Winery Spotlight: Estate 1856
Located in the heart of Dry Creek Valley, Estate 1856 is a boutique, family-owned winery that specializes in small, hand-crafted lots of estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. Tending a land the family originally purchased in 1856 – hence their name – they proudly carry on a farming traditions that have continued now for six generations. From harvest through blending and bottling, Estate 1856 goal is to create rich, fruit forward, and harmonious blends that delight the palate, embody the essence of their agricultural traditions and our region’s award-winning grapes. Love of the land, love of family and friends inspires all the winemaking endeavors at Estate 1856.
Estate 1856’s name reflects the historical tie to a vineyard that was initially purchased by Duvall Drake (D.D.) Phillips in 1856 – the first generation to live and farm in Dry Creek Valley. D.D. was born in Kentucky in 1822 and raised in Missouri. He married his true love, Amelia, in 1843 but sadly, she passed away in 1847 after only four years of marriage. Despondent, D.D. joined a military unit and fought in the Mexican War. Having expanded his horizons during his time in the Southwest, he immigrated to the goldfields of California to seek fame and fortune.
Working in the Gold Country whet his appetite for better land to farm. Traveling the state to find that land, he fortuitously found property for sale in Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County and, along with partner Sam Heaton, purchased 137.25 acres from the Piña family for $1,112.82. The land was originally part of a Mexican land grant known as Tzabaco Rancho, owned by José German Piña. Upon purchase, D.D. quickly devoted many acres to field crops as well as vineyards and tree crops and in doing so, began a tradition of farming that has continued through six generations.
Current owners Brian and his wife, Janice Schmidt, have protected and nurtured the Tzabaco Rancho Vineyards vineyards since the 1990′s and represent the 5th generation of this incredible winemaking family. Early supporters of the sustainability movement, they have focused on producing balanced vines with evenly distributed fruit, preserving and improving soil structure through the use of cover crops, implementing regulated deficit irrigation with a pressure bomb to improve wine quality and managing pest issues using integrated pest management.
A founding member of the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley, Brian is focused on promoting the region’s award-winning grapes. Janice, a UC Davis trained winemaker, who worked for Jordan Vineyard and Winery for 20 years before retiring to help guide replanting in the vineyard, in addition to steering the ESTATE 1856 brand.
Rob Schmidt, the second of Brian’s four boys, is the sixth generation to grow up in the Dry Creek Valley. He and his wife Rachel Schmidt have joined Brian and Janice to produce the types of wines they like to drink. Rob and Rachel have had the unique opportunity to travel and work overseas, living in both the Philippines and the UK. While living in Europe, they spent a lot of time in France, where they gained a deep appreciation for the art of blending varietals. In joining Brian and Janice in this venture, they are realizing the family’s long-sought dream of crafting exceptional wines from the grapes the family has so diligently cultivated over the years.
As winegrape growers, Estate 1856 produces six red and four white wine grape varietals with many clonal variations on varied rootstocks. They farm each separate block to produce the richest expression of that varietal using sustainable growing methods to enrich the soil as we are enriching varietal character. Their vines are cordon trained to minimize variability at bloom and set, trained to grow and ripen without excessive growth using reduced deficit irrigation and harvested at the peak of maturity.
Estate 1856 ferments all of their varietals separately with select yeast to achieve the maximum gentle extraction of aroma and flavor compounds. This attention to detail in the vineyard and in the winery achieves the rich, fruit forward and harmonious blends that delight the palate. They preserve these appealing characters while allowing for normal barrel aging in French Oak. All of their wines are labeled with their varietal composition, either on the front or back of the label.
Estate 1856’s vineyards are located in the heart of the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County and proudly produce premium wine grapes using sustainable winegrowing practices. Their Vitis vinifera wine grapes find Sonoma County and Dry Creek Valley to be well suited to the production of premium wine. The coldness of winter and warmth of summer; the many varieties of compatible soil types; and the influence of fog following the Russian River into the valley create an ideal growing environment for their grapes.
They work in the vineyard to ensure the best combination of grape clusters to overall leaf area. Balancing cover crop and/or clean soil to rootstock efficiency and water availability is vital. Throughout the growing season, they constantly evaluate vine nutrient status and overall vine health.
Vineyard Visit & Tasting
Currently, Estate 1856 does not have a tasting room, but not to worry – one is coming in the very near future. Recently, they selected a spot that will be the future home of their vineyard tour and tasting. Until then, all of their wines are available for purchase online at their website.