Grower Spotlight: The Schlies Family
In 2006, Chris and Christine Schlies acquired nearly 30 acres of vineyard in Upper Lake, CA. They have made a commitment to sustainable winegrape growing.
Q: Could you tell me a little about yourselves?
A: Chris Schlies is a California native, a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and the UC Davis School of Law. He has been married to his wife Christine for 26 years. They have two sons, Joe (23) and Dominic (21). He maintains an active law practice in Pleasanton, where he has been practicing since 1980. In 2003, after his father’s death, Chris began to greatly increase the time he devoted to the family’s farm interests. Although the farm properties are professionally managed, Chris is actively involved in farming decisions and enjoys his frequent visits to the properties. Chris currently serves on the board of the Tri-Valley Conservancy, a non-profit agricultural preservation organization in Livermore, California. Christine is also active in the management of the family businesses, assisting Chris wherever needed and managing the financial operations.
Q: Do you have backgrounds in winegrape growing? Other agriculture?
A: The Schlies family has been farming in California since the 1960s, when Chris’ dad, a pediatrician (d. 2003) bought a prune orchard in Napa (sold in 1969 or 1970, now the site of Corley Winery) and a 65-acre orange ranch in Orosi. Since then, the family has invested in almonds in Merced County, purchasing a 100-acre parcel in Planada and a 62-acre parcel in Livingston. The vineyard purchase in 2006 was the family’s first venture in winegrape growing.
Q: Where is the vineyard located?
A: Along Middle Creek in Upper Lake. It was previously a walnut orchard. (Please see specifics about the vineyard at our website, http://www.sandybendvineyard.com/)
Q: When did you buy it?
A: The property was acquired by our family in 2006. We decided we could try grapes. We spent 6-8 years developing our knowledge.
Q: What varietals are planted?
A: We have about 4 ½ acres of Muscat, about ½ – 2/3 acre Sauvignon Musque, and a little more than 24 acres Sauvignon Blanc.
Q: Why did you choose Lake County? (what makes the region so special that you would choose vineyards in Lake County?)
A: Chris’ family has been vacationing in Lake County since he was young. Lake County is an excellent location for winegrape growing, which prompted Chris’ search for a quality sauvignon blanc vineyard, a variety that does particularly well in Lake County. Chris believes the “smart money” is in Lake County because the region is desirable for quality winegrape growing and the land values prove that it is somewhat of a well-kept secret.
Q: Why have you made the commitment to being certified sustainable?
A: We feel that our farming practices have always been largely consistent with the principles of the sustainable farming initiative. By putting ourselves through the certification process, we are supporting the movement by making our commitment public to our winery customers as well as to the general the farming community. We are learning how the CSWC defines “sustainability” and we hope to participate in the process, as well as continue to fine-tune our practices.
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