What's Cookin' on Wine with Michael Horn

01/09 FRED SCHERRER, SCHERRER WINERY, GARY PISONI, PISONI VINEYARDS

January 10, 201752 min
FRED SCHERRER – SCHERRER WINERY  THE WINERY AND WINEMAKING In the mid-1970’s, due to a normal teenage interest in alcoholic beverages, my family allowed me to make some wine from the family vineyard and beer at home (under adult supervision, of course). This led to a UC Davis degree as well as concurrent work at a local winery doing the dirtiest and most menial jobs imaginable. In the mid-1980’s good friends at Duxoup Wine Works (think Marx Brothers for the pronunciation) inspired me to try my hand at my own label so I negotiated cellar space in lieu of a raise by my then-current employer, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards in Anderson Valley (I got a raise anyway). Greenwood Ridge was supportive of my project and decided to have some Scherrer Zinfandel produced for their label as well. Unfortunately, I had a poor business plan and during the first year I realized I was not yet ready for this project. Greenwood Ridge continues to make a small amount of Scherrer Vineyard Zinfandel to this day. Enter Dehlinger Winery in the late 1980’s. Tom Dehlinger was very supportive of my long-term plans and challenged me to develop a solid business plan, facilitating an important entry into my own project. In return, his winery received my heart and soul for a decade. The final key element in our getting started was from my parents. They allowed me to delay paying them for their fine grapes until we began getting cash flow from our wine sales. By 1997, we were ready to make the move to a facility of our own. In anticipation of this, we were able to add Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to supplement the Zinfandel we were producing, all from my father’s vineyard in Alexander Valley. Tom Dehlinger supported this transition of my focus, allowing me to produce these additional wines in his facility and we parted very amicably after that vintage. And so after the harvest of 1997, I moved our operation to a corner of an apple packing shed-turned-winery, finally leasing the entire building. During this period, our production grew from just the three varietals from Scherrer Vineyard, to now typically a dozen wines, about half of which are Pinot Noir. Total production is now 4000 to 5000 cases. My good friend, Don Bliss helped me whenever I needed a hand (or a finger to dial 911 in the unlikely event of a forklift mistake) throughout this period until he sold his fine vineyard and moved back to his native Texas in 2006. Since then, I have been able to impose on a handful of friends and local customers when I have needed help, but still continue to work at the winery pretty much alone most of the year. Judi, my wife, has handled administrative and compliance for the winery since 2002, keeping me out of trouble with bureaucrats and making sure we are able to conform with the complex and changing world of direct shipping and wholesaling laws, reports and fees. Current Wines Fred began making Zinfandel from his father’s vineyard in 1991. The first vintage consisted of 600 cases made from the oldest part of the vineyard planted by Fred’s grandfather in 1912. Over the next 5 years, Fred was able to slowly expand production of Zinfandel as he continued his ‘day job’ as winemaker at Dehlinger. In 1997, we were able to expand production to include Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay from the Scherrer Vineyard. This expansion included making the winery a full-time occupation in 1998 and moving into its current location in an insulated metal building near Sebastopol. Because we make so many different bottlings now, it is difficult to decide just what schedule to offer them for sale to our direct customers. We usually offer wines here (especially the Zinfandels and Cabernets) well ahead of any commercial release to wine shops and restaurants since most of you know what you want and are cellaring these wines for yourselves according to your own tastes. This also helps enable us to survive the financial difficulty of holding back vintages until they really shine. If yo

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