respect and love you do for any other family member. Our club shipments aren’t well.. We’ve got too much of this, so ship it to the club or, that didn’t turn out right. If anything it’s more…well first of all, when we when we’re ready to ship out a club shipment, I think our club is very unique. That….the family members will get an email saying that your shipment will be coming in the next month. This is the default shipment. Click here to customize and if they want their shipment to be six bottles of Dedication they can get six bottles of Dedication. If they want to round up to a case we’ll roun up to a case and we won’t charge them more for the shipping. It’s that and then also the opportunity to fund unique things. I stated earlier we started out growing Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet and over the years we planted Cabernet Franc and Malbec so that we could do a Bordeaux blend which we call Dedication. And we have a small bloc of Petite Sirah that we … We also make a blend out of that. I kind of consider it the Mr. Hyde to Dedication’s Dr. Jekyll because it’s a – starts out as a Bordeaux based blend but then it has this oddity of Petite Sirah blended into it. And that’s what we call our Family Cuvee and the Franc and the Malbec also go into Dedication. But starting in 2009, in vintages where I feel they are representative of that varietal we’ll bottle up 200 – 250 cases and make that available to our club members. I’m doing an experiment right now growing Pinot Noir on the mountain… Schoolhouse Vineyards is really the only other winery up here doing Pinot Noir, and they do a beautiful job of it. So this used to be my one of my Chardonnay blocks. So it stands to reason that hopefully we made some amazing Chardonnay from that block. Hopefully we’ll make some amazing pinot noir from it and then other just fun experiments and I guess my approach to….experimenting and developing new products for our family members. My… first the first thing that I – my first rule is that, If I don’t like this….we’re not going to speak of this again, it just will go away. If I like it then I’m in encouraged my dad and my family and my co-workers to taste it because there is also a danger of – you’re working on developing something new, and you get too emotionally attached to it. And I am cautious. I don’t want to ever get out of touch with what our customers and our extended family want. I like to think I’m connected, but I want to make sure. OK. You guys like this can…can we sell this? Is this going to make our customers happy? And once they’re OK with it then we’ll roll it out. So, in 2015 my cork supplier took me to Portugal and I wrote a – it was intended to eventually be a 12 part blog. I think I ran out of steam around part nine,(chuckles) but still a nine part blog is a serious undertaking. But I came back from that with a love and an appreciation of the culture of the wines they make there and a very unique wine you don’t see in North America very often, which is white port. And smelling my Chardonnay fermentation during the 2015 vintage, I just had this epiphany that wow if I fortified this with some good brandy right now we can lock in that..honeycomb and peach and nectarine aroma that’s being produced by the fermentation. So for the 2016 harvest, I already do a small amount of cabernet based port. So when I went to buy my brandy that year I bought an extra 15-20 gallons and as a trial made one barrel of it, and it turned out to be better than I expected it to be. And we’ve done that again with the 2017 and 2018 harvest. And you know again, you asked a question about growing earlier it’s I – I would rather have people asking for more, than ever be overproducing. So the white port which we call Napuro, port is still only about a 50 case production per year.
Host [00:31:40] And finally, is there a third generation coming along?
Andy [00:31:43] There is a third generation but I think it’s important that you let you let them find their own path. You asked earlier if I was ever to the point of wanting to get away from me right and… I didn’t. In fact my first, one of my first job interviews as I was getting ready to graduate was with a large wine facility in the Central Valley in the Fresno area. And yeah it was lucrative and it was an amazing salary for a kid coming out of college, but I didn’t want to be that far away from here because you know you grew up here you want to start your career path down there. And I’ve been so blessed that you know in high school I got to work for ZD and Gloria Ferrer, I got to work a harvest for Joseph Phelps. And at the end of harvest, they said well we hope you’ll come back next summer and so the following summer and all that harvest I got to work for them, and then did an internship with Trefethen, and got to work at Chateau St. Jean. Got to work at Cain. And it’s you start working your way up. You don’t graduate from culinary school and open your own restaurant you start under great chefs. And I had so many great opportunities here and Sonoma and Napa Valleys to work under some amazing winemakers. And that’s the thing there’s a great quote by Galileo that you know we only get to where we are by standing on the shoulders of others. And that’s actually the quote on my back label of the Dedication. Back to your third generation question. Our son Jerry just graduated from high school last year, and I came in here wearing a Georgia Tech sweatshirt because today’s his first day of finals,.
Host [00:33:26] Oh.
Andy [00:33:26] He’s studying aerospace engineering. So what’s rocket science have to do with winemaking? Not a heck of a lot but you know I’m proud of him and I think he was… You know when the movie The Martian came out he was, I think inspired to go in that direction and to be part of that team that could put the first people on another planet. But that’s not to say you know when he gets to his 40s and mission accomplished he might say you know I miss driving tractors. His 13th birthday present from my parent – from my dad was tractor driving lessons. So he’s been up on the farm, actually I think one of the neatest moments for my dad was about a week before we moved him out to Atlanta to go to college he was helping my dad and I pour concrete pad for our new backup generator. And just as we were finishing the concrete pour, my phone’s ringing and I’m struggling to fish my cell phone out of my pocket with concrete coating my hands. And it’s Sam Baxter from Terra Valentine, and he was calling me to say that he saw a car fire. Well up here on the top of the mountain, we are on a good day 25 minute response time for Cal Fire. So my dad purchased an old type 3 fire engine from Kenwood Fire back in the late ’90s. So we have our own engine up here. So I quickly ran down and start up the engine pick that my dad and my son and all three generations of us responded and had the car fire out…well mostly out, but the important thing is we had the surrounding brush extinguished to prevent it from becoming another fire. Then we have a daughter Megan. She’s just a sophomore in high school she loves art. So, I don’t know where she’s gonna go. I have a nephew and niece and they’re younger. But the important thing is. You know we’re talking earlier, I’d say one of the biggest challenges one of the many challenges is planning for the future. I kind of consider myself generation 1.5 Because yeah I am that next generation. But I could have gone off to France or Australia and become a traveling winemaker. But I chose to stay close to home to help build the vineyard and to help build the winery and get us to where we are today. But the dangerous thing is is that most family businesses fail when transitioning in a generation 3. So we’ve worked hard with succession planning to make sure that….the vineyard and winery never become a burden on the next generation. It’s a privilege, should they wish to be part of it… At the same time, I don’t believe in the golden gene that oh, you have the last name Schweiger so you’re guaranteed a job here. You know you have to go out and you have to get an education and go out and get experience at other wineries, because if you just keep hiring family and the only experience they have is the family – you’re going to get stagnant. Go out, work for the competition. Learn from them and help us become a better operation. So will my kids or my nephew niece ever be the next winemaker? I don’t know and but who knows – maybe their kids will be. We’ll see and hopefully I’m around to see it.
Host [00:36:52] Andy Schweiger swaggered Vineyard Winery thank you so much.