Schug Carneros Estate Winery is a family operation with a long winemaking history. Both Walter and Gertrud Schug’s respective fathers managed wine estates in Germany. Walter first met Gertrud, his then wife-to-be, while working as administrative assistant near her father’s estate, the Weingut Annaberg.
Their strong love for each other survived the six years that Walter spent training at various wineries in Germany, England and California- even while he completed his diploma in Viticulture & Enology at Geisenheim, Germany. In 1960, after a year apart, Walter crossed the Atlantic, went straight to Gertrud and asked her to marry him. Their wedding took place in March 1961; less than a month later they packed their bags and took a boat to New York. The newlyweds crossed America in their Volkswagen Beetle complete with skis on the back and custom-made luggage to fit every corner of the car. Finally, they reached California and thus began many years of dedicated work in the very young California wine industry.
Following five years of Assistant superintendent at a large bulk wine producer in Delano, California, Walter was hired in 1966 by the E & J Gallo winery. The family of five settled in St. Helena, Napa Valley where Walter was responsible for Quality Control and Grower Relations of Gallo’s interests in Northern California. Walter’s territory reached from Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino Counties where he gained tremendous knowledge of Northern California’s wine quality potential.
In 1972, with his significant knowledge of northern California grapes, Walter was able to help Mr. Joseph Phelps build a new winery and vineyard operation. Together, they built the winery buildings, developed now famous vineyards, and created unique wines never before produced in the early years of California winemaking. The first Syrah in the United States and the much sought-after Insignia are just two of Walter’s winemaking achievements.
Walter also made Pinot Noir at Joseph Phelps Vineyards. When the winery ended production of Pinot Noir with the 1979 vintage, Mr. Phelps allowed Walter to continue its production under his own label. Walter continued as Winemaster at Joseph Phelps Vineyards for three more years before he and his wife Gertrud decided to strike out on their own.
Having established their own label, the Schugs found that their production exceeded the capacity of their leased winery in the Napa Valley. In 1989 Walter and Gertrud purchased 50 acres in the Sonoma portion of the Carneros Appellation, began to plant the vineyards and laid the cornerstone for their new Carneros Estate that is the heart of the business today. As the Family business grew, each of Walter and Gertrud’s three children contributed to the winery business at some point. Daughter Andrea used her CPA training to provide financial advice during the early years of operation; twin sister Claudia moved to Germany and set up Schuetz Weinimport. She now imports Schug wines and distributes them throughout Europe. Download Euro-Delivery form
After an initial career working in hotels, Axel Schug joined the winery at age 25 and became Sales and Marketing Director, based in the Carneros offices. Axel is currently the Managing Partner for SCHUG. He continues to travel across the country to promote the family brand. Axel’s wife, Kristine Schug, is the Winery Chef at SCHUG. Her early experience in local restaurants helped develop her passion for food and wine pairing. She caters for special events and dinners at the winery, contributes to the newsletter and has created over one hundred recipes to pair with Schug wines.
Sadly, Gertrud Schug passed away in 2007, but the desire to create wonderful wines at the Family Vineyards continues on. Walter Schug continues to travel frequently, keeping in touch with the ever-changing wine market both in America and abroad. With Michael Cox on board as Winemaker, Walter now holds the title of Winemaster Emeritus and uses his experience of more than half a century to provide guidance to the SCHUG team. Since 1980 and the birth of the very first SCHUG label, a strong legacy developed that is even now being passed on to grandchildren in the Schug Family.