Michel-Schlumberger: The Heart & Soul of Wine Comes From Soil & Vines.
The winery today known as Michel-Schlumberger lies off the beaten path in Wine Creek Canyon, a sylvan side pocket of Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley.
About a mile from the winery, Bradford Mountain rises above the northwest half of the valley. Michel-Schlumberger farms 20 acres of prime mountaintop vines owned by Jacques and Barbara Schlumberger. On top, as well, is the source of Wine Creek, which flows through wild ravines of redwood trees, passing the terraced upland vineyards that surround the winery.
All told, the estate has just over a hundred acres of vines, the largest parcel covering four-and-a-half acres, and the smallest well under one. These micro-sites, tucked away from the mainstream, accommodate artisan winemaking at its finest.
Jean-Jacques Michel and Ridgely Bullock founded Domaine Michel in 1979. Jacques Schlumberger took the reins as proprietor in 1993, and the estate became known as Michel-Schlumberger. Mike Brunson came on board as assistant winemaker in 1994, and 12 years later took the reins as head winemaker.
Brunson considers himself lucky to have access to such special vineyards, which are stitched across rolling foothills, benchlands, knolls and hillsides. Careful attention to clonal selection also plays a key role in the ultimate quality of the wines.
“Many of our most recently planted Merlot clones grow on Riperia Gloria rootstock,” Brunson says. “Highly regarded in Bordeaux, this rootstock is quite rare in Sonoma County.”
Merlot already was Michel-Schlumberger’s signature wine, so with the investment in new plantings, you can see that Brunson is not one to stand on his laurels.
“Terroir, a simple concept of place, is a defining idea for Michel-Schlumberger,” Brunson says. “We have matched plant material, spacing and trellising to specific locations to best take advantage of the characteristics of each site. We farm these parcels conscientiously and ecologically in order to n ourish the ground and their vines. The nuance of a great wine – its heart and soul and individuality – comes from the soil and its vines.
“One can nudge a wine here and there in the cellar, but the quality and personality come from the vineyard.”