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seeing green Print
Written by Nikitas Magel   

Seeing Green

Dry Creek Valley Winery Spearheads Enviable "Green Initiative"
— Spotlight on Michel-Schlumberger Winery

"They're over there in those condos," he said with a proud, boyish smile as he pointed to some stacks of small, shallow wooden boxes a short distance away. Jay Kell, the manager of wine education and guest services at Sonoma's Michel-Schlumberger Wine Estate was referring to the fairly sizable colony of bees that the winery maintains on the property. I had just arrived with my partner whom I had insisted join me on this visit, given his background in horticulture and keen interest in sustainability. Our purpose here was to embark on what the winery markets as its Green Tour, a privately escorted excursion of the vineyards, provided as way to increase customer awareness of its dedication to a myriad of biodynamic practices. One of those is the nurturing of bees, done in an effort to facilitate the pollination of other plant life supportive to the vines themselves. I soon learned that this overall philosophy, so deeply respectful of nature and its inherent ecological balance, permeates just about everything done at Michel-Schlumberger — not only in the production of the fine wines for which it's known, but also in its dedication to give back to the environment from which came the very grapes to make them.

Located on the far western edge of Dry Creek Valley, in an area marked by benchland and steep hillsides, the vineyards are farmed with a focus on the concept of terroir — a philosophy of making wines from fruit as an expression, even a manifestation, of the land from which it grows. It's a pattern tightly woven into the fabric of old world winemaking, but is something that newer regions are only beginning to explore, if at all. Firm in his belief that the land has a message and those who plant it are its envoy, the impassioned winemaker Michael Brunson has established terroir-driven winemaking as a core value of Michel-Schlumberger. As we made our way from the small organic garden just outside the main building and towards the dusty paths that wind around the vineyards, I listened to that very message, as my hosts told what amounted to a history of the estate.

Although the soil on which it resides had been under vine for some years now, the winery in its current form is the brainchild of president Jacques Schlumberger. In the early '90s, he took the helm of an already tightly run ship and began to steer it in a direction that, at the time, had been relatively unchartered. Inspired by his personal vision for making estate-grown wines, he established what's now become an ongoing flow of dialogue with the land, convinced that the tales it would tell would undoubtedly lead him and his team to elevate fruit that would in turn impart a rich sense of time and place to those willing to experience it. The winery's interchange with nature has grown even more fluid over the years. This has resulted in a unique character of fruit, leading to an unmistakable "house style" that spans the entire portfolio of its wines. Each vintage of those wines turns out to be an artful assemblage of a subset of the fourteen different varietals raised on the property. That's an uncommonly high number of varietals, given the small acreage. But because of the painstaking process whereby they're matched to specific vineyard sites, the grapes ultimately succeed in expressing their distinctive personalities.



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