We hadn’t really known anything about Michel-Schlumberger until we were invited for a visit through our blog by Jim Morris, Vice President of Consumer Sales and Marketing for the winery. That’s a first for us. It is flattering to get invited to something, so we arranged to go for a visit and tour. They waived the $20 fee, so you decide if we’ve been biased or not.
We’d probably driven past Michel-Schlumberger dozens of times. Located in Dry Creek Valley quite near Quivira and A. Rafanelli, they’re a bit out of the way on narrow Wine Creek Road, which branches off West Dry Creek Road just north of Lambert Bridge. Yeah, I know! I went there myself and it still sounds tough to find.
The winery practices environmental conservation and organic farming techniques. They have sheep grazing the vineyards for weeds, cultivate various kinds of helpful insects, and raise chickens (though I’m not at all sure how that improves the quality of the wine. Maybe it’s a perk for the winemaking staff?) I was amazed to learn that they’ve not only helped to re-stock Wine Creek with steelhead trout, they actively preserve local fauna like wild boar and rattlesnake. That could be scary! Our guide boasted that once he had a tour group of mostly urban woman wandering around the vineyards and they came across a mountain lion! Wow!! I’m glad that we missed that. We did see a large flock of birds being harassed by a presumably hungry, circling hawk, which was plenty of nature for me.
The tasting room and starting point for tours is a charming Spanish Mission style building, complete with a bell tower and enclosed courtyard garden and pool. It looked old. I was surprised and a bit disappointed to learn that it was built in the Nineteen-Seventies instead of being some sort of renovated Nineteenth Century religious establishment. Planted just around the building is a lovely organic garden and past that between groves of trees, the rolling vineyards begin.
Michel-Schlumberger produces a wide range of French style wines on their approximately 100-acre property. Surprisingly for Dry Creek Valley, they grow small amounts of pinot noir. Our guide said several times that they were the only Dry Creek producer doing that. The web site does indicate that they grow a bit of zinfandel, which is much more customary for the area. They don’t bottle it separately. Instead, they blend it with their syrah, like the French do with Grenache in wines from the Southern Rhône. There’s a lot of information about their grapes, clones and blending practices on-line, so if you’re interested, click here.
After the short and enjoyable tour, we returned to the visitors center and sat at table for wine tasting. We tried an assortment of whites and reds. Overall, we enjoyed the wines. I was especially captivated by the pinot noir, my current favorite wine variety.
We did not sip and spit, so my notes get a bit fuzzy as we move along. Also, foolishly, as our guide was sitting right next to us, I felt shy about taking extensive notes, especially after he made a big point about wine notes being subjective, etc. Though that is true, and it is always best to try the wines yourself, how can I remember what I thought if I don’t write it down? If I’m ever invited to a winery again, I’m going to pretend that I’m a reporter and take extensive notes the whole time, instead of on the sly, feeling almost… guilty.
2006 pinot blanc: This was pale yellow with a floral nose. It was smooth with nice body.
2007 La Brume Chardonnay: This was a transparent straw yellow with aromas of cooked peach, plum, and apricot, almost like a cobbler. It was creamy but not buttery with a mineral finish. There wasn’t as much fruit as we anticipated. It had fuller body than the pinot blanc.
2008 La Fou pinot noir: This wine was a translucent brownish red. We tasted lots of raspberry on a medium body. The wine had a definite Dry Creek Valley aroma and taste.
2006 Le Sage merlot: I believe this wine has some cabernet franc and malbec blended in. It was good merlot, and no, that is not an oxymoron. It had a bold aroma of fruit, cedar and maybe even tobacco. It had good body and some refined tannins. We thought that it could easily age well. I gladly drank my entire sample.
2007 La Cime cabernet sauvignon: This is a blend with some merlot and cabernet franc. This was a dark purple black color. It was smooth with refreshingly supple tannins. There was ample fruit with lovely mineral and earthy notes. This is a bold, good cab.
2006 La Source syrah: This wine is blended with some viognier and zinfandel, per the web site. It was an opaque black with lots of earthy notes. Somehow it seemed too thick for my taste.
Afterward, we sat outside and enjoyed a picnic lunch. It turned out to be a fine January day. Michel-Schlumberger produces good wine. They have a wonderful agricultural philosophy and it is a great winery to visit. Be sure to schedule the tour, if you can. Despite what their sign says, they do accept drop-ins for wine tasting.