Schug Carneros Estate was founded by Walter Schug in 1980, bringing a somewhat European vision to Sonoma. Walter was born in Germany in 1935 and raised in the grounds of the Staatsweingut Assmanshausen, one of Germany's top Pinot Noir estates, which his father managed. You could say that he was born with Pinot Noir in his veins. He attended the famous German Wine Institute in Geisenheim where he gained a degree in viticulture and enology in 1959. And then, invited on a one year internship at the California Grape Products Corporation in Delano he travelled to California, never to return. Actually he has returned many times, but he did emigrate for good, deeply impressed by the wine potential of the Golden State. In 1966 he was employed by Gallo and in 1972 became chief winemaker at Joseph Phelps Vineyards; over the next ten years he produced America's first proprietary blend, helped to establish the reputation of its Cabernet Sauvignons with single vineyard bottlings from such famous vineyards as Eisele, and bottled the first varietaly labelled Syrah. But through all this "there was never a moment when Pinot Noir was anything other than the real object of my desire".
Walter left Phelps in 1980 to set up his own label. His work with Carneros growers whilst at Gallo and Phelps had already convinced him that this region was capable of producing top class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, so this is where he founded Schug Carneros Estate. Schug is now run by the next generation of the family with Walter's son, Axel running the winery and various siblings involved in other capacities (his sister Claudia looks after European exports). However, Walter keeps a beady eye on the affairs of the winery and its vineyards.
The winery now produces around 44,000 cases a year, the majority still Carneros Pinot Noir from the estate vineyards and other selected vineyards in the region. The winery itself harks back to the family's German heritage with a half-timbered style, as does the style of the wines themselves which eschew high alcohols, deep colours, and heavy oak use in favour of elegance and lightness of touch. In 2010 Schug celebrated its 30th year and Walter his 57th harvest.
The grapes juice was fermented for six to eight days in stainless steel punch-down and rotary fermenters, with cap immersion three times daily. Aged for two months in 800 gallon oak casks (for malolactic fermentation) and for nine months in 60 gallon French oak, medium toast barrels (30% new).
This is a complex wine with a rich bouquet of cherries, berries and hints of spicy new oak. It has flavours reminiscent of black cherry, currant and strawberry, followed by a rich, spicy texture and a long, silky finish.