by Fred Schweiger
In 1960, I purchased 61 acres at the top of Spring Mountain with my parents, Tony and Theresa Schweiger. At that time there were only three families who lived here on the mountain top. Our early farming endeavors included prune farming, and I quickly learned that at 30 cents for a 40 pound box, there had to be better use for this property. By 1965 I planted a small block of grapevines as well as a pear orchard. The pears did not fare well, but grapes: beautiful!
For the next fourteen years I devoted time to my family and construction company, though always setting time aside to work around the Spring Mountain property. When interest rates hit 21% in 1979, construction temporarily ceased and a new opportunity to follow my dreams of clearing and planting a vineyard on our mountain property came to fruition.
Preparing the heavily forested land was truly a family project as we cleared 35 acres. My father ran the chainsaw as I drove the caterpillar tractor and Sally and the kids picked up all the firewood. During this process, I studied viticulture at U.C. Davis and Santa Rosa Junior College. I also gained invaluable knowledge and support from local vintners including Herman Hummel, Joe Cafaro and Laurie Wood. It took a year and a half to carefully clear this land; lots of hard yet rewarding work that included a trip to the hospital where I spent time in ICU after a tree came crashing down the wrong way!
In the spring of 1981 it finally came time to plant. My Mom planted the very first vine, followed by all of us jumping in, including the kids and our new Mexican amigos. Today there are 35 acres planted, mostly to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Our first harvest was in 1984, and for the first 10 years we sold our grapes to Joe Cafaro, ZD, Newton and Stags Leap Winery. In 1994 Schweiger Vineyards became a bonded winery and began producing a small amount of wine from our estate while still maintaining grape contracts.
As the vineyard matured and production increased, more winery space became necessary. We began construction in 2000, adding an underground barrel room with a gravity-fed fermentation building above; the work was completed in 2001. Today, Schweiger Vineyards includes 25 acres of Cabernet, five acres of Merlot, four acres of Chardonnay and a small block of Petite Sirah yielding 200 bottles per year. Our annual harvest yields vary from 1.5 to 3.5 tons per acre.
Maintaining that family culture with which we began, I am fortunate to have my son Andy working side by side with me every day. A graduate of U.C. Davis enology department with 11 years of experience at other wineries, he came to work full-time as our winemaker in 1999. Andy’s wife Paula also helps out on the hospitality side, hosting guests in the tasting room, when she isn’t teaching at the local elementary school. Finally, my wife Sally handles all the compliance and accounts payable, while constantly reminding us all to maintain a healthy balance between family and business as we continue to pursue our dreams. The next generation (fourth) of vineyard and winery workers are my four grandchildren, who all enjoy being a part of the winery activities, especially eating grapes.
Come visit us and share our passion in caring for our vineyards, grapes and wine. We all have our heart and soul devoted to producing the most wonderful wines for your enjoyment. Cheers!
4015 Spring Mtn. Rd
St. Helena, CA 94574
Tastings by appointment only 10am - 3pm 7 days a week
Phone: 707.963.4882 schweigervineyards.com TheFamily@SchweigerVineyards.com