The estate was founded in 1979 and named Domaine Michel by Jean-Jacques Michel. A native of Switzerland, Michel formed a special attachment to Sonoma County. After a two-year search, he planted his roots in Dry Creek Valley because of its cooler microclimates and its abundance of well-defined benchlands (his model was as much the uplifted benches of the Mc Peninsula as Napa's Rutherford Bench).... Read more
The estate was founded in 1979 and named Domaine Michel by Jean-Jacques Michel. A native of Switzerland, Michel formed a special attachment to Sonoma County. After a two-year search, he planted his roots in Dry Creek Valley because of its cooler microclimates and its abundance of well-defined benchlands (his model was as much the uplifted benches of the Mc Peninsula as Napa's Rutherford Bench). He found a series of benchland soils in the Valley's Wine Creek Canyon with excellent exposures that were especially well contoured for growing grapes. With his partner Ridgely Bullock, Michel planted fifty acres of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, and chardonnay-uncommon varieties for Dry Creek Valley, then and now.
Today Michel-Schlumberger has a well-earned reputation for its excellent Bordeaux varieties. We have long believed in blending these varieties for complexity, and our red wines have harnessed the ripe, raw power of the new world with the elegant reins of the old. For example, our merlot has consistently shown well-knit aromatics and richly structured flavors-unusual characteristics for what is known in California as a soft, "entry-level" wine. Likewise our cabernet is prized for its classic claret balance, depth of fruit, and nuance. These are wines of finesse.
The special growing conditions of Dry Creek Valley give its wines a character of elegance. The relatively cool growing season nourishes a distinctive balance in the Valley's grapes, ripening them slowly and evenly. The French would say point, or just right. Both red and white wine grapes retain a measure of acidity, lending themselves to making exuberant wines with lively flavors. The red wine grapes also typically have healthy levels of tannins. These are unabashed tannins, and the better cabernets in particular wear them like a nicely tailored suit. Acidity provides freshness and lift; tannins provide immense flavor interest that bring a person back again and again. Both allow a wine to age handsomely.
Notched into the western edge of Dry Creek Valley like a small amphitheater, Wine Creek Canyon nicely sets the stage for ripening point. The Canyon juts into the coastal range just at Dry Creek's temperate mid-section, piercing the Valley's western flank. Michel-Schlumberger's rolling benches buttress the Canyon's northern hillsides, and generally slope south, an exposure that gives them a full day's worth of sun. At the same time, vineyards on these benches are closer to the ocean than most-the Pacific is only seventeen miles away. Shortly after five o'clock the ocean air arrives, and during the ripening season Michel-Schlumberger's vineyards are among the first to cool down.
At the end of a working day, if you were to walk along the forest at the western edge of our vineyards, you would experience this change of climate firsthand. It is the time of day when the sun has closed upon the horizon and shadows are cast long over the vines. Ahead, on the terraced uplands to the north, grow the treasured Jackson clones of cabernet. Most of those vines are still in sunlight, and should you step out into that light, you would feel the heat of a western day. But here in the shadows a distinctly cool and constant breeze has begun to flow out of the trees and into the vineyards. This breeze feels remarkably like air conditioning. Its noteworthy cooling power goes a long way toward explaining how grapes in this little pocket canyon can ripen fully, and succulently, without losing their composure.
We offer wine tasting and a tour of the estate to guests by appointment at 11:00am or 2:00pm daily. Read less